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PATTON OSWALT - INTERVIEW
Patton Oswalt wrote an excellent and impassioned thought piece about the recent WATCHMEN film and, in the same article, had a lot to say about the culture of geeks/nerds. He is one of us, if there is such a moniker that could somehow be conferred on to someone, and Patton has had the kind of career many other actors and performers only wish they could. On a stage, in front of the camera, behind a microphone in a recording booth Patton has conquered every medium put before him. Primarily known for his comedy and comedic strengths Patton took advantage of the opportunity to push that aside for his role as Paul Aufiero in Robert Siegel’s new film, BIG FAN, where he plays a deeply devoted New York Giants fan and is willing to call into a radio talk show on a regular basis to proudly extol the awesomeness of a football team who doesn’t even know he exists.
The film is a mediation on the nature of fanaticism, to some extent, and it’s bold in how it challenges your preconceived notions about the kinds of parts Patton can play. BIG FAN shows how much range he has as a serious actor and hopefully it brings more people to the yard to hear what he has to say.
The film recently debuted to critical and audience praise in both New York and California and it is rolling out to more theaters as the weeks go on. For a listing of where it might be playing near you see BIG FAN’s Now Playing page for more information.
PATTON OSWALT: Hi Chris.
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Hi,Patton. How as press day been?
OSWALT: Oh boy!
CS: I’m going to try and avoid all the questions you’ve had to answer a million times.
CS: I’m going to try really hard…This is how I’m going to lead it off. This movie is not the TAXI DRIVER everyone is comparing it to. I think it’s closer to KING OF COMEDY.
OSWALT: Oh wow. Thank you. Good Lord. Thank you.
CS: I think it’s precisely that. I shouldn’t say that people are ignoring that comparison but I think it’s appropriate because it shows how a person can just devolve into their own self and shut out the rest of the world to rational thinking.
OSWALT: Well, Robert captured all that in the script and I just hope that I was up to the task of the script.
CS: That was one of the funny things I found out about you that you were so self-aware about doing something like this and that RATATOUILLE liberated you from thinking that you could do it. How did you approach thinking that “That this is the script…I want to do it…”? I know he came to you with it, but what did you think when you got the script?
OSWALT: It was the act of him coming to me to do the movie that gave me confidence that I could do it. He had written such a good script. He’s such a good writer. His instincts to be there for that meant a lot to me that he thought I could pull this off. It just gave me confidence.
CS: Robert was saying that some people saw it as a comedy but you saw something else in this story. What else did you see in this story?
OSWALT: I don’t think he ever saw it as a comedy.
CS: No, but some other people did.
OSWALT: Oh yeah. I think what I saw in this story was kind of a guy that maybe we glance at once and move along from. And he was like, “Wait a minute. What’s that guy’s story.” I love that someone can look at a part of the world that we tend to, not so much but we don’t have to explore any deeper. And Robert says, “Well, what is there?” So that to me that we would delve into something that might not be there was very exciting.
CS: When you were getting ready to do this, at what point did Kevin Corrigan come into it as your sort of partner in crime? He does an amazing job.
OSWALT: I think he was booked right along with me. He and I signed on at the same time, so right from the get-go, there he was. It worked out perfectly.
CS: The movie’s theme. I think it’s rather poignant the idea of obsession, of a guy who is living in his own mind. When you see the film now completed as it is, did it capture everything that you saw on the page?
OSWALT: Yes. And I think they found even more stuff that wasn’t on the page. Michael Simmonds, the cinematographer who paid attention to Staten Island and shot all these amazing angles, just a different way of looking at it. I think they got everything they wanted and more.
CS: Did everything on the page come out of it? You hear a lot these days of people doing what they want, improvising, having minimal guidance…
OSWALT: I’m not a big fan of that. I like the script to be as good as it can from the get go.
CS: And hard was it for you to come up with the persona of the radio call-in kind of guy?
OSWALT: It wasn’t really that hard. It was hard to suppress, because of my insecurities, my wanting to bring in the comedy. That was the hardest thing to begin with and then I was just able to fall into it easier than I thought I would. It was exciting.
CS: What kind of insecurities? You’ve got, not to put you over, but as I was getting prepared I didn’t realize how rich of a resume you now have.
OSWALT: Most of my comedy comes from those insecurities. Comedy is what I turn to to be comfortable and to give that up for a whole movie was very unnerving at first.
CS: Can you explain how gritty – the way Darren shot THE WRESTLER – did Robert explain the way he wanted to shot it, sort of 70’s, sort of gritty, cinema style?
OSWALT: We had talked about these kinds of movies and how much we loved that period of film making. Especially at that time of year, being grey and overcast, they captured it perfectly.
CS: They did. Especially the parking lot scene at the beginning. It looks like it’s fucking cold out there.
OSWALT: It was. It was fucking freezing.
CS: It captures – no Hollywood glossiness, let’s put you in a warm trailer and kick your ass out and then put you back in.
OSWALT: There were no trailers.
CS: That was my next question about the production of the film. How does it compare – well, it doesn’t compare, Rob said he wanted to do this one way or another? How was the production life?
OSWALT: We didn’t have any facilities. We had to borrow locations and change in the back of vans. No dressing rooms. Waited in cars between shots. There was nothing.
CS: Really? How long was the shoot?
OSWALT: 23 days.
CS: 23 days? Oh my god. Was there any concern that this film – it didn’t have distribution before it was shot? It was a wing and a prayer that it was going to get made and get picked up?
OSWALT: Exactly. We had no idea. We didn’t know if we would have money to complete it let alone get distribution. I looked at it like this was just something I wanted to do for myself. The rest was secondary.
CS: That blows my mind. Not a lot of people would stick their neck out and say, you weren’t wasting anything but you were going to give up those days just to do this movie that you believed in. Do you find that there is a lot of that sort of passion for films out nowadays like that?
OSWALT: Well, that passion is there but it’s hard to find those movies because a lot of those kinds of movies don’t get the distribution they deserve. They don’t get the attention they deserve. It’s out there. You just have to search for it. There is all kinds of passion, both as an actor and as a movie buff.
CS: Do you get those kinds of scripts? I know Robert had you in mind to do this but do you get scripts like this often?
OSWALT: No, I don’t. This was a gift from out of nowhere. It was great.
CS: When you do take a project, what is your criteria? Does it have to move you?
OSWALT: I don’t want to make a lot of money or have a lot of fun and do something interesting. I work for the antidotes. To me I can either work on a great film or work on a movie that could be a disaster they are equally exciting to me. I just want a lot of experiences which is what I would be happy with at the end of my life.
CS: When you do films and you are doing a film like this when you can’t go to your comedic crutch, is that hard to suppress? Was it hard to just do it as you are supposed to?
OSWALT: Initially, yes. It was hard to bite down on that instinct but after a while it came natural which shows how good the script was.
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