Acting opposite Robin Williams in the true story drama adaptation
After finishing in the top ten this weekend, and topping $3 million dollars, there's no doubt people still want to see Robin Williams in a serious and mysterious movie. And that movie is The Night Listener, also starring Toni Collette and Rory Culkin. To top off the impressive weekend box office total, it only played in 1367 theaters - nearly 1000 less than all of its other competitors.
The Night Listener is based on a true story about a New York radio show host (Robin) who befriends a sickly boy (Rory). When theories arise that the boy may not be real, he travels to Wisconsin to see for himself if the boy is actually alive.
Robin is slightly upstaged by his co-star Toni, who plays the boy's mother; Toni's is even more mysterious than the story itself, who keeps hiding and shunning Robin away. She described her character as, "Someone who has had a really tough life and we all want love and not all of us are lucky enough to get it. I think she's probably been abused in the past and she's someone who needs attention and needs love and she'll go to any lengths to get it. I think she's actually really, really intelligent, but she uses her smarts in a really destructive and manipulative, frightening way."
Toni's role in The Night Listener was very challenging to pull off, not only because she has to play a blind woman, but because, in real life, Toni is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. "The challenge is to make it seem real; I guess within that character there are certain things that she in a way she's like an actor herself. So I guess it was interesting to play with different levels of what's real and what's not; she's a very complex, layered person and at times because she is so manipulative it was fun to play around with whether something should come across as being real or whether it should show she's actually performing in a way."
Because The Night Listener is based on actual events, Toni had the opportunity to speak with the real people in the story - unfortunately, not her own character, but people who knew the situation from the inside, screenwriters and authors of the book it's based on, Armistead Maupin and Terry Anderson. "Their lives were completely changed by dealing with this actual person; I had the source basically and the information about her and the interactions with her. How they were affected by it - I think it's interesting to hear that, because then you realize what her intentions really are; she can read people, she can figure out how to address them."
Of course, Toni is competing with herself at the box office; her other film Little Miss Sunshine is also in theaters. In both films, she plays two completely different characters - "I'm really thankful to have those opportunities; they're both so different, so great. If I wanted to do the same thing over and over I'd probably do a sitcom. But, I think the luxury and the beauty of being an actor is that you get to explore all of these different roles; I can't imagine it being any other way although I know it does exist."
You can check out Toni, Robin, and Rory in The Night Listener; it's in theaters now, rated R.
Little Miss Sunshine is in select cities now, and opens wider on August 18th, and then fully nationwide on August 25th; it's also rated R, and stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin as 'Little Miss Sunshine.'