In the dark comedy Lucky, Ben (Colin Hanks) wins the lottery and, suddenly, his childhood crush, Lucy (Ari Graynor), becomes interested in him. Ben has been in love with her for years, but she has a hidden agenda, looking to appropriate his new found wealth. But, Ben is far from the shy, quiet guy that Lucy believed him to be and she gets more than she bargained for when she discovers that Ben’s past times include the occasional murder. In trying to make their marriage work, Lucy realizes that covering up for a serial killer is anything but easy.
During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Colin Hanks talked about the appeal of a role so different from what people have come to know him for, playing a serial killer under the spotlight for winning millions in the lottery, making his character likeable even though he does such unlikeable things, and working with such a fun group of actors. He also talked about being part of the cast for Season 6 of the hit Showtime drama Dexter, how exciting it is to be involved in the latest storyline, how much he can’t wait to go to Comic-Con, the experience of making My Mother’s Curse with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, and his desire to make a documentary about the Tower Records legacy. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did this film come about for you? Had you been looking for a character that was so different from the type of roles that you’d been doing?
COLIN HANKS: I’m always constantly trying to find stuff that’s different. It’s a way to keep me on my toes and keep me interested and keep me excited about work. It came to me through the normal channels. I got sent the script and they said, “This is an offer, and this is something that’s going to go. They’re interested in you. Let us know what you think.” And, I read it and it was pretty interesting. It was very different from anything else that I’d read because it’s a dark comedy, so on the page, there were times where it was kind of confusing. I was like, “Is this a thriller with funny moments, or is it a funny movie with thrilling moments?” On the page, it was a little bit different.
So, I met with Gil Cates, Jr., the director, and basically we had a very nice conversation. I was able to find out what it was that he was going for. We talked about ideas for Ben and what it was exactly that he was trying to do, tone wise. For me, what really stuck out was a chance to do something different and play within the wheelhouse that I’m known for – which is being the sweet, nice, unassuming guy – but then also tweak that a little bit and have him have this angle to him that is not so sweet. It was nice. Not to play anything dramatic, ‘cause I really don’t do anything overly dramatic in this movie. It was really more of a chance to create two versions of the character. I was really intrigued by that, and the pre-lottery and post-lottery Ben, and work with costume and posture and actor-y things of that nature, but ultimately, at the end of the day, still trying to be funny, which was a big thing for me. It was just a chance to really change it up and do something different, which I liked.
Don’t you think it also works to your favor, in this role, that people aren’t used to you this way?
HANKS: Definitely. For me, one of the things that I thought was really exciting was just trying to make him the nicest guy ‘cause you want to kinda route for him. You want to route for Lucy just as much as you want to route for Ben, even though they both have elements of them that are pretty despicable. Just as much as I had this other element to the character that was different, Ari Graynor had to come up with a likability for the Lucy character, even though what she does is not necessarily noble or nice. She’s a little bit of a gold-digger and just goes after Ben for his money, after literally decades of shunning him and not wanting him around. So, there was a chance to have fun with that. For me, I always think it’s interesting when you can say, “All right, I’m going to make a serial killer really likeable. I know I can make people likeable. I’ve been placed in that role many, many times, so let’s change that up a little bit.”
It’s such an interesting idea to take a serial killer who presumably is trying to always blend in and not be noticed, and putting all that attention on him for winning the lottery.
HANKS: Yeah, that was definitely one of the things that I really felt was important. We see Ben put on this fake facade of better clothes, more money, a better car, a better haircut and his posture is different, but it’s a facade. He’s still the same guy, and he’s not used to that attention. He’s not used to people even caring about him. Lucy somehow tries to whip him into shape and get him to realize that that doesn’t matter, and that now that he’s got money, he can do whatever he wants. And then, she realizes what he is and what he does, and all of the things that she’s taught him are coming back to haunt her, so to speak. There’s a lot of really interesting dynamics between the two that I think are funny, but also, as an actor, were engaging and fun for me to play with.
Playing a character like this, that you can’t immediately identify with from you own experiences, did you find ways to identify with him, or do you even want to try to understand someone like this?
HANKS: For me, since the overall point of the film is to be funny, I didn’t necessarily feel the need to psychoanalyze the guy, as much as you would if it was something dramatic, like Dexter. I knew what he was. He doesn’t really pretend to hide it. He just very casually mentions, “Yeah, I do this stuff. I’m not proud of it. Yes, it happened, but it is what it is.” So then, for me, it was a non-issue. That’s just one small aspect of the character, that he lives with and that he’s quasi-comfortable with, so I didn’t really want to spend too much time focusing on that. I just wanted to make him funny.
What was it like to work with actors like Ann-Margret and Jeffrey Tambor?
HANKS: It’s always fun. I have this personal joke, whenever I’m driving in the car and I look over and see someone, and they just look like they’re having a horrible day or they’re miserable or there’s a vibe to them that’s really bad, I always say sarcastically, “Oh, they look like they’d be fun to work with.” For me, there’s the acting element of working with people, and then there’s the hanging out element of working with people. Both Jeffrey and Ann-Margret, and Ari as well, were incredibly fun to work with. There was nothing miserable about them. We would crack jokes, we would talk about whatever we felt like discussing, and we would just find ways to kill the time. They were a really fun group of people to work with, and that’s always what you really want. If you’re able to hang out with them in between shots and have a good time and be comfortable with each other, then it makes acting with them even more enjoyable.
Did you get any time to rehearse together beforehand, or was your chemistry just natural?
HANKS: Ari, Gil and myself spent a couple of days sequestered in our hotel conference room, just talking about each scene and really making sure we were all on the same page with what it was that we were trying to do. We really made sure that we knew the purpose of each scene. We were very cognizant of the fact that we all needed to know what page we were on, and we all needed to be on the same page, in order for this movie to work, so we spent time discussing that and reading some scenes. I like just discussing things, ad nauseam, and then, on the day, doing the more character thing.
Did playing a serial killer in this help prepare you for joining the cast of Dexter?
HANKS: Well, no, not really. I’m still at that stage where I feel like I can neither confirm nor deny anything involving the Dexter television program, but it is a happy coincidence. I realize that there are these themes in pairs with a lot of stuff. In Orange County, my character wanted to be a writer, and in The Great Buck Howard, my character wanted to be a writer. It comes in twos. Lucky is about a serial killer, the same way that Dexter is about a serial killer. I find a theme and I play with it for a little while, and then I move on. I’m not planning to make a run at the serial killer convention circuit, or anything like that.
There have been some pretty great and memorable guest stars that have made their mark on Dexter, throughout the run of the show. Is it daunting to know that and be able to make your mark among them, or is this character very uniquely his own?
HANKS: It can be daunting. More than anything else, it’s exciting because, as the season has progressed, you get the chance to see where it fits in the pantheon, with all the other seasons combined. You see what it is that (executive producer/writer) Scott Buck, and all the great writers there at Dexter, have fit this into the canon of the greater Dexter story. That’s really exciting. More than anything else, you just want to make sure that you don’t do anything that’s already been done, and the writing on Dexter is so good that there’s no way that that’s going to happen, and it really challenges you to try something new and different. For the new people coming in this year – and we’ve got me, Eddie Olmos and Mos Def, who’s also on the show this year – we get to tell a new aspect of the story, and we get to tell some new tales here that are quite exciting. Mos Def is great. He’s just a talented individual, all around, and he’s also an incredible actor. I’m pretty sure that all the fans of Dexter – and there are a lot of them – won’t be disappointed with this season. I think it’s going to be really exciting.
Are you looking forward to going to Comic-Con with the show and getting that immediate feedback from the fans?
HANKS: I am! I can’t wait! I’ve been wanting to go to Comic-Con for ages. I’ve never been able to be involved in anything there. The one time I was in something that went to Comic-Con, I couldn’t go and I was so upset. I want to go check out what that’s about, so I’m very excited about Comic-Con. But, I’m very much ready for the fact that I’ll go up there and be on a panel and no one will want to talk to me. They’re all going to want to talk Michael [C. Hall]. We’re not going to disappoint the fans. It’s going to be a crazy season.
What was the experience of making My Mother’s Curse like?
HANKS: That was being able to do a couple of days on someone else’s movie, and just being along for the ride. That was a lot of fun. Obviously, when you get a chance to work with someone like Barbra Streisand, that’s something you can’t pass up. That’s great. She was fantastic and so funny, so sharp and really a fun person to work with. And, interestingly enough, I’ve known Seth [Rogen] for a very, very, very long time, but we’ve never gotten a chance to actually work together, and it was a lot of fun playing with him as well. Both Barbra and Seth are hilarious together. I’m really excited to see that movie because the two of them worked together so well. I think it’s going to be very funny. I’m just honored that I got to come and play in their sandbox for a little bit.
How does your character fit into the story with them?
HANKS: Seth is on a road trip across the country with his mother and they get stranded in a city where his old high school sweetheart lives, and he still has feelings for her. I am the high school sweetheart’s husband.
Anne Fletcher has had such a great track record of success with these types of films. What was she like, as a director?
HANKS: I had worked with Anne Fletcher before. She was the choreographer for bits and pieces of Orange County, which I did not know until she pointed that out. She’s great. Anne is hilarious. I really liked working with her. She’s super laid-back and a lot of fun.
What made you decide to do a documentary on Tower Records?
HANKS: Essentially, I’m a big music fanatic and I find that Tower Records is a very important cog in the history of music wheel. Also, Tower Records was started in my hometown of Sacramento, Calif., so growing up in Sacramento, there was a great sense of civic pride in what Tower was and what it symbolized, and how it started and where it ended. As a filmmaker, I looked at the history of Tower Records and of Russ Solomon, and I thought it was an extremely interesting story, of how it started and how it ended. As a storyteller, I found that the history of Tower was interesting. The way that he started selling records out of his father’s drugstore in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and how it became this worldwide corporate phenomenon that created these tenants of selling records that were pillars of how you sold records was interesting.
The more I got involved with the Tower family and met the people involved that really created Tower and made Tower what it was, I realized that they’re all such interesting people and have such funny, rich stories. It just seemed like a great documentary. It’s something that I’ve been very passionate about. I’ve been very vocal about trying to get this movie made for many, many years now, and I will continue to work on it until this thing is made and Russ Solomon is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are a lot of things that I found interesting about Tower, but the thing that makes it most lasting is that, for the people that shopped there, they have a special bond to the store. But, for the people that worked there, it is as important to them as their college years.
For some people, up until 2006, it was the only job they had ever had. That’s special. That is a personal connection that is very, very hard to make. The fact that a job at a company as large as Tower was – and it was a big, corporate chain – and for it to have still had that independent sense and that connection and bond with people is very special. When that happens, that makes for interesting storytelling. By the way, this is all history now. This is all the way of the past. There are a lot of documentaries made about historical eras, and I think Tower is most definitely one of them.
Are there roles that you’re looking for now, that you haven’t had the chance to explore yet, but are hoping to try?
HANKS: There is never a specific theme or anything. Really, I make decisions based on decisions that are made by other people, whether it’s, “We would like to offer this movie to him,” or “We would like to see him audition to be in our movie.” I just make decisions based on whatever is presented to me, and I do it on a first come, first serve basis, and go from there.