Led by a truly remarkable performance by John Hawkes, writer-director Ben Lewin‘s The Surrogate blew me away at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film’s based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung, who decides that he no longer wants to be a virgin. With the help of his priest (William H. Macy) and a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt), we follow on his amazing journey. Trust me, The Surrogates is great on so many levels (which explains why there was a bidding war; Fox Searchlight won), and it’s definitely going to be a contender at the 2013 Academy Awards. For more on the film, here’s Matt’s review.
Shortly after seeing the film, I sat down with William H. Macy for an extended interview. We talked about being at Sundance, his reaction to seeing the film with an audience for the first time, how he prepared for The Surrogate, his philosophy as an actor, karaoke, and a lot more. In addition, with Macy currently starring on the hit Showtime series Shameless, we talked about what’s coming up on the second season, how he wrote the sixth episode, the writers room, how the second season is completely different than the BBC version, and what do people always want to talk to him about when they meet him. Hit the jump to watch.
As usual, I’ve time indexed the interview so you can watch the parts that interest you. The Surrogate will be released later this year.
- :02 His reaction to seeing the film for the first time at Sundance
- :41 Talks about the Sundance experience and why watching The Surrogate made him weep. Says the film reaffirms what it means to be a human being and talks about how the film deals with sex in a very real manner.
- 2:52 Gives a description of what the film is about and who he plays.
- 4:31 How many takes does he usually like to do? He enjoys doing a minimal amount. His philosophy is that the actors should show up prepared. Talks about why he doesn’t enjoy doing more than 10 takes.
- 5:46 How he prepares for a project. He comes from the stage so he believes in rehearsal. Says he’s pretty sure staying in character all the time doesn’t help your performance and he “absolutely knows it’s annoying to everyone around you.”
- 7:10 Research. He did no research for The Surrogate and he usually thinks everything you need is on the page. They had someone on set that knew how to put on the Catholic garments and
- 8:40 Talks about Shameless. Says he’s the luckiest guy in Hollywood. He’s surprised that he adores going back to the character over and over again.
- 9:39 How different is the second season of Shameless from the second season of the BBC show? Says they chopped up bits of the BBC show for the first season, but in the second season of the US version they’re completely different than the UK version.
- 10:43 There are a lot of arcs throughout the season and it all builds to a pretty crazy conclusion.
- 11:31 He doesn’t like to know where the season is going when working on the show; he likes to learn things when his character does. Says he knew a lot about this past season because he wrote one of the episodes so he was in the writers room. Describes the writer’s room experience and how the season is born.
- 13:20 Did he feel any reticence in the writers room as other writers were pitching gags while the lead actor was in the room? Says that went away after the first few days. Talks about the episode he wrote and staying on set to watch them film it.
- 14:33 What’s his go-to karaoke song?
- 14:41 What’s the last video game he played? He says Pong.
- 15:13 Talks about how being on the show has changed the scheduling of his career. Says there’s a cost to be paid because half his year is taken up by the TV show, but he’s satisfied by where he is.
- 15:55 When he’s in a Starbucks, what’s the one thing people want to talk about? Now it’s Shameless, but he also gets Fargo quotes a lot. Every once in a while he gets Door to Door or Wild Hogs.