Rainn Wilson Interview – THE ROCKER

     August 19, 2008

Opening tomorrow is “The Rocker” and it’s the new 20th Century Fox comedy that stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from “The Office”). In the movie, Rainn plays Robert “Fish” Fishman, a drummer from an eighties hair band.

At the beginning of the film Rainn is living the rock ‘n’ roll dream…until he gets kicked out of the group. Twenty years later, this desperate rocker joins his nephew’s band, “A.D.D.,” finally reclaiming the rock-god throne he’s always thought he deserved — while taking his much younger bandmates along for the ride of their lives.

Anyway, awhile back I participated in a roundtable interview with Rainn and below is the transcript. During our time he talked about how he got ready to play the role of Fish, what it was like on set, he gave updates on his future projects and “The Office,” and a lot more.

As always, you can listen to the audio of the interview by clicking here. Also, if you’d like to listen to an interview with Emma Stone and Teddy Geiger, click here. Finally…here are 7 movie clipsin case you missed them.

Again, “The Rocker” opens tomorrow.

What was your rock star fantasy?

Rainn Wilson: My rock star fantasy was…you know, one thing I love about metal is just the sheer showmanship. When I grew up, when I was a kid, I discovered Queen when I was like 12 years old and I just loved Freddie Mercury and just that kind of balls out show performance of rock and roll. In every decade rock and roll starts to get very serious and navel gazing and kind of self serious and every once and a while it kind of needs a kick in the pants. And then it goes too far and it needs to kind of get serious again. I mean seriously the hair metal things was a little bit much.

Are you into any of those bands now?

Rainn Wilson: I wasn’t. You know I skipped that. I loved classic metal and I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and I loved AC/DC and Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, but as soon as it started to get girly, as soon as they were wearing women’s blouses and eye liner and mascara, guy liner I call it, as soon as it went there then it kind of lost me and I was kind of more going for The Clash and Elvis Costello and some other more punk stuff.

Was your performance more inspired by drumming in the nude?

Rainn Wilson: [laughs] Well anytime I can show my body to comedic effect. My body has been making women laugh for the last 20 years and I’m happy to continue to oblige.

How tough was it to learn drumming?

Rainn Wilson: How tough was it to learn drumming? I took drum lessons with this guy named Stuart Johnson who’s been in a lot of bands and we got to work for a couple of weeks before I went up to Toronto and just really, he was playing me like Zeppelin and White Stripes and a lot of real basic drum beats. So we worked on a lot of basic drumming, but then he also like really coached me on the specifics of heavy metal drumming which is a whole art form to itself.

Did you also watch any old videos?

Rainn Wilson: There was a lot of YouTube videos. Yeah, we had the computer out there in the garage where the drum set was and we would check out Poison or Rat or Cinderella or any of the bands and kind of look at what the drummers are doing. So it was a lot of stick tricks, a lot of that. [demonstrates] You know the metal drummers are all about getting the audience involved and kicking ass with the audience, you know, get them involved and into the music and pumping them up and stuff like that.

Did you play Guitar Hero at all or anything like that or any of the video games?

Rainn Wilson: You know, that’s kind of passing by although we played it in the movie a little bit – Rock Band – but I haven’t really done so much of that. It’s hard.

Did you go to any live concerts for inspiration?

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, we went to see Rush. There weren’t any really metal bands playing at the time when we were shooting in Toronto. We certainly didn’t have time. We were shooting 6 days a week, but we went to play with Rush and got to hang out with Neil Pierce and got to actually play his drum set. That was a pretty rare privilege.

Did you base it on any rock star or story?

Rainn Wilson: No, you know it’s just his own character. It’s not so much about the rock star. The movie is really a coming of age story. The way I thought of it, it’s a coming of age story for this guy who’s 40 years old when he finally gets to grow up. So it was really about the character of Fish but you know all that drumming really informed the character because there’s something about a drummer that they just pound on something first and ask questions later. There’s a kind of an idiocy to the rock drummer and there kind of has to be. They’re just a big baboon in the corner pounding on things. So that and the wig really informed who this guy was.

Did you have any input into how you looked? You must have had something to do with that?

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, absolutely. We talked about it a lot. For a while I was fighting to have a moustache and we talked about whether he should have short hair and how long he should wear the ponytail. We really wanted that one thing which is when he starts to rock out, like he takes the ponytail and lets the hair come down literally. And that’s kind of when the movie starts, when he get to play prom and he literally lets his hair down and shakes it out in the hallway. That’s when the movie kind of kicks into gear and that’s kind of the metaphor.

How many of the stunts did you do on your own?

Rainn Wilson: I think I did most all of them.

You got hit in the head a lot.

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, I did. In the knee, in the crouch, a lot.

Any injuries?

Rainn Wilson: I think the tumbling into the drum set backwards was a stunt guy. I think that was about it.

Wasn’t that you on top of the car?

Rainn Wilson: Oh yeah, that was me. That was me. I was strapped to the top of a van driving around, swerving around downtown Toronto at 4 in the morning for hours. It was cold. And sticking the drum sticks in and climbing up swerving, but I was strapped on. It was pretty crazy.

Did Peter give you a lot of latitude to find your character?

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Peter is very collaborative. He’s really an on story director. He’s very much like we have to make sure that we’re telling the story here and making it clear about who Fish is and what he wants here and where he’s going. But within that he gave a lot of latitude. I could always improvise and go off script and have fun with it.

Is there going to be a sequel?

Rainn Wilson: Definitely. This is going to be called Transformers 2.

Speaking of which, you’re playing a professor in that?

Rainn Wilson: I am. Yes.

What’s the character like?

Rainn Wilson: I’m going to be playing a robot who doesn’t turn into a car. He turns into a college professor. He decides to live a life in quiet academia.

Being serious for a second, did you…

Rainn Wilson: How did you know? This coming from a guy with two unicorns humping on his T shirt.

Did you enjoy the first Transformers? Did you ever think you were ever going to be in a Michael Bay film?

Rainn Wilson: I haven’t seen the first Transformers – (some one gets up and leaves) So long, thanks for coming. I should probably watch it.

Are you a fan of Michael Bay?

Rainn Wilson: I should probably check out some of his movies (everyone laughs).

Is you role in Transformers 2 a cameo?

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, it’s pretty much a cameo; I’m just on it for a couple of days, yeah.

This is Teddy’s first film, how was working with him and did you give him pointers and did he give you pointers?

Rainn Wilson: Teddy’s great, I think he acted for a couple of days on a TV show, but other than that he hadn’t done any real acting, and he worked with an acting coach. We were fortunate that we were able to get a little bit of rehearsing in on some of the bigger scenes before we went and shot them, because we shot this in such a short period of time, and it was such a hard schedule, but he did fantastically, he just really was the character. It really kind of is him, he’s the suburban kid who’s an insane musical genius. His first album that’s out now is really pop-y and stuff, but his new stuff that he’s doing is really much more inventive and intense and cool. He’s this suburban kid from Buffalo, or wherever he’s from, and is the protégé, his family told me the story about how they came in, he was kind of slow in school, they weren’t sure what he was going to be doing with his life, and they just would come in and he would just pick up musical instruments, and he would spend days and he would figure them out, and he’d play guitar, protégé, and just drums, piano, anything musical he just had this gift and he plays all his own instruments on all of his music. So he just kind of was the character of Curtis, this tortured suburban kid who’s just living the rock ‘n’ roll dream, and he was able to capture that, and Peter was able to help.

How would Dwight react to being kicked out of a band? Would he react different than Fish?

Rainn Wilson: He would, he would probably blow up the band that kicked him out, or shoot them with a paintball gun, like right on their foreheads, or something like that. Yeah, that would be a little bit different.

What was it like working with Christine Applegate?

Rainn Wilson: Like so awesome, I mean this girl has been famous for so long, she was like the most famous sex symbol as Kelly Bundy 20 years ago.

Did you have a crush?

Rainn Wilson: Sure, every American male had a crush on Kelly Bundy, and she’s just so cool and laid back and fun and it was great to work with her and it was even greater to kiss her.

Since you’re filming a few days on Transformers you’re obviously on your hiatus from The Office – are you doing anything else?

Rainn Wilson: I’m not, I’m just promoting this movie this hiatus, there are actually very few movies being shot right now because of the possible SAG strike so this summer period there’s –

What about the Bonsai Shadowhands movie?

Rainn Wilson: Bonsai Shadowhands is still being written by me in my spare time, and –

Are you going to be working on that over the summer?

Rainn Wilson: I’ve been working on it – I was working on it last week, I was on a little vacation and I handed in a first draft to Jason Reitman, and we’re working on it together, and I’m getting ready to hand in this next draft to him.

And you’re also the premiere film at the CineVegas Film Festival – what is it like to be the premiere film?

Rainn Wilson: It’s crazy, I’ve never thought of that before. My whole thing is I just always wanted to be a working actor and I just wanted to stop waiting tables. I just wanted to get better as an actor and make money from it, and I like the fact that it’s led me to star in a movie and go to a film festival is pretty fucking awesome.

What did you like about Fish – what did you see in him?

Rainn Wilson: I really felt for this guy that – it a chance to grow up and he gets this second shot at fame, and gets to kind of live his dream. I was an actor for a long, long time before I had any kind of real success, I mean I was always working, so I could certainly relate to someone late in life getting another shot at celebrity. But I just really liked the heart of Fish, he’s a warm guy, an open-hearted guy, and I think that you get to really get behind him, because he doesn’t really have any other agenda, he wears his heart on his sleeve.

When do you anticipate going back to The Office?

Rainn Wilson: End of July, I anticipate going back to the office.

And you’ll still be having an affair with Angela?

Rainn Wilson: Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen there, I actually have zero clue what’s going to happen in season five.

Does father know best?

Rainn Wilson: Didn’t you ask me that question before. No, someone asked me that same question last night at the MTV movie award. Is that a popular question? They were like, fathers’ know best? For real; isn’t that weird? Absolutely father knows best, always do what your father’s say, and if you can’t find one then just ask me, I am a father and I know best.

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