Patrick Wilson discusses his latest role in the new romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford
Unlike many actors, Patrick Wilson has been able to escape Hollywood type-casting and play different roles in a wide array of acclaimed films. The actor first gained attention for his critically acclaimed role in the popular HBO miniseries, Angels in America, based on the award winning stage play. He followed that up by appearing in the big screen version of the Broadway musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, the psychological thriller Hard Candy, the suburban drama Lakeview Terrace and the critically acclaimed independent drama Little Children. But it was his career making role as Nite Owl II in Zack Snyder's comic book adapted masterpiece Watchmen, that made the actor a household name. Since then the actor has not only appeared as the villain in last summer's The A-Team, an adaptation of the popular '80s TV series, but also as the title role in the independent comedy Barry Munday.
Now the actor can add romantic comedy to his resume as his new film, Morning Glory, opens on November 10th. The movie stars Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes) as Becky Fuller, a TV producer trying to save a failing morning talk show that is hosted by veteran newscasters Harrison Ford (Raiders Of The Lost Ark) and Diane Keaton (The Godfather). In the movie, Wilson plays McAdams love interest, Adam Bennett, who works on a more serious, 60 Minutes type news program. We recently had an opportunity to speak to actor Patrick Wilson at length about his new film, his character, the cast, the world of broadcast news and how he has managed to build such an eclectic resume of impressive work. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, most people know you best from your role in "Watchmen" and we recently saw you in "The A-Team" as well, so coming off of doing two big action films like that, is it fun to change things up and do a romantic comedy like this?
Patrick Wilson: It was a lot of fun. We had a great time shooting it. You know, it's funny because you hear things like, "It's like a throwback. It's a Neil Simon screwball comedy that has a lot of heart." When you hear these words like "throwback" its almost more of a comment on the kinds of romantic comedies that are out these days, versus anything else. It's a very smart movie. Aline (Brosh McKenna) knows how to write a great script and Roger (Michell) just takes that comedy and runs with it. I don't know if it is his British sensibility or the fact that he just has a gigantic heart but there is always so much emotion involved. Humanity really, not even emotion because that makes it sound dramatic. But just a human element that he brings to a film like, Notting Hill, where you laugh but you care more than anything about the characters and that is what I think this movie is.
The film revolves around a morning talk show but the character you play works for a serious news program, did you visit any news stations like CNN or MSNBC to get a feel for what your character does for a living?
Patrick Wilson: My character works for a show called "Seven Days," which is a 60 Minutes type show. Even within that my role for the movie is really as a foil or the romantic interest, the boyfriend really of Rachel McAdams' character. So I went and, even though the stuff that I do in the film is not ... you don't see me doing a lot of work outside of just being in my office. But I did go hang out with them because I really did, if nothing else, just wanted to see the types of people and the types of environment that it creates. You know, those newsmagazines have weeks and even months to put together one story, it is much different than, "and tomorrow we have to get the Easter egg hunt on the news." It's much quicker and fast paced so you need somebody like my character in the movie to sort of ground her, Rachel's character, and that is what I do.
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't your father a newscaster? Were you able to pick his brain at all about the world of broadcast news?
Patrick Wilson: Yeah he is, and my brother, they both are. Honestly man, I grew up in a newsroom. My Dad has been an anchor since before I was born, forty-something years. So that is something that when I read the script and met with Roger I was like, "I got to tell you, I don't pretend to be the expert but I certainly grew up around this and you did hit the nail on the head with a lot of these attitudes and issues." Of course it's blown out of proportion for the sake of a good romantic comedy, especially with Harrison's character, Mike Pomeroy. Just to see him and the attitude a nightly news guy has towards morning television was pretty accurate most of the time, thinking that it is fluff and not wanting to go near it. He and Diane are so great together, its so funny, it really is.
Do you share a lot of scenes with Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton in the movie?
Patrick Wilson: No, no I didn't, very few. We overlapped on set a lot, so I saw them more on set than I did working with them. I honestly had one scene with Harrison and even within that, my character used to work with him and can't stand him. When Rachel's character Becky, meets Mike Pomeroy, Harrison's character in the elevator she is flummoxed, flustered and looking for a job. He's just completely rude to her. I pretty much tell her that he is one of the three worst people in the world and that she should stay away from him. But it's funny when I do it.
Can you talk about the relationship between your character, Adam and Rachael McAdam's character, Becky in the film?
Patrick Wilson: Well her whole journey, and I think it is one of the things that makes it assessable, is that she is a completely career driven women. Almost disturbingly so, on a date she will look over her shoulder at a TV, which men do mostly in sports bars anyways. It's nice to see a little role reversal there. So her balance is trying to find the perfect fit of work and personal life. She meets this guy who seems to have it all together and they hit it off. In a lot of ways they are opposites. He's found a balance and become comfortable in his job but his job doesn't rule him. That is a decision that she is faced with throughout the movie, what is most important to her? So you do kind of wonder how is she going to come to terms with that. Adam is my character and he really grounds her. I think he really acts as someone who gives her the perspective of, you could work ... work ... work, and what do you have at the end of the day? That is really her struggle throughout the movie and it is really Harrison's character that opens that up for her and tells her what is important in life. How he worked hard and missed out on his own family and she shouldn't make the same mistake.
Finally, as an actor, it seems like you really get to do everything. You have been in musicals, independent dramas, action films, thrillers, comedies and even super-hero movies, so is it difficult as an actor to adjust from one type of film to the other and how have you managed to keep from being pigeon holed into one kind of movie or role?
Patrick Wilson: Well you have to work harder to get it, I'll tell you that. Which I have no problem doing but there is still a little bit of a stigma. Just because you can do drama doesn't mean you can do comedy, which is true I guess, but I would say it is much easier for a comedic actor to do a drama. It's much harder to go the other way. You know, you hear Natalie Portman and other actors talk about that. Look, I'd love to be asked to do more romantic comedies; I think I'm funny. But I went in and auditioned for this, you know, read for it because I don't have a resume of comedy. When you break into a new genre, generally, you do have to sort of breakdown a few walls because I think, and I have no problems with it, but people hire you for what they know that you do. People aren't going to hire you, more often than not, to say, "I doubt that you can do this." Or, "I don't even know if you can but I'm going to give you a shot." That doesn't happen a lot but every once in a while it does. I did this little movie called Barry Munday, which is a completely whacky little comedy. That is the perfect case. It took the director of that film to say, "You know what, I want to hire a guy who is not known at all for comedy to give the character some weight even in this goofy world." At worst maybe I would have been not so funny but charming and a good actor. At best I think we had a lot of fun and made a really funny character. It took someone like that to say to the producers, "Trust me, we will get other actors in there who have done lots of comedy but this is the guy I want." Even the people that were attached to this ... (Mark) Ruffalo was attached to it for a while before me. Another guy, okay, great actor but not necessarily known for whacky comedy. It's funny but you see that a lot. This is totally non sequitur but remember when Dumb and Dumber came out? I love that movie, it is ridiculous, but in hindsight don't you remember going, "Jeff Daniels? Jeff Daniels is funny? Doesn't he do Civil War movies?" Here he is a great actor and you are surprised. Of course he turns in a ridiculously hilarious performance and you are like, "Oh right, you are really funny." Paul Rudd was the same way. It's hard to remember that post (Judd) Apatow but Paul Rudd spent years doing theater and other roles in movies before Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and some of his other early comedies; it took him a while to get into them. But I guess what I'm saying is I'm going to try and do as many as I can just so I can be able to do more, if that makes sense? I just want to do what ever is different than the last one, which is usually my goal.