Morning Glory - Patrick Wilson interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
PATRICK Wilson talks about the appeal of Morning Glory, working with Harrison Ford and asking him to sign a Star Wars trading card and why romantic comedies felt right for the moment for him as an actor.
He also talks about his career to date, from theatre to Hollywood, and why he was once mistaken by a casting director for being British…
Q. What was the appeal of playing Adam in Morning Glory?
Patrick Wilson: A number of things. I thought it was the type of comedy that I like to see. I think it was a real… sadly, a throwback because I don’t think you get a lot of smart, straight up screwball comedies but with heart. It’s grounded in a reality but it’s real broad, at times, and hilarious, and after spending five minutes with Roger [Michell, director] you want to work with him. And, of course, once I knew that Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams were in it, and that Diane Keaton was in the works, I was like: “Those are the type of people that I’d love to work with so…”
Q. Did you also like the fact that it had something to say about the current state of media?
Patrick Wilson: Yeah, I mean I grew up around media so for me I’ve always been interested in that topic, whether it’s a complete satire or a documentary. I love anything that touches on the state of information versus entertainment and what’s newsworthy and what’s not. I like that this even reverses that topic and some people can take what Becky says as the truth and others can say: “Well, I don’t know…” I think it’s good that it can be both entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time.
Q. What did your father and brother [both of whom are news anchors at the same channel] make of it?
Patrick Wilson: They loved it. I think anything that really establishes the craziness of a control room and how to put together a show, and all that goes into it… they had a lot of fun with it.
Q. Was it always acting for you, rather than following in your father’s footsteps?
Patrick Wilson: Yeah, it was always acting for me, since I was about 15. My middle brother always wanted to be a news anchor, so we always felt that he’d be the one to take over for dad, so we could go and do our thing [laughs],
Q. So what was it about acting that appealed?
Patrick Wilson: I always grew up around it. I did commercials as a kid and all that kind of stuff and my oldest brother did theatre in High School. It’s funny, when I was 15 I had a friend of mine who dragged me away to a camp at Boston University. It was like a pre-college programme they do in the States, where they get High School kids and it’s sort of like what college would be like in terms of acting, and singing, and speech and movement that were all encompassing of an acting career. It was the first time truthfully that acting didn’t feel presentational; it felt very personal. I didn’t just feel like I was singing and dancing for my friends in High School. It felt like I was doing a scene and all of a sudden I started to feeling something – I started to feel emotional. So, I thought that if I could experience that maybe I can make the audience. So, I came back and quit all the sports that conflicted with the musicals and plays and went for it.
Q. Did you find that easy, to go for it?
Patrick Wilson: Well, I was going to a college prep school for High School… it was a private school. So, I knew I wanted to go to college and I wanted to study it [acting], so I just looked for the best school that I could get into. I got in. Luckily, I had very supportive parents. I went to a conservatory that is basically drama school. You take one English class and one history class for four years but you don’t take any other science or anything like that. It’s strictly, from 7am until night, all acting. It’s a lot. Some people find it too much, but for me I was preparing for a career and I never really looked back. I then started getting hired and got into musicals, which I enjoyed, so I thought I’d follow that route and moved to New York and did a lot of theatre. I worked my way up in theatre before I started doing movies.
Q. How easy was it to make the switch?
Patrick Wilson: Well, in some ways it was made for me. It’s very hard to just break into movies. I always felt like it would be giving up a theatre career to go and try and be in movies. So, I thought I’d exhaust the theatre thing, go as far as I can, and originate roles, be on Broadway, maybe win some Tony Awards, and then hopefully some door would open. Luckily, it did. Mike Nicholls saw me in the musical of The Full Monty and brought me in to audition for Angels in America for HBO. That really opened things up. When we were shooting it eight or nine years ago that was a really big turning point for me. And that opened a lot of doors because you could go to LA and say: “Well, I’m starring opposite Al Pacino and Meryl Streep…”
It’s funny, but when I went to LA I was almost 30, I’d been nominated for two Tony awards, and on the New York theatre scene I was pretty well known. I’d just booked Angels in America and went out to LA to meet with casting people, and I remember walking into one meeting and saying: “Hey, how are you? I’m Patrick…” And they said: “I’m so sorry! I thought you were British!” When I asked why, she replied: “Because you’re 30 and I’ve never heard of you!” All of a sudden I started to feel really defensive and I was like: “Well, I have been nominated for two Tony awards! I’m kind of a big deal in theatre! [Laughs] I’m sorry that you don’t know me, but what does that say about you… that you don’t know all these New York actors.” It’s funny… if you come from the theatre, or you come from England, they say: “Oh, you must me a real actor…” And that’s regardless of your talent [laughs]. It was so funny.
Q. There’s a fantastic sequence in the lift in Morning Glory where Rachel’s character kind of goes into gush mode when she first meets Harrison Ford’s character. Has anything like that ever happened to you?
Patrick Wilson: I do get pretty star struck still, I guess. But at an early age my dad – probably because he’s a journalist – said: “Just have something to say. Don’t just blather. Always have one line in your mind.” So, that was always my thing whenever I met someone when I was younger, if ever I got to meet a real celebrity. I didn’t want to just go up to them and gush: “I’m a big fan…” Make a point to do something. I remember meeting Dan Marino. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him?
Q. Only, sadly, through Ace Ventura: Pet Detective [in which he cameo-ed as himself]…
Patrick Wilson: Point taken! So, this was not long after Ace Ventura! But Dan Marino is one of the best quarterbacks ever in American Football. He holds the passing record but never one a Super Bowl. He’s regarded in some circles as among the top three… or if you’re a Miami fan, the best quarterback ever. He’s certainly one of the best. So, I see him getting his luggage at the airport… I was still in college but I went up to him and said: “Mr Marino…” And just as you could tell I was probably about to say: “You’re my favourite quarterback…” He had just retired. He turned round to do the obligatory: “Oh thanks, man!” But I said: “Mr Marino, you were great in Ace Ventura!” He looked surprised but said: “Oh thanks…” almost as if he’d never heard that one before. So, that was my conversation with Dan Marino [laughs]. It would be like saying to Beckham: “You were great in those Calvin Klein ads…”
Q. And how was meeting Harrison Ford for the first time?
Patrick Wilson: Well, when I met him I just kept thinking: “At what point do I break out my Star Wars memorabilia? When is it OK to have him sign something? Will he? And will I look like a total idiot!” Mind you, it wasn’t for me. The only time I ever got anything from another actor to sign was for my brother or my kids because both of my brothers are die-hard Star Wars fans. So, my brother had an old trading card he had bought in the early ‘80s, so I let a few days go by before I came back – on a day that I wasn’t working – to have him sign something, which he was very gracious to do.
Q. You mentioned having a career plan for your time in theatre, Do you have a similar plan for the movies? You seem to like to diversify as much as possible between roles [from Hard Candy and Watchmen to Morning Glory and Little Children]…
Patrick Wilson: I think the balance is between what you can get, what you want and what wants you. I mean I’ve been doing it a little while now, so the glory of ‘oh you’re about to make it’ doesn’t really sink in. The business has changed a lot in the past few years, so opportunities I guess… how do you put it? I just want to do as many different genres as I can. I think that’s part of it… to not get pigeon-holed because if one of them breaks out and becomes a big hit then typically people want to keep putting you in that kind of role.
But that’s the blessing and the curse of not having a huge hit… you can go in and out of roles and some people know who you are and some people don’t. I’d love for one of these movies to be super successful because then at least you’re presented with more opportunities. That’s really the only aspect of any type of fame or commercial success… the older you get…. when you’re younger you don’t care so much, but as you get older you have a family and stuff like that. But I’ve always kept my foot in theatre and I’ve kept my foot in independent film, so I’m really happy going back and forth. So, if I can’t find the meaty roles in studio films, then I’ll go back and dig up a little independent where I can flex my muscles a little bit.
Q. How did you feel about attacking romantic comedy? You’ve done this and The Switch recently…
Patrick Wilson: I did this other little one, too, called Barry Munday, which was a really quirky little comedy that barely anybody saw. But it’s on DVD. But it [romantic comedy] is hard to break into. I’d had some opportunities before but it always felt like… honestly, if you’re just going to be the love interest then at least let it be a really good movie. Not every role is going to be Hamlet, I know that… I’m 37, I’ve been doing it a while, but there are so many other variables that are a part of wanting to do a job and if the role is small, but important…
I could see in this movie, for instance, that he needed to be grounded and funny, but important to be a real foil to Rachel’s character. That was one of the things I enjoyed about this script. With The Switch, I thought it would be really funny. I was with Jennifer Aniston last week, in fact, and I said to her: “What happened? I thought we were… why didn’t that movie do well?” It’s frustrating sometimes for actors because you slam it out and you have a great time, you think it’s funny, and then for whatever reason the movie doesn’t come together. But yes, I’d love to keep continuing on this path for as long as I can find good scripts and good romantic comedies.
Q. What’s the most fun that you’ve had on a movie set?
Patrick Wilson: That is a broad final question! I still remember the first time I was on the set of The Alamo and they had built this huge town. When you’re coming from theatre, where you have to imagine that you’re looking out into the woods, and all of a sudden you’re out in the middle of a set as large as this. So, that was one of the most fun moments – the first day I was on The Alamo set. Plus, my role was as the colonel who becomes the leader of this town, and here I was this actor that really nobody knew, so I thought: “OK, I have to really earn my stripes here too.” So, there was a real similarity between me as an actor and the character in the movie, which made it special for me as well.
Morning Glory is out on Blu-ray and DVD on May 23 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
- Read our review
- Harrison Ford interview
- Rachel McAdams interview
- Patrick Wilson interview
- Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams brave cold London for premiere
- Morning Glory UK Premiere Gallery
- Watch the trailer