SXSW Interview: Patrick Wilson and Judy Greer On Their New Film, “Barry Munday”

Patrick Wilson and Judy Greer talk about their new film, Barry Munday, creating a character and how starting an acting career is like fishing (seriously!)

Patrick Wilson and Judy Greer star in the hilarious new film, Barry Munday.

I got a chance to see the film and interview them at SXSW and both were so much fun. This was by far the most fun I’ve had at an interview yet! If you get a chance to listen to the interview, you really should – you’ll see (uh, hear) what I mean.

The film is about a guy who wakes up in the hospital after being attacked in a movie theater, only to realize that he is missing his… his testicles. To make things even worse, he finds out that he’s knocked up a woman he can’t even remember hooking up with.

Patrick plays Barry and he is the worlds greatest douchbag – Barry, not Patrick. Judy plays Ginger; Patrick described her in the interview as a “crabapple”. I said she was socially retarded but you can be the judge of that when you see the film. Which I absolutely recommend – Patrick and Judy are fantastic as usual.

So, Patrick at what point did you go, “ouch?”

Patrick Wilson:  Oh man.

Judy Greer:  Did you read the script?

Patrick:  Yeah, you know it’s funny.  I have had a history of some type of emasculation in movies.  This was the first time it actually was quite literal.  But, what I loved about it was… once they established kind of who he was, I just thought it was the most outlandish circumstance. But the coolest journey for a story essentially about becoming a man.  To have that completely stripped away, that was exciting.

Patrick, it was pretty widely publicized that you put on a lot of weight for Watchmen, and it looked like you still had that on for this.  Was it hard to put on that 25lbs and then take it back off to where you are today?

Patrick:  You know, I just really took my time, to be honest with you.  The first time I got the script, I was shooting Watchmen, so luckily, it just sort of fit with this guy.  My whole theory, because I’m sure we all know these types of guys, he’s sort of still hanging on to the 90s when he thought he was cool, and hung out at the Bennigan’s After Dark bar.  And you know, I also thought there was something incredibly cool about not being vain about it, and just actually the fact that you did get to see a shower scene and a love scene and just have him still be doughy.  So, I didn’t necessarily try to keep it on, but it wasn’t until after Barry Munday that I said, alright, let me get back in shape.

You guys were fantastic in your roles.  Patrick, you play an incredible douchebag.  And Judy, you’re just socially retarded (laughter) and so great.  How did you guys go about approaching your roles?

Judy:  Putting a character together from the outside in is, for me, it’s fast and easy.  Once I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in like my clogs, which were my own clogs… and it was funny because on set, I remember somebody was like, I forget who said it, and then you have to wear those awful shoes (laughter). And I was like, ‘Those are mine.’

Patrick: Yeah, they’re really terrible. I would never wear those in my real life.

Judy: But it’s so easy, once you get those clothes on.  And that’s true really for me, for all the characters, once I know what I’m wearing and what I look like, it starts to sort of come together.  And then there’s walking stuff, Ginger definitely doesn’t stand up very straight. I mean, those things. And then it all sort of comes together.  And when she’s talking, when Ginger, when I talk about being ugly and what it feels like.  When I was looking like that, like I really felt that way.  I felt angry at people who you know, going to Starbucks cut in front of me in line, or whatever, and I’m like, really?  I’m here, I’m a person that’s standing here.

How was it working with Chris?  Because he’s a new director.  Did he have any certain aspects that are different than other directors?

Judy:  Well, I’ve worked with lots of first-time directors, and he was so prepared.  That was like what was really impressive to me.  He had so much enthusiasm for the movie when I met with him.  He came to work with photographs and shots for the day and he knew exactly what he wanted.  Sometimes directors aren’t really that prepared.  You show up and you’re like you’re getting this opportunity.  Nobody gets to do this, and you won the lottery and you don’t know what you want to shoot today?

Patrick:  That’s totally true. The thing about film, too, you can come from such different backgrounds.  Sometimes you’re a writer, sometimes you’ll work with a guy that’s done just a bunch of commercials or a guy that’s a DP or a choreographer – whatever it is.  But at the end of the day, you have to know visually what you want.

It’s funny, this coming from the guy from the theatre, but in a weird way, I don’t care if you give me these great acting notes, I want to know what you want to shoot because this is a director’s medium.  This is not an actor’s medium.  He knew the style that he wanted.

We said this a couple times today, if you can hang on a comedic scene from one angle for four minutes, which is like an entire mag, if you can do that, you have to have supreme confidence in your script, in you, in your actors, in the situation, because you’re not telling people to laugh, and then a quick cut to reaction.  I mean those comedies have their place, too, but for this style of comedy, almost like a 70s style of comedy, you have to trust the situation.  It’s just a love story about these two people who would never come together and how they sort of work around their very blatant, concrete differences.  Instead of circumstances, and really come together.  And the thing about Chris is, he just knew, because he’s just a humble guy and an enthusiastic guy, he’s like, ‘Actually, the way I want to shoot this, is like this.’  And you gotta go with it.  And it worked.  And truthfully, a lot of times, when you only have a couple angles, you know, producers, editors, everybody else when you get into the editing room, they all get scared, because it’s like, ‘Can we cut to something and put a sound cue in there and that’s gonna make people laugh?’  Just trust it.  Trust it and let it sit.  So yesterday it was so exciting for us because we’d never sat with a room full of people.  You know, the sound’s not great in that theatre, and you’re like, ‘Oh God, are they going to be able to hear the dialogue?’ And it just played, we thought, so great.

Judy:  I saw it in a screening room at CAA with like four agents, like NOT where you want to see a comedy, you’re like, ‘Oh no.’  And it was just so fun to hear people laugh at what we thought was so funny when we were doing it.  Also, to have Chris trust us like that and to not cover scenes.  No one does that.

Patrick, was there any concern on your people’s part about you taking on this role.  You said you read the script while you were shooting Watchmen, did they want you to hold out for something big budget?

Patrick:  No. It’s always that tug of war.  Until you’re like kind of super famous and can turn down all that stuff, and I’m not in that situation.  I’m lucky to have great support around me.  And I love my agents. I think back to when I signed with them, nine years ago, it was always very creatively driven.  It was not, ‘Look, let’s turn down this great role because I think you can get in this big budget movie.’  Because the reality is I’ve done some big budget movies and they haven’t been as successful.

Judy:  You never know.

Patrick:  You never know.

Judy:  Nothing is a sure thing.

Patrick:  Yeah, nothing is.  I do try to go as different as I can.  So when I was presented this opportunity… I don’t get a chance to do a lot of comedy and the fact that this guy could be such a broad character but it still had a heart, I think it actually played to my strengths. Even though it was sort of a new genre for me.  But I never had one, ‘Oh, I don’t know if you should do this, let’s wait for something.’  Because that’s not me.  And luckily they get that.

You both kind of strike me as maybe pranksters, and I know this is kind of a go-to question for a lot of people.  It looks like you had a lot of fun on set, so were there any big pranks that went on?

Judy:  You’re like a walking prank (laughter).

Patrick:  That doesn’t sound nice.

Judy:  When we were doing the movie, he made me laugh all the time non-stop.  I don’t think we needed pranks.  I was laughing all the time.

Patrick:  That’s very true.

Judy:  There was no need to boost morale.

Patrick:  We had to just try to keep it together because I can’t imagine how many takes we ruined by laughing.  At times, it felt like, ‘I’m actually, I’m terrible at acting.’

Judy:  And then, again without covering the scenes, too.  It was hard.  I would think of terrible things in my mind just so I could be like –

Patrick:  And then, because it’s a small movie that you’re on budget reasons and you feel really bad.  “You guys, I’m really sorry that I’ve blown like four takes.”

You guys have had such great careers so far.  What’s your advice to up and coming actors?

Judy:  I would say two things.  I would say have something that has nothing to do with acting that you love to do.  And work, work, work.  Don’t be choosy in the beginning. because that’s how you learn.  You learn and you meet people, and you have no idea if the guy who’s getting you a coffee is gonna be… and not just work to make relationships, but be nice to everybody and work.

Patrick:  That’s so true, and also I feel like when you’re starting out in the beginning, the more things – I went to school for it, and you never know where you’re gonna land.  You gotta fish with a cast net.

Judy:  Like a crab trap?

Patrick:  Yeah. Apparently my metaphors deal with growing up on the water in Florida.  If you’re gonna catch mullet, here’s how you do it. (laughter).  You gotta just throw it out there and you have to, you can’t be picky right away.  I think the most important thing, truthfully, is surrounding yourself with people that you like. Whether in LA or New York, it can be incredibly lonely.  It can be that way in anything, but certainly when you’re in something creative that you’re being judged by your talent or just how you look.  It’s really that blatant. Be with your friends, you know?  Don’t be the renegade. If all your friends are going to New York and you want to go to LA and be a movie star, well, I hope you have friends in LA because you have to have a good support group.

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