What’s the Story, Patrick Wilson?

Published November 9, 2010

 

PATRICK WILSON IN MORNING GLORY FILM STILL COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Visit the website for Morning Glory, the latest film from director Roger Michell (Notting Hill), and you’ll hear on loop the theme song for Daybreak—a fictional national morning show struggling with its ratings. The song is primed and alert, invoking that distinctly morningtime dash for coffee and those eleventh-hour broadcast news ad-libs. It also captures its lead character, TV producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams)’s wired and resolute drive to save the show from cancellation. Joining McAdams is Harrison Ford as the incisively pompous veteran anchorman Mike Pomeroy, who, due to contract loopholes and negotiations, is forced to drop to the minor leagues and co-host his network’s “fluffy” morning show with former beauty queen Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).

A decidedly New York movie—happy hour at Schiller’s, the GE building at dawn, the barroom at 21 Club with cameos from Bob Schieffer, Morley Safer and Chris Matthews—Morning Glory, which was written by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), brings to mind the screwball dueling banter of His Girl Friday.

We had a chance to chat with Patrick Wilson (Little Children, The Switch), who plays Adam Bennett, a newsmagazine producer and McAdams’s love interest, about the movie and his all-in-the-family connection to broadcast news.

DURGA CHEW-BOSE: Hi!

PATRICK WILSON: Durga, hi! You have such a cool name! CHEW-BOSE: Oh, thank you!

WILSON: What is the origin of your name? What is that, Tibetan or something? Nepalese?

CHEW-BOSE: It’s Indian, actually, but you’re close.

WILSON:  All right, well, there you go!

CHEW-BOSE: Morning Glory was screened last night to a packed audience, which was nice because comedies like this one are best viewed in with a large crowd. The whole theater was laughing for the entire movie.

WILSON: Oh, that’s great! You know, that’s always my problem, especially with comedy—you can’t watch it by yourself or with a couple of people. It’s so tough. Whenever I’ve had other comedies, I’ve always felt like I wanted to demand that press go to the theater, please.

CHEW-BOSE: What was different about Morning Glory as a romantic comedy is that it channeled such a distinctly screwball sensibility; that back-and-forth repartée.

WILSON: I agree with you. I loved that about it.

CHEW-BOSE: And it seems that based on your family, since your father and your brother are both news anchors, you didn’t have to go far for your research for the role?

WILSON: [LAUGHS] For my actual job in the movie, I didn’t really know much about it, so I went and spent a little time with 60 Minutes. [LAUGHS] You also don’t really see me doing my job in the movie. But yeah, I grew up around the news side of it, and I didn’t really know the editorial side or the production side, so that was fun.

CHEW-BOSE: Did you ask your brother or your dad for any pointers?

WILSON: You know, it’s funny: as soon as I read the script, I told my dad and brother, “You guys are going to be happy…” My dad, it’s kind of funny, he was the evening anchor, but there was a time when he was switching stations—and this is in the early ’90s—and there was this clause where he couldn’t work in the same market. So he had a sudden lifestyle change, and he went to work at this new job. In order to phase him in as an evening anchor, they had him do the news.

And it was very funny, because while it’s not morning TV to my father, it was hard to go from working thirty-five years at six and eleven and then all of sudden having to switch. So I certainly understood Harrison’s dilemma—of course it was overblown for the sake of comedy—but you know, there is truth to the stereotype of the news guy saying, “I don’t do morning TV, what are you talking about?” I’ve always been, whether it’s broadcast news or network,  a big fan of that genre, for obvious reasons.

CHEW-BOSE: Harrison Ford’s portrayal of his character, Mark Pomeroy, was like a hybrid of all the newscasters I’ve watched growing up—and thinking about it, it would be strange to watch any of them do the morning news.

WILSON: Yeah, I know! And what’s great about that side of it, it is a real throwback. And in a way we don’t have that kind of—I mean, I could talk about this insufferably, and it wouldn’t mean anything to most people—but TV and news have changed so much over the past fifteen years, so the importance of the “newsman” is gone, or at least diminished. So it’s exciting, and it’s a good time, I think, to make this movie. As a guy who’s grown up around that world, I was drawn to all of this. There’s a real identity crisis with Harrison, and working so hard only to wonder what it is you have at the end of your life.

CHEW-BOSE: And what about the romantic comedy as a budding genre for you? With The Switch and now Morning Glory, is it something you’d like to be doing more?

WILSON: Yeah, it’s a new adventure for me. And outside of The Switch, I also did this weird, really quirky movie, Barry Munday

CHEW-BOSE: Right, I saw that last year at South by Southwest.

WILSON: Oh, you did, great! I had a great time doing that one. You know, I read [romantic comedy scripts] a lot, and for whatever reason, whether they didn’t want me or I didn’t want them, it’s never been a right fit. And [Morning Glory], for a number of reasons, felt really right. But I would love to do more. I’ve always been the kind of actor who wants to do something different from the previous role.

CHEW-BOSE: While you played the romantic interest, your and Harrison Ford’s character were both foils to Rachel McAdams’s character. How did that work, acting opposite her frenetic energy?

WILSON: I just try to play the opposite of my partner. Certainly, for this, I wanted to be as grounded as she is frenetic. I wanted to be a light for her, I wanted it to be fun, and play the opposite of her. And you know, in The Switch, I just tried to play the opposite of Jason [Bateman]. As neurotic as he was, I tried to be overly exuberant—to the point of ridiculous!

CHEW-BOSE: And doing that in this movie with Rachel McAdams as your opposite….

WILSON: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like a silly thing to say, but she’s just so likeable, and you’re really pulling for her character. And [McAdams] is great. She’s a very, very talented actress. And you know, she’s got this great smile, it’s really wonderful to just play alongside her. I wish all romantic comedies were this well-written, I really do.

MORNING GLORY IS OUT NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY.