This is the first role you’ve played of this status — in your 30s, father, authority figure. Are you aware of that transition?
I don’t think of that in a defining way. ‘I’m going to have an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old in the movie; is that plausible?’ And, obviously, it is because I am the age the guy is. People tell me I look youthful, and the roles I’ve played have been primarily younger than my relative age and experience; I get all that. I don’t know what it means, but I get it.
What was the swing in your weight?
I think I was around 158 when I started losing weight. For about 4 1/2 weeks during filming and over the break, I was dieting and training. Dropped to about 136 at my lowest point. I did it for ‘Seabiscuit,’ but had more time — I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not fun. It’s probably not that healthy for you, although I talked to a nutritionist — I wasn’t eating just two grapes a day; I was trying to stay conscious and sane and all that. But it was still unpleasant.
What about Jim Sheridan’s work made him a director you wanted to work with?
He can tell difficult stories, emotionally challenging stories, in an authentic way. Even with something like ‘The Field’ or ‘My Left Foot,’ which are overtly, intensely, emotional, it’s still authentic. I love ‘The Field.’ Richard Harris had a classic moment, as I remember, he ends up in the ocean, beating the waves back with his cane. It’s like that classic Man’s denial of God, in a sense. The illusion of control over the universe. He’s literally fighting Nature.
I’d imagine it wasn’t easy playing the scenes where you scare your children.
The kids were so amazing. They were so aware of the process and had such a great understanding of what we were doing. The older girl, Bailee [Madison], her emotions were so accessible. She could just fill up with all this fear and pain and then be giggling 10 seconds later. Of course, it’s hard to imagine really doing that, being like that to your children.