From director Björn Runge and adapted by Jane Anderson from the Meg Wolitzer novel of the same name, The Wife follows Joan and Joe Castleman (Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce), at a time when he is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work as a novelist. While in Stockholm for the ceremony and festivities, nearly 40 years of marriage weighs on Joan, at the same time journalist Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) is working on the definitive biography of her husband, authorized or not, leading old and long-buried truths to finally reach the surface.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actor Christian Slater about why he found this to be such an absorbing story, working with talents like Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, shooting the film in Glasgow, Scotland, understanding his character, the scene he most enjoyed shooting, and the importance of journalists who seek the truth. He also talked about the relevance of his TV series Mr. Robot, which will be heading into its fourth (and possibly last) season, and having no idea where things are going next with the storytelling.
Collider: I really enjoyed this movie!
CHRISTIAN SLATER: Cool!
I thought it was such an interesting story, and it really gives you a lot to think about, as far as who might be behind the voices and artists that actually receive the attention.
SLATER: Yeah, lots to think about. We’ve become so unaccustomed to seeing movies about people communicating with each other. They just have CGI explosives and a lot of chaos. This is a relationship that is, in a way, a ticking time bomb ready for its own emotional explosion.
It reminded me a lot of Tim Burton’s film Big Eyes, because Margaret Keane had to fight her husband for credit for her own work.
SLATER: Yes. That was another great movie. This is obviously set in another time, in another scenario, but it’s certainly tackling similar themes. The performances between Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close are so great. This is a movie that you really have to be absorbed by, and I couldn’t hear a pin drop in the theater. I don’t even remember breathing while I was watching it. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see where this thing was gonna go, and I knew where it was gonna go. I just thought all of the subtle nuances and the chemistry that was happening was quite extraordinary.
Is this one of those projects that you take, just so that you can watch Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close do their thing?
SLATER: I think so. To be around them, sure. To up my own personal game by getting to be in a scene, like the one that I had with Glenn, was thrilling and exciting. These are definitely two actors that I have grown up with and greatly admired, and have just been obsessed with their work, for a long time. Also, I wanted to work with Björn [Runge]. He was fantastic and just a wonderful director, and had a great sensitivity for the material that we were working on. He also comes from a theater background, so that gave him a much more unobtrusive way of filming and keeping things very natural and real.
It seems like no matter how many projects you might do that people would know you for, or how much people know your work as an actor, there’s always somebody that you must admire, which must make working with those people really cool.
SLATER: It does. There’s definitely an element of excitement and anxiety, where you say, “Oh, boy.” And of course, every time I’ve been in that situation, the people that I’ve met have always been remarkably professional, wonderful and humble, very open-hearted, and very embracing, and it’s nice when that happens. It’s the greatest. You feel so much safer. So, the professionalism was fantastic. My main focus was to not be the one to screw up. We all showed up 150% prepared and ready to go for this.
How did this work, as far as your schedule with Mr. Robot?
SLATER: It was in between seasons, so the timing worked. It can be tricky. This was a movie that took awhile to come together, and there were delays and postponements. I didn’t know if it was actually ever really gonna happen, but I was certainly hoping. I had my fingers crossed that it would happen, but you never know. And then, when it did, we were able to schedule it with all of our work commitments. We had to find a window and an opportunity to do it, and I was thrilled. I went to Glasgow and hung out there, and got to do these scenes, and I just loved it.
I like how stealth your character is in his actions. He’s trying to manipulate the situation to get what he wants, but not in a way that’s in your face.
SLATER: Yeah, he’s trying to find whatever approach he can use to get to the bottom and get the truth uncovered. I love that this guy’s name is Nathaniel Bone. It gives me a real solid platform and foundation to jump off of. He’s like a dog with a bone. He gets a lead or discovers some intrigue, and he’s gonna be relentless in his pursuit of the truth. He’s a guy that’s been a great admirer of Joseph Castleman. He wants to emulate him, in a lot of ways, and is just a huge fan. In his attempts at research, he stumbles across some questionable things in his past, and his intense pursuit of wanting to find out what actually went on is what journalism is supposed to be all about. He’s supposed to uncover the truth. And then, the fact that he finds somebody that he is absolutely convinced he knows the truth about, but is unwilling to step forward or come into the light, is something that Nathaniel Bone finds quite inconceivable. This is a movie that’s not only about a love story and a long-term relationship, but it’s also about fame and awards and the truth. The truth of what’s going on behind closed doors is completely different. So, I thought all those elements were so extraordinary and fascinating.