Wilson, Patrick (Hard Candy)


Patrick Wilson is definitely an actor willing to take risks, having played the complex role of Jeff Kohlver, potential child molestor and tortured victim in David Slade’s controversial Hard Candy. A veteran of theatre, he has also appeared in several high profile films including The Phantom of the Opera and The Alamo. The Horror Channel had the chance to sit down with Patrick during a recent round table discussion. <!– zoom:/img/story/ –>

Question: You just acted out every man’s nightmare in this movie. What’s that like?

Patrick Wilson: Your objective becomes pretty clear: Get out! I remember sitting in acting class fifteen years ago when they asked us “What are your objectives?” Try to leave. How many different ways? Can you plead? Can you beg? Can you yell? Once you kind of give over to the situation, it’s pretty straightforward how you have to play it and I just wanted it to be believable.

Q: And you thought dying at The Alamo was bad…

PW: The pisser about that is that I died so early in the fight. It wasn’t very glorious. [laughs]

Q: How did you read a script like this and believe it yourself?

PW: Well, you just have to buy it. You can’t judge the character. If I felt like he was phony, I wouldn’t want to do it. No matter how outlandish the part is, for me, it has to be rooted in some sort of reality. And that reality can vary, but it has to be truthful to the character. I just wanted to get with the writer and talk about the set-up, talk about what really happened. The audience doesn’t have to know, but I have to know what role he had in this case. What part did he play in this? What is the truth?

Q: So you didn’t have the end of the script when you read this?

PW: Oh, no. I had the end of the script. I just needed to know if he’s telling the truth. There are so many questions that are left unanswered. That’s the point of the movie. We’re so used to being spoon-fed, like: “This guy’s good. This guy’s bad.” It’s not that type of movie. It makes you think a little more, but that doesn’t do me any good. I’m playing a role, I have to play it straight. I have to play each moment for a reality. I just needed to be clear.

Q: How uncomfortable was it to play these scenes – especially the ones with the ice bag – with an actress that’s basically a child?

PW: They looked at about 300 girls to find [Ellen Page]. Ultimately when I saw her tape, I didn’t really care about her acting. I cared more about what she was like as a person. I wanted to be very careful in what she sees, what I showed. It’s a forced intimacy. I wanted to be respectful. Once I met her, it kind of went out the window, cause she was very strong person, very passionate. She wasn’t a giggly teen, she had a very strong head on her shoulders and was very well read.

Q: How did you work out some of the harsher points? Like when she had you in saran wrap?

PW: The reality is that you see the reality in the film. My hands were tied, I couldn’t get out. The reality is, as soon as she does that to me, she takes the saran wrap off. Whether it was Ellen thinking “I don’t want Patrick to suffocate at the end of the take” or Haley going “I don’t want Jeff to die,” it doesn’t matter, cause both are true. You want to be safe and you don’t want to be stupid, but we didn’t have time to rig things up. So it was news to me when I saw my hands all purple and blue. That sort of realism was important.

Q: How long was the shoot?

PW: Eighteen and a half days.

Q: When you do a role like this, do you immediately start worrying that this is the one they’ll remember you by?

PW: As an actor, you shoot your film and you have no idea what’s going to happen to it. Theatre is the actor’s medium, I can do whatever I want on stage at night. But film becomes about so many other things. I remember doing The Alamo, thinking “Wow! I’m like the third or fourth lead in this $90 million movie with Billy Bob Thorton and Dennis Quaid! Holy crap! This could be huge!” And of course, the film comes out and it doesn’t do well, and its like “OK, well I’m not gonna be known as that guy. Maybe to Texans…but…”

[group laughter]

It’s a great thing that people even think about that, but I’ve never thought “I’m gonna be typecast as this.” Have I gotten offered more weird, edgy things after this? I guess. Certainly, the first few scripts where I was tied to something, I was like, “Nope. Not interested. Been there. If I’m confined by ropes, not gonna do it.”

[group laughter]

I’ve never thought about that and I don’t think I ever will. Success to me is not defined by the box office nor is the idea that I’m going to be defined by a certain role if this movie becomes a huge hit.

Q: Wearing those glasses, your character looked like Steven Soderbergh …

PW: That is so funny! The glasses, I didn’t even want them to be real glasses. I don’t know if you noticed, but he wears his glasses once and then they’re gone. So obviously he doesn’t need them! [laughs]

Q: What’s up next for you?

PW: Well, I have a baby on the way, so I have a life…

Q: Congratulations!

PW: Thank you! I have Little Children coming out in the fall…the movie, I mean…

[group laughter]

Q: Are you aware of the irony of going from Hard Candy to Little Children?

PW: Y’know, we shot this film two years ago. So there’s no irony like, “There’s a pedophile in each movie.” Although I hate using that word when describing this character, cause that’s the word you detest the most.

Special thanks to Patrick Wilson, Alice Zou, and Lionsgate Films for taking the time to arrange this interview. Hard Candy opens on April 14th in limited release; be sure to visit its official site for more info. Check it out…and remember The Alamo!

Andrew Kasch

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