Rainn Wilson Interviewed – ‘The Last Mimzy’

     March 21, 2007

Opening this Friday is The Last Mimzy. If you’ve been reading the site for awhile you’ll think hasn’t Frosty already interviewed Rainn for this film at Sundance and didn’t he post a video interview? The answer is yes and if you happened to have missed it you can check it out here.

Since the good folks at New Line are trying to get the word out on Bob Shaye’s return to the director’s chair, they held a press day for the film here in Los Angeles and I decided to attend the event and support the film.

If you are not familiar with the movie here is the synopsis (from the studio) after a few words from me.

I’ve gotten a few emails about why I’m posting the straight synopsis and here’s the answer. The people who made the film have already written a good summary of what the film is about so why should I spend time trying to re-word it? I run the site on my own and I only have so much time in the day…I figure it would be better to use it posting more content and not re-writing stuff that’s already good…

Based on the acclaimed sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett, The Last Mimzy tells the story of two children who discover a mysterious box that contains some strange devices they think are toys. As the children play with these “toys,” they begin to display higher and higher intelligence levels. Their teacher tells their parents that they seem to have grown beyond genius. Their parents, too, realize something extraordinary is happening. Emma, the younger of the two, tells her confused mother that one of the toys, a beat-up stuffed toy rabbit, is named Mimzy and that “she teaches me things.” Emma’s mom becomes increasingly concerned. When a mysterious blackout shuts down the city and the government traces the source of the power surge to this one family’s house, things quickly spin wildly out of their control. The children are focused on these strange objects, Mimzy, and the important mission on which they seem to have been sent. When the little girl says that Mimzy contains a most serious message from the future, a scientific scan shows that Mimzy is part extremely high level electronic and part organic! Everyone realizes that they are involved in something incredible…but exactly what?

I’m a big fan of Rainn and I think his work on The Office is always brilliant. He has a lot of interesting things to say but I especially liked hearing him talk about hosting Saturday Night Live – which he had done less than a week before we did the roundtable.

If you would like to listen to the interview you can download the MP3 here, otherwise the transcript is below.

And if you want to watch the trailer before reading the interview click here.

The Last Mimzy opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Question: What are your thoughts on the spiritual aspects of this film?

Rainn Wilson: I actually have spiritual beliefs that are very important to me, and I grew up a member of the Baha’i Faith. It was one of the things that drew me to this project, in reading the script and seeing the spiritual and metaphysical journey that the story takes, as well as the science fiction and adventure journey. That’s such a rare thing in a Hollywood film and I was really attracted to that.

Q: Did you want to be a part of something for an audience that is younger than who sees most of your stuff?

RW: No, I didn’t really look at it that way. I think that I just really responded to the story. I didn’t really think about it as a family film, or that I should expand my horizons to incorporate a family audience. Last hiatus, after that season of ‘The Office,’ I was offered a number of projects that were very broadly comic and, after playing Dwight for eight or nine months, I just didn’t really feel like doing that. I wanted to try something different and play a real character. Although he’s eccentric, he’s a real three-dimensional person that you can picture really living in the real world.

Q: Was it daunting to have Bob Shaye as a director, and as head of the studio?

RW: It wasn’t daunting to me. I don’t really care about that. If I did a bad job and he never hired me again, I’d just get work somewhere else. I’m fine. I’ve got a TV show. [Laughs] I just didn’t know his work as a director, so that was a little bit scary for me. He directed this one other film, called ‘The Book of Love,’ a long time ago, and I actually had a friend in that film — John Cameron Mitchell, the creator of ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ I called John and said, “So, what’s Bob Shaye like?,” and he gave me the story of Bob Shaye and said, “Ultimately, he’s a good guy and a smart guy, and he’ll treat you well.” So, that lead me to sign up for the project.

Q: We heard that there was a little bit more to your romantic scenes in the film. Do you remember anything more?

RW: Yeah, I think I get it on with Kathryn Hahn. I think they cut out after a kiss, but we had a scene when she took her clothes off, and I was in bed. That scene continued.

Q: Was there anything else of yours that didn’t make it into the final cut?

RW: Yes, my ass did not make it into the final cut. They had to CGI underwear onto me, when I had the pajamas and I was walking to the refrigerator to get the chocolate cake. [Laughs] For real. I like the opportunity to take my clothes off, especially for comedic effect. Anytime they need a laugh on ‘The Office,’ they ask me to just take my shirt off. “Let’s just get Dwight to take his shirt off.”[Laughs] So, I have no problem getting naked, but apparently that has been taken out. But, I think most of my stuff is in the film.

Q: What was it like hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’? Was it like what you expected? How receptive were they to your ideas?

RW: It was an amazing experience. I can’t even say that doing ‘Saturday Night Live’ was a dream come true ‘cause it was never even a dream that was on my radar. I never thought I would be hosting ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I grew up watching Buck Henry and Steve Martin hosting, and I just never thought that would be me. But, it was a great experience. It’s exhilarating and terrifying, but they kept saying, “Make sure you have fun. That’s the most important thing. That’s what’s really going to read to the audience.” And, I think I was able to have fun. We did a spoof on ‘Black Snake Moan’ called ‘White Possum Scream,’ [laughs] and it was a long scene. It was a 7-page scene, and they kept wanting to cut it. I kept fighting with Lorne (Michaels) about it. I was like, “Trust me, on this one. If I’m in my tighty whities, on a chain, being held by a black man, writhing around, it’s going to be funny.” [Laughs] So, I fought for that to stay in. They were open to my ideas. I had a lot of ideas about the sketches I was in, that I think helped them.

Q: How was the experience of doing live TV? Is that something you’re comfortable with?

RW: It’s terrifying, man. It’s unbelievable. Those lights pop on, on the cameras, and you know that what you say is being heard, that second, by millions of people. I don’t even think ‘Saturday Night Live’ has a delay on it. I don’t think they do ‘cause every once in awhile the F-word leaks out. It’s terrifying. When I did Bill Maher, it was terrifying, in the same way. That was even scarier because I was talking about politics, in which I’m not really that adept. But, it was a great experience. I feel like now I can do anything. You feel like, once you’ve done that, you can do anything. You really do.

Q: Would you like to do more live theater?

RW: I started in the theater, for eight or nine years before I did any TV or film, in New York. I feel like right now is my time to do film and TV because I did that eight or nine years of theater. But, when ‘The Office’ is over, I would love to go back and do some plays.

Q: Are there any surprises left in Dwight, or is it very comfortable at this point?

RW: That’s an excellent question. The struggle is to not go on auto pilot with him, and to try to challenge myself to find different ways to allow his character and his comedy to come through the material. I’ve got several years more of playing that big, annoying dufus, so I’ve got to find ways to keep me interested in it and to keep having new surprises coming from him.

Q: When does your season wrap for ‘The Office’?

RW: In about three or four more weeks.

Q: Do you have anything special planned for the finale?

RW: I think there’s a one-hour finale.

Q: Have you thought about what you’re going to be filming this summer?

RW: Yeah, I’ll definitely be filming, I think, two movies this summer. But, we’re in negotiations, so we’ll have to see what those are yet. It hasn’t been finalized.

Q: When you were a kid, or a teen, did you like science fiction or fantasy films?

RW: I think the first movie I ever went to was ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ I was 5 or 6 years old and my dad took me. It was terrifying. I had nightmares about that baby coming over the earth for the rest of my life. [Laughs] I love science fiction movies. I loved ‘Logan’s Run’ and the ‘Star Wars’ movies and ‘Close Encounters,’ which was produced by Michael Phillips, is fantastic. That was a seminal movie for me.

Q: Did you grow up in Seattle?

RW: Yeah.

Q: Doesn’t Vancouver look beautiful in this movie?

RW: It does. [Laughs] It’s a gorgeous substitute for Seattle. Vancouver: it’s almost Seattle. [Laughs]

Q: How do you feel, as a Seattle boy, about the continuing use of Vancouver as a stand-in for Seattle?

RW: I feel fine about that. It’s a lot cheaper to film there, what can you say? I love the city of Vancouver. I went with my wife and we had a great time for two movies. I love it. I went down to Seattle a couple times, and had my relatives come up and visit.

Q: Do you have any kids?

RW: I do. I have a son who’s 2 ½.

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Q: So he’s a little young for this film.

RW: Yeah, definitely. I don’t think it’s a film for kids under 8 or 9.

Q: As all of your ‘Office’ co-stars go off to do movies, when you come back to do the show, do you notice a difference in skills or styles?

RW: No. The main change that’s happened for all of us, since we’ve gotten famous and since the success of the show and the addition of movies, just has to do with time and energy. There’s just a lot more demands on your time. There’s a lot more press and photo shoots and movies and rewrites and meetings, and stuff like that. I have one day off in the month of March. March 10th is my day off, so don’t ask anything of me on March 10th. [Laughs] That’s one of the challenges. When you read stuff about celebrities and how they’re bitches, you realizes that there’s so many demands put on people and so many requests. And then, you have old friends writing and they want you to send head shots or they want you to host a charity event, and you don’t want to let them down. You want to keep everyone happy, but it’s hard. But, it’s great. I’m not complaining. It’s definitely a dream come true.

Q: Have you directed an episode of ‘The Office’? Do you even want to go in that direction?

RW: I like directing. I’ve directed a lot of theater and I directed a short film, and eventually I’ll direct more, but I really decided early on, with ‘The Office,’ I just want to show up and play Dwight. I don’t want to write, I don’t want to direct, I don’t want to produce, I don’t want to be involved in that way. It’s just cleaner if I show up and play my character.

Q: How much of that is ad-libbed between you and Steve Carrell, and all of the other cast members, and how much do you really stick to the script?

RW: The scripts are really brilliant, so we’re fortunate to have really great writing. I would say that what you see is about 3/4 scripted, and about 1/4 ad-libbed.

Q: Did you watch the British show? There was worry that we wouldn’t like it because the British version is so good, but you really took it and made it your own.

RW: I was always a big fan of the fact that there was going to be an American ‘Office.’ I loved the English ‘Office,’ but the English ‘Office’ was like a mini-series. We adapted an English mini-series for American television. It’s a very different thing. They made 13 episodes. We’re on our 50th episode right now, already, and we’re not even half-way done. I just thought there was always a great deal of potential in the show and, when I met Greg Daniels and saw how passionate he was about it, and his intelligence and sense of humor, I knew we were in good hands. I was always a believer.

Q: Have you ever had a boss like Michael, or would you want a boss like Michael?

RW: I’ve had bosses worse than Michael. People are always like, “I don’t believe Michael Scott would be the boss at that company,” and it’s like, “Dude, I have worked for people so much worse than he is, so much less funny and more boorish and domineering.” They’re out there.

Q: Do you think that adults and kids, in this modern world, have lost their sense of wonder?

RW: I think what drew me to the story of ‘The Last Mimzy’ is that the children go on this metaphysical journey that ends up saving mankind. We’re at a crossroads right now where we, as humans, can choose to destroy our planet and destroy ourselves, or we can unite and spiritually transform the planet into the paradise that it was meant to be. I think this movie has a lot of resonances and I think people are really going to respond to this film. It’s going to last a long time. I don’t know about opening weekends, and stuff like that, but when people see it and pass it on, it’s going to really be a small classic.

Q: Were you interested in the science in this, either from a research perspective or just for your own curiosity?

RW: Yeah. I guess I was most interested in how DNA works. I didn’t know you could be carrying junky DNA and that toxins can affect your DNA, and how that works. I still don’t quite understand it, but it’s pretty amazing what can happen in the future with genetic modification, and stuff like that. But, I do believe that the impurities of today — mental, spiritual and physical — are going to take their toll on the planet.

Q: What did you think about working with these kids?

RW: Don’t print this, but they are horrible. [Laughs] They were great. They didn’t have much experience, but they’re both naturals. It was really fun. We goofed off a lot. We had a great time. We really did.

Q: Did you ad-lib any of the funny lines in this film?

RW: I think so, yeah. I seem to remember doing ad-libbing. You can’t stop me from ad-libbing. It’s kind of what I do. It’s kind of what I bring to the equation. I’m just going to say what pops into my head. I try to stay in character and stick to the story.

Q: Were you in Julie Taymor’s ‘Titus’?

RW: I was in the stage production, yes.

Q: Did you end up in the meat pie, or were you alive at the end?

RW: I ended up falling into a pit and having my head cut off, not dissimilar from my end in the Rob Zombie masterpiece ‘House of 1,000 Corpses.’ [Laughs] Julie Taymor and Rob Zombie. I was clubbed to death by Scarecrow and sawed in half, and my torso was attached to a fish’s tail. I was turned into fish boy. That was my first leading role in Hollywood. [Laughs] I can say I was discovered by Rob Zombie.

Q: What’s the origin of your name?

RW: Kind of crazy bohemian parents, living in Seattle in the late ‘60’s.

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