Patrick Wilson Wanted to “Capture the Spirit” of Lou Solverson
Patrick Wilson had a big moment in episode three of Fargo‘s second season, where his character, Minnesota cop Lou Solverson, faces down the criminal Gerhardt family in a tense meeting outside the Gerhardt compound.
Between takes, however, Wilson’s mood was considerably lighter. It almost felt like a family reunion to him.
“First of all, I was so excited to do that scene because you’ve got Jean Smart, who played my mother in Barry Munday,” Wilson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “You’ve got Angus [Sampson] playing Bear — we did two Insidious movies, and I do more with him in Fargo than I did in two Insidious movies with him. Jeffrey [Donovan] I’ve known — we’ve got mutual friends. He knows my brother, and a couple of his college buddies are my friends, so it was a very, very cool, exciting set.”
Wilson also discussed playing a version of a character audiences have already met, the unconventional place he turned for advice on set and playing an adult in the period when, in real life, he was just a kid.
You’ve said that neither you nor Noah Hawley wanted to do an impression of Keith Carradine’s Lou from season one, but it does seem like you studied some things about the character.
What I wanted to do was capture the soul that I saw him give, really — the soul of his performance. I never talked to Keith about it. What I gleaned from his performance is that [Lou] is a very steady guy, a very solid guy. Don’t make light of his folksy nature; he means business. That’s what [showrunner] Noah [Hawley] was probably talking about too. He didn’t want me to get caught up in feeling like I needed to do an exact replica.
What’s interesting is walking away from it, with a combination of the writing and my wanting to capture the spirit of it, I think they’re pretty closely related. I can kind of watch it objectively. It’s not like I was trying to do something totally different. It just wasn’t a performance where you sit there and listen to speech patterns and [look at] the way he walks and try to establish exactly what he did.
The show is set in a time when you were six years old. Can you contrast living in that time with the character with what you remember from then?
I certainly have memories, I remember ’79. It’s always fascinating to play somebody from a different time, because even though you may have been alive, you certainly weren’t dealing with adult issues. Even looking at things like waiting in line for gas, and we’ll see it in the coming episodes, Reagan coming into power and campaigning. Those sort of politics I find very interesting now. … What’s fun is to look back on it with the obvious innocence of hindsight. That’s always fun, to play someone not understanding where the country was going, when obviously we know where it went.
You don’t want to get too caught up in, “Am I playing all the themes of the series?” The show is so well-written that you can go along for the ride for a lot of that. You take what you can use, and I think one of those is — my father was in the military. He did not go to Vietnam; he was transferred to Panama. I had some other relatives who did go to Vietnam, and I always wondered what it was like coming back.
Not to go on a non-sequitur here, but I remember going to a midnight showing of Platoon with my dad. The whole back of the theater was vets in wheelchairs. That hit me at 15. … As a filmgoer, you really got that and Born on the Fourth of July for our generation [to understand] what was it like coming back. Lou is a different side — of course he’s a vet, but the war hit him differently. … That is fascinating to me. I’ve always been strangely obsessed with what that is — what men go through, the violence within men, what happens when men see that kind of violence. That’s something that was really rewarding to explore.
Lou is really good at compartmentalizing — how does he handle it?
He definitely compartmentalizes it, and as a Midwesterner, I’m sure it’s even moreso. … These are not the passionate, Southern people I grew up with who scream and yell at dinner and throw the whiskey back. That’s not Lou. Obviously he deals with that horror a much different way. That’s incredibly exciting to play.
Did you talk much with Noah about playing what was under that placid surface?
A couple times. And then with each director — we had some who were more emotionally driven and some who were more technically different, and that’s always interesting. … There were only a handful of times where it was, “Let’s bring this out a little more.” And they had been with Noah and discussed it with Noah. So even if Noah or the other writers weren’t on set — that is one thing about this show. There is a tone through-line from showrunner to writers to directors to actors that is pretty seamless. I think that reflects in the work. Every time you talked to a director, you knew they had talked extensively with Noah about this moment. … That was a real blessing.
What will the fallout be from Ben Smith [Keir O’Donnell] not having Lou’s back with the Gerhardts?
With Ben, that will come to a head. I don’t think that’s shocking to anyone. He and I spend a lot of time together, because while Lou wants to pursue this, Lou also respects [Ben’s] jurisdiction. Keir and I, I just love working with that guy. Keir is just an awesome guy and such a solid actor to be able to go from drama to comedy. As the story goes on, he’s got some amazing moments. I love that push and pull with him, the different styles of police work, the different types of people he and Lou are. And he’s also a vet. So why did his experience make him this kind of cop, and why did mine inform the way that I act? That is a great relationship.
And now that he’s on the family’s radar, presumably there’s more confrontation to come?
I relished those moments [with the Gerhardts]. The still photographer on set was a former cop for about 30 years. So every take I would run up to him and say “How do I look? Am I holding the gun right?” He was so helpful to me. It was just little things, like keeping your hand always on your piece.
Those moments where the strength of Lou’s stillness [shows], that was in there. There are all these crazy characters around you — you’ve got the German frau in front of you. You’ve got Angus eating with the filthy cast, and then Donovan rolls in like a crazy villain. (Laughs.) That was one of those moments — there are some very character-defining moments. Then you see your buddy cop that has no respect — he obviously realizes, ‘Wow, these guys just own you,’ and that is not the way I roll. I loved just sitting back into my holster and saying, “Bring it.” That was a big episode for Lou’s character. … He’s understated so much that you have to see him in those situations, both with Donovan and with Bokeem [Woodbine] that you go, ‘OK, that’s the type of cop he is.’ That sets itself pretty good going forward.
I also want to ask about working with Cristin Milioti. There are a few things going on there, with Betsy’s cancer and her being a cop’s daughter, but you two seemed to settle in really well.
We did from the get-go. There were some of those dinner table scenes where you see she is her father’s daughter. And what’s really fun is to see how that translates into Molly. You see how Molly takes after both of them, both mom and dad and grandpa. That’s cool. It’s very exciting for fans of the show. All of the values and the strength that Allison [Tolman, who played Lou’s daughter Molly] had in season one, you see here how that starts.
Fargo airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on FX.
This is a true story. The events depicted took place in Minnesota in 1979. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.
So begins the new season of Fargo. If that opening sounds familiar, that’s because a variation of it also appears at the start of each episode of the first season. And at the start of the 1996 Coen brothers’ film this series is based on.
Danson and Wilson play father and son-in-law but they have a connection that goes beyond Fargo. They are both proud Carnegie Mellon alumni, and share a bond over the Pennsylvania university. It is that, combined with the fact that Wilson and Danson are, ahem, beyond their days of going out for late nights with the cast, which has seen a fast friendship form.
“It’s very funny because there are several people that are – and I’m not by any means old, nor am I saying that I’m old, nor am I saying that Ted’s old – but there are several people in their 20s and 30s that like to go out and have fun, whereas he and I, we’ve got wives and kids and things like that,” says Wilson. “I enjoy having a nice dinner and then I’d like to go to bed. He’s a big foodie too, so we went out to dinner a lot.”
Wilson’s name normally appears on the credits for the silver screen, not the small (you may recognise him from films such as Watchmen, or Insidious), but he is enjoying his stint on this distinguished series. “Everybody gets a moment in this thing. Every character has some character-defining moment. That is a hard thing to do because there’s a lot of mouths to feed on this show,” he says. “Sometimes you’ll get these little moments in tiny character-driven movies, you know, it’s hard to find those in studio movies anymore, where you feel ‘man I love this guy I’ve got every facet to play here’, and we’ve all had that.”
Ted Danson and Patrick Wilson Discuss the True Story of ?Fargo
Patrick Wilson: “When Kurt Russell Looks At You, You See His Soul”
Patrick Wilson has starred in musicals, dramas, romantic comedies, action movies, and a comic book adaptation. Now, with Bone Tomahawk, the versatile actor adds a western to his repertoire. The Little Children star acts alongside Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox in the film. Wilson plays a man searching for his wife who’s been kidnapped, making this a rescue mission story.
The film provided rare amenities for Wilson, such as a long rehearsal with his co-actors and director, S. Craig Zahler. It’s a low-budget Western, so obviously the cast and director needed all the time they could get to run through the story before principal photography — which, to Wilson, worked in the film’s favor.
The actor was in attendance at Fantastic Fest to promote the film, and at the start of my interview with the man, I quickly recalled a lesson I should’ve kept in mind: sometimes it’s unwise to start an interview off with a joke, especially a poorly delivered one.
When you do a lot of interviews in a year, especially during a festival, you’re bound to slip up, and that’s what happened at the start of this conversation. Wilson has had many sex scenes in films, including Bone Tomahawk, and while some performers run from sex scenes, that’s not the case with Wilson — a topic I was genuinely interested in.
Starting that discussion off with a joke, asking if it’s just a coincidence, was, admittedly, not a bright idea. Thankfully, it helped lead to an engaging — and thankfully better — conversation about the actor’s choices, what makes for good scene partners, and an unforgettable experience with Al Pacino.
Here’s what the Bone Tomahawk star had to say:
Wilson: So, you’re asking why adults have sex in movies?
[Laughs] No, but it is something some actors won’t do.
I mean, look, I think you could probably string several movies of mine together and find… I’ve done… I mean, whatever. There’s a lot of different commonalities with each movie, so I guess that’s usually what happens with either romantic or leading men: they tend to have relations with a partner in a movie [Laughs].
Saying that there are probably several themes that run through you work, are there certain roles you generally respond to?
Let me think about that. I try to pick roles that are very different, but if you try to string together some different throughlines between some actors…I usually gravitate towards roles that have some inner-struggle. I like to go against the whole “all American good-looking guy” on the page. If that’s all a character is, I tend not to play that — and, if I do, it’s for some other reason. I try to gravitate towards a role that has an undercurrent of some other struggle. In this case, there’s definitely an arc and drive. Even when you’re playing a bad guy, you’re hiding something.
Is it difficult finding roles with internal struggles?
I guess. The difficulty comes in trying not to do something I’ve done before, which leads me to other genres. It’s sort of been that balance for me, trying to find interesting roles. There have been other movies where I try to swing a big stick, where I’m trying not to be a boring guy in a bad movie. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie, but I’m always trying to push myself — and sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
All you can do is swing for the fences.
I try to as much as I can and as much as the system allows me and as much as the roles I can get. I mean, usually those roles come to me at an independent level. For a number reasons, we probably bore each other and the audience talking about why there aren’t that many studio films like that [Laughs].
[Laughs] When you’re acting in theater, how do you avoid giving the same performance when you have to do the performance over and over again?
Because you never get it right. Using a sports analogy, for every pitcher that’s pitched a perfect game, they’ve probably said, “Yeah, but my slider was off.” You’re constantly trying to perfect something that can’t be perfected, because, of course, it’s impossible. Honestly, one of my first jobs… God, it was almost 20 years, but I did this show around 100 times. Doing the same line every single night, you realize sometimes it’s off and sometimes it’s on. You carry whatever you do in a certain day into work — and that’s the beauty of theater. You’re basically tricking yourself in to thinking you can achieve perfection, but of course you can’t.
On a film like Bone Tomahawk, you probably get a limited number of takes. Say when you leave a day’s work in that instance, where there’s not much time, do you usually end up thinking, “I wish I tried something else in that one take”?
Right. I think that’s why you have to make choices right away. The benefit we had on this job is that I sat in a room with Kurt, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, and Craig Zahler for three days — and that’s rare. We’d go to a hotel and talk through every single scene. That is such a luxury, and it almost never happens. Almost every director wants rehearsal, but because of schedules, you rarely get that.
For days we talked for hours, and I hadn’t done that in a long time. That means when you get on set you don’t say, “This scene doesn’t make sense.” You can think about other things, like doing your job, and I think the relationships in the film are strong because of that. You’re right, though, because you only get a couple of takes. Trust me, if they’re moving on, they’re moving. You might be able to get one more take out of them, but you better show up ready to roll. That only comes with experience and really understanding the parameters you’re working in.
In the cases where you don’t have time to rehearse or get to know the other actors before shooting, have you ever showed up on set and it all just clicked right away?
Well, it’s separate things. You may have all the rehearsal you want and never get it right. I did this film, Big Stone Gap, coming out in a couple of weeks — and we didn’t have any rehearsal. We all loved the project and just clicked. I had never met Ashley Judd before I walked in that room — and bam — we just had a chemistry that worked. They’re two different things you’re talking about. You can sit around for days and not get anything right. Kurt and Richard had been attached to this for a while, and Matthew, too, so I was the new guy. We all just loved the script.
When you’re working opposite of Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins, that must up your game.
They’re unbelievable. James Wan (The Conjuring) and I always joke about remaking Big Trouble in Little China [Laughs]. Working with Kurt Russell, I had a similar experience working with Michael Keaton. I love working with guys that are my heroes. I remember very early on in my career I thought, You either want to sit by the court and watch Michael Jordan or you want to play with him. I want to play with him, even though I’m terrible as basketball. That was always me. I remember my first job with Al Pacino on Angeles in America, and he’s arguably one of the best actors ever. I loved it. I loved sitting and watching Kurt. Maybe it’s the athlete in me, but it’s a healthy amount of nerves of, “Yeah, man, let’s go.”
What makes for a good scene partner?
Listening. The best actors are not off in their own world, coming in and it doesn’t even matter to them that you’re there. The best actors are the best listeners. When Kurt Russell looks at you, you see his eyes and you see his soul. He takes what you’re saying and throws it right back at you — and that’s a scene partner. A good scene partner isn’t, “Oooh, look at my bag of tricks!” You can have all your skills, but, for me, the best actors are the most giving actors, because they also want you to be better. You don’t have time to sit back and marvel at them, you gotta get in there and get dirty with them.
You mentioned working with Al Pacino. I’m a big fan of Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Angels in America. When you think back on that experience, what comes to mind?
I’ll give you one story, since we’re talking about Al. So much of that film for me was with him. I would get a call about once a week from his office, saying, “Al wants to rehearse. We got a studio. Can you rehearse Thursday at noon?” [Laughs] Actors hardly ever, randomly outside of shooting, calls another actor and says, “Hey, let’s get together and work on this.”
I remember thinking the first time, Is he going to direct me? Because I’m totally happy to be directed by him. We had a director, Mike Nichols, you know [Laughs]. Al would take a real go at it and we’d do the scene, do it again, and try it other ways — going back and forth, doing the scene. I remember only once I said, “Hey, I’m stuck on this moment. What do you think?” He went, “Well, you know, uh, how about you try this?” He was so direct, because he knew his job, which is to be an actor, you know? That was my experience with Al: those once a week, off-the-grid rehearsals. That’s the kind of actor he is.
Bone Tomahawk opens in theaters September 25th.
Patrick Wilson on The Conjuring, Exorcisms, and Opening Your Mind to Ghosts
In The Conjuring, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life occult experts who investigated potentially paranormal cases, including the Amityville one made famous by the horror film. Before Amityville put the controversial team on the map, they investigated the Perron family home in Rhode Island for an alleged haunting by the ghost of a witch and the ghosts of everyone murdered on the property. Farmiga’s character is the clairvoyant who senses the presence of spirits, while Wilson’s character is tasked with expelling them. Wilson chatted with Vulture about being open to the spirit world, performing an exorcism (onscreen), and his take on the debate about his Girls episode.
You met Lorraine Warren for this. What was that like? Because she has a priest living at her house to do mass every day …
That’s exactly right, yeah! It’s funny: For someone who has seen some very dark things, she’s very wry and very light and very open. Vera and I went there, and it’s her, the priest, her daughter, and her son-in-law, in rural Connecticut, chickens running around in the house. Lorraine would be telling some story about some demonic thing she had witnessed, and in the same breath, turn to tell a rooster to shut up. What I walked away with is the real supreme faith that she has, not only in God, but in her husband. That was something Vera and I wanted to capture in the film, playing that couple, to give a glimmer of that relationship.
Did she let you inside the occult museum at her house?
She did. Vera didn’t want to go; I did. [Laughs.] I was reading The Demonologist, so I was pretty well-versed on it. I just walked in going, “Okay. This is what they strongly believe in. Let’s see it.” So I saw a lot of strange artifacts and relics, and even though I feel like I had a pretty good handle on myself and my aura, my psyche, I didn’t want to touch anything. It just wasn’t worth it. For what? For my ego, to say I touched the [allegedly possessed] Annabelle doll? Nah, it’s okay.
In the real-life haunting that The Conjuring depicts, it took place over ten years and the Warrens ultimately were not successful. Did you talk to Lorraine about that incident? About what happened? Or what the skeptics said?
Yeah, maybe she did say that, that it didn’t finish with them, that they left or they were kicked off. And in House of Darkness, House of Light, which was written by Andrea Perron [one of the daughters in the house], that went into more detail. The things that they claim to have seen far surpass anything in the movie. Of course there are skeptics. Ed Warren loved the heckler, you know? If somebody spoke up, he would say, “You can’t tell me what I didn’t see. I saw it.” It’s like the people who think the moon landing didn’t happen, who think it was on a soundstage in L.A. But Buzz Aldrin says, “You cannot tell me I didn’t go to the moon.” How are you going to argue with that? If you never want to see a ghost, you’re not going to see a ghost. If you want to lead a miserable life and never fall in love, that’s probably going to happen, too. You have to be open. How free is your mind? How able are you to be open to any circumstance? I think that’s usually why it’s signified in movies that children seem to be a conduit, because it’s a pure mind. Animals, too. I haven’t seen a ghost, but my dog knows when I come home. Why? How many times have you thought about somebody who you haven’t talked to in forever and then they randomly call you? “I was just thinking about you.” There’s another force at play, whether you call it lady luck, a miracle, fate, coincidence, whatever. It’s something we can’t figure out, generations, cultures, religions all try to figure it out, and in this case, from a devout Catholic’s point of view, they’re God and the Devil. You know?
I always found it fascinating, in horror films, the differences between Catholic and Jewish exorcisms. And in extremely rare cases, a Protestant one or a multi-faith one, such as the Episcopalian priest with a rabbi in The Unborn.
With the Warrens, yeah, they’re devout Catholics, but they worked with rabbis, shamans, and everybody. So it’s sort of proving the point, no matter what God you pray to, it’s all the same. It was really strange doing the exorcism scene. I don’t know if it’s growing up Episcopalian, so I have this very old relationship with the Church — I spent a lot of time in church choir — but as far as practicality, I learned Latin. I had a Latin scholar come to me and sort of explain things. And it was a beast. We almost shot it in sequence, and this came towards the end of the shoot, which rarely happens. So you’re exhausted and all your emotions are on edge. I got to be honest with you, because you’re holding the book that the exorcism is done with, and you’re holding a cross — and it’s not a prop cross, it’s a real cross — and it hits you on levels that you don’t really expect it to. It was freaky.
I was surprised to learn that Scott Foley is your brother-in-law and that you’re doing a movie with him, with your wives who are sisters [Dagmara Dominczyk and Marika Dominczyk].
Yeah! We just finished Ward’s Wife. It’s a dark and funny story that Scott wrote and directed, and our friends, like Donald Faison and Amy Acker, are in it. We decided to just do it ourselves. Scott and Marika have been together longer than my wife [Dagmara] and I have, but we’ve been married longer. I just pulled the trigger sooner. [Laughs.]
Dagmara had the greatest response to all that Girls hullabaloo over your episode: “Funny, his wife is a size 10, muffin top and all, and he does her just fine.”
Yeah, that was pretty fantastic. She knows how to silence people, if need be. That’s a rare skill. [Laughs.] I really wasn’t expecting so much response to that episode. I didn’t think it hit the Zeitgeist in that manner. I saw it like this little French film that we shot, for five days, and I loved that. And then when it came out, when I saw how it didn’t fit into the season — didn’t fit in linearly, but did fit in other ways — I didn’t expect people to have such an opinion on my taste. As a person, not just a character. That was really strange and invasive and weird. People thought they had any clue about me. You can judge my acting all you want, but it’s really interesting when people were like, “Patrick Wilson would never do that.” What? Who are you? [Laughs.] You have no idea. You don’t even know my middle name. And here’s the thing: A lot of people can’t separate Lena Dunham from that character, so therefore they judge me as Patrick, because they’re judging Lena as her character. But both characters are damaged. People talked about Joshua like he had his stuff together and I was like, “What are you talking about? He’s as much as a train wreck as she is!” She’s just more vocal about it.
Patrick was on Chelsea Lately last night and here’s a clip from EW.com where he talks about Girls.
It has been five months, six days, and around 19 hours since HBO aired “One Man’s Trash,” a.k.a. “that episode of Girls where Patrick Wilson and Lena Dunham have all the sex” — yet somehow, we’re still talking about it.
To be more accurate: Patrick Wilson himself discussed the episode on Chelsea Lately last night, saying that he found all the chatter about “One Man’s Trash” — specifically, the chorus of people incensed by the idea that someone who looks like Wilson would hook up with someone who looks like Dunham — both “awful” and “ridiculous.”
After joking that he and the Girls multihyphenate had had “actual sex” on camera, Wilson got down to business: “It’s one thing for someone to talk about, ‘I would never believe a character like yours would do that,’” he told Handler. “But all of a sudden, people were tweeting, ‘Patrick Wilson would never have sex with this kind of woman.’ I mean, it was brutal.”
St. Petersburg, Florida – “A Gifted Man” is CBS’ hottest new fall series and the show’s lead character, Patrick Wilson, was back in town Saturday night.
The Tampa Bay native was playing on stage in front of a sold out crowd at a club called LOCAL 662 in St. Petersburg. Wilson played the drums while his brothers Mark and Paul also performed on stage with him in a band named “Van Wilson.”
The event was held as a fundraiser to raise money for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.
Patrick Wilson says, “I feel like if you can do something you’re passionate about and have a great time you know then it doesn’t feel like a dinner when everyone is in suits and ties and you’re giving money.”
Wilson adds, “Those events are certainly important. But for us if you can get the common person that may just want to come out and have a good time and hear some music and give to charity – especially a very noble one like the free clinic – then we’re in good shape.”
Organizers say it’s fitting that the band is raising money for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, because Dr. Holt, the character Patrick plays on “A Gifted Man,” leaves his private practice to help a free clinic.Patrick in St. Petersburg with Band for Fundraiser
Check out Patrick behind the scenes of ‘A Gifted Man’ as well as the You Ask, They Tell featurette by clicking the images below.