The quieter, more introspective half of the famous Wilson duo, Owen Wilson is perfectly cast in the title role of Henry Poole, whose decision to be left alone is shattered when a nosy neighbour thinks that Christ is on his doorstep.
At a time of summer blockbusters, Wilson relishes the change that Henry Poole is Here offers movie audiences. The actor spoke to Paul Fischer following the film’s world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Question: It seems like a very interesting project for you, because you play a lot of very cynical characters and this is a guy who really has to grow emotionally. Was that the appeal for you, in doing this?
Wilson: That was definitely that – I liked that idea. I mean, sometimes I don’t like kind of actorly ideas about having an arc, because I’ll think, “Well, no, a person doesn’t have an arc that they’re aware of in their life. You know, life’s just occurring for them.” So, you know, I’ll just try and play each scene for the reality of it. And for me, this was something where you really did have to focus on the arc and that is where I kind of relied on Mark to help me with that, because shooting scenes out of sequence and things like that – it required thought and planning, and the idea that this is – you know, I feel like for me, personally – I’ve done a lot of different kinds of movies. But I guess if people know me, they know me for comedy. But this was something different for me. And I do like the idea of trying to kind of challenge myself as an actor.
Question: What do you search for within yourself to convey the truth of a character like this?
Wilson: I mean, that’s where it helps to just have a really well-written scene. You know? A well-written script and really good scenes help. But yeah, there are things that everybody – it’s like hearing a good song. It’s like if we both heard the same sad song, it would make us think about different things. But still, we’d be very affected by it. And that’s kind of how I approach the movie. I mean, Mark has been through kind of a great loss of losing his wife. And I think everybody’s kind of obviously had their own difficult times, and gone through their own kind of pain. So, I mean, I think everybody just kind of taps into different things.
Question: We live in such cynical times. What are the challenges, do you think, of getting this film out to people who – and I don’t know how you go about doing that.
Wilson: I think that’s one of those things, that – like, I’m sure the same happens with you. It’s like, you get caught up in, “What do they think in LA? What do they think in New York?” But it’s really those other states in the US, the other countries – they’re not approaching movies as critics. Most people go to the movies just to sit and watch. And hopefully kind of being taken away. And I – it will be a little challenging, maybe, because of the subject matter. But I do think that it will appeal to a lot of people. And I do think it’s going to be very interesting to see how people – I mean, for me, even making the movie, I really imagined somebody in the Midwest liking this, or Kansas City, or Chicago. Alabama, things like that.
Question: Is there much of Henry in you?
Wilson: Yeah. I mean, I can’t help but being a lot like myself when I play movies. I mean, I’m not like Gary Oldman. I can’t completely transform myself. [LAUGHTER] And I love those guys. But I always feel like I end up being a lot like myself. But yeah, I would say there are aspects of Henry Poole in myself.
Question: What are you searching for now, in your career? I mean, having gone through this experience, do you hope to do other characters that are as deftly-drawn as this one?
Wilson: I mean, I don’t really have a game plan for my career, besides trying to write things for myself, and work on movies with my brothers, Owen and Andrew.
Question: Are you guys collaborating at the moment?
Wilson: Yeah. We’re just kind of working on different things together, but that’s really my only goal, is to work on stuff like that. But as a movie-goer, I like everything from action to sports movies to romantic comedies, so I like to make all those kinds of movies. And it’s like – you know, I look up to people like Sean Penn, where it’s just heavy drama. But for me, I’m a hired hand. I do what they pay me to do. [LAUGHTER]
Question: What are you doing next?
Wilson: I’m not sure yet.
Question: Do you also want to direct again?
Wilson: Oh, I’d definitely love to direct again with my brother, Andrew. I’ve got a book I adapted, and then I have a script I’ve been working on for me and Martin Lawrence.
Question: I guess that’ll be a straight, heavy, intense drama.
Wilson: Yeah. Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
Question: Are you enjoying your visit? How many Sundances have you been to?
Wilson: This is about four or five.
Question: You’ve done a lot of these.
Wilson: The first one was 14 years ago for Bottle Rocket.
Question: It was 14 years already? And there you were just an unknown.
Wilson: Oh, God. We couldn’t get into a restaurant, much less a screening. I swear to God, I don’t think we barely –
Question: Was it both of you who were there for that?
Wilson: It was me, Owen, Wes Anderson, my brother Andrew, and then just different people that had helped us make it.
Question: It must make you feel good to be at Sundance with something.
Wilson: It does, kind of. But I also – it’s funny, because my mother has these photographs of us at that Sundance. And we really – we look like we’re ten, or 12. I’m not kidding. I’m like, “What the hell happened to us?” Because – I mean, we really look like little kids. We look like we’re about 12 years old.