BWW EXCLUSIVE: Dermot Mulroney & THE FAMILY TREE
Having appeared in more than seventy films so far in his distinguished career, multi-talented leading man Dermot Mulroney is playing one of strangest and most memorable characters of his career in the new independent comedy THE FAMILY TREE, which opens in select cities this weekend. Talking all aspects of shooting THE FAMILY TREE and working with co-stars Hope Davis, Jane Seymour, Chi McBride and fellow InDepth InterView participant Shad "Bow Wow" Moss, Mulroney also sheds some light on his many beloved past roles onscreen - from MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING with Julia Roberts to GEORGIA RULE with Lindsay Lohan to KANSAS CITY directed by Robert Altman to ABOUT SCHMIDT with Jack Nicholson and Hope Davis to ZODIAC with Robert Downey, Jr. to YOUNG GUNS and far beyond. Additionally, Mulroney and I discuss his little-known musical abilities and his desire to appear on GLEE, the life of the working actor and what he is most remembered for by fans, and he also kindly clues us all in on the spate of supremely exciting new films he is currently working on or about to shoot - among them: Clint Eastwood‘s J. EDGAR starring Leonardo DiCaprio; as well as STOKER with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode; ABDUCTION with Taylor Lautner; THE GREY with Liam Neeson; and, of course, his recent directorial debut, LOVE, WEDDING, MARRIAGE, starring Kellan Lutz and Mandy Moore. As if all of that were not enough, Mulroney also just finished shooting Emmy-winning GLEE star Chris Colfer's feature film screenwriting debut, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING, with fellow FAMILY TREE co-star Christina Hendricks, and he shares his experience shooting that this Summer and acting alongside Colfer in it. All of that and much, much more awaits!
THE FAMILY TREE opens in selected cities this weekend.
The Fame Tree
PC: GLEE is one of the biggest subjects here at BroadwayWorld, so I have to ask: what was shooting with Chris Colfer like on his screenwriting debut this Summer?
DM: Well, I came in from overseas to do a couple of days on STRUCK BY LIGHTNING.
PC: What was the shoot like?
DM: That was a really good project. I had a small part, but I had the pleasure of playing his dad. And, he plays kind of a unique and kind of troubled teenager. I find myself in those sort of dad roles these days. (Laughs.)
PC: Chris wrote the original screenplay, correct?
DM: He did. That's one of the things that set that project aside from others - just that such a young guy came up with a screenplay and such a good idea for a story. But, even beyond that, it sends a really strong, positive message.
PC: What can you tell me about the story?
DM: Well, Chris's character dies at the very beginning and narrates it from - I guess you would say - beyond the grave. It's really unique - but, it tells a good story.
PC: And one of your STRUCK BY LIGHTNING co-stars appears in THE FAMILY TREE - Christina Hendricks. Was that a coincidence or not?
DM: Yeah, I... it's just a complete coincidence, I think.
PC: Are you a fan of hers?
DM: With Christina and someone of her stature and quality as an actor - to wind up in two movies with me only confirmed that I was making good career choices!
PC: That's so funny. Are you a MAD MEN fan?
DM: Certainly. Of course. Even more, it was a great pleasure to work with Christina not once, but twice.
PC: She is absolutely perfect in the film of Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY from this summer, as well. Have you seen that?
DM: No! I had no idea.
PC: It's an amazing experience.
DM: I'll definitely check that out.
PC: Another worthwhile experience: I was so struck by THE FAMILY TREE. Have you seen the final cut of the film yet?
DM: Yes, I have.
PC: It's a ballsy film and the tone is so consistently black - which could not have been easy to do.
DM: Yeah, and, hey, in a lot of ways this movie was tough to make. The only way it would work is if the tone were - like you said - consistent and unique. That's exactly what Vivi Friedman, the director, brought to it - and, you know, so many parts of the movie I am not in, with all these interwoven stories, so, I wasn't even there when they were shooting it, of course - but, I see it all put together and I realize that she really made a movie with a lot of personality.
PC: That says a lot coming from someone who has worked with a master like Robert Altman.
DM: Well, in some ways it is sort of a similar type of story that Altman made, where his stories were intertwined.
DM: I mean, there are a lot of movies like that, but Bob did a lot of ‘em. And, this movie had some of elements of that in it.
PC: I agree. Did you find working with Altman on KANSAS CITY was a particular thrill?
DM: Yes. One of the finest thrills I ever experienced. We became friends - which he seemed to do with everybody, of course - but, I got to know his family and everything so we stayed in touch after I worked for him on KANSAS CITY. He was a valued friend and, obviously, a great all-time artist.
PC: Have you found there is a difference between male and female directors, such as Friedman on THE FAMILY TREE?
DM: I don't know. To me, I've really done it enough times to be able to tell you that, no, there is really no difference. In fact, one of the things you touched on is the mark of an artist and it is non-gender-specific, meaning: anyone can bring style and personality and a consistent tone to a movie if it is done right and Vivi definitely did that on this.
PC: Bow Wow just this column, as well, so I am so pleased to be talking to the hero and the villain of THE FAMILY TREE.
DM: Oh, yeah? (Laughs.) Right on!
PC: It was a great chat and I thought he was great in the film.
DM: He did turn in a good show, huh?
PC: Definitely. Tell me about shooting with him - especially that scene with you two in the separate cars on the street.
DM: Yeah, I loved working with him - obviously, he is a very honest actor and very in touch with what he is playing. I don't know, for me, I thought the way that the screenplay played with race was maybe one of the slightly more subtle points it was making, but I really enjoyed playing the part of a white, middle-class, suburban guy who thinks he might have something in common with this kid.
PC: So utterly ridiculous.
DM: Or tries to! Lamely - some lame attempt to use the lingo or whatever. Bow Wow and I both knew what we were doing, you know what I mean? (Laughs.)
DM: As much as a stereotype as he plays, in a way - he's like the black inner-city gangbanger with the loud rap music in the car - and I am just as strong a stereotype - of this nerdy, opera-singing, nerdy, suburban dad.
PC: Was that your real voice they used?
DM: Yeah! (Laughs.) That was me.
PC: So, I know you also play an instrument. MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING was close to a musical with "Say A Little Prayer"...
DM: Yeah, that is true! BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING was close.
PC: So, would you be open to a musical onstage or onscreen then?
DM: (Laughs.) I am available, man. If somebody can sort that all out, I would do all right, for sure.
PC: Call up Chris Colfer to get you on GLEE!
DM: No doubt! I have actually spoken to Ryan Murphy - not to say that it is in the works - but, I definitely let him know I would be happy to show up any time.
PC: He helps out the theatre community so much, as well - we even hosted the world premiere of a song from the season finale right here on BroadwayWorld.
DM: Right on. Right on. That's amazing! That show, obviously, is going to have an even bigger impact - we'll probably look back and see what mark GLEE made, even more than is already evident. Whatever it caught - performance joie de vivre - it caught it in ways that shows have missed for years. They really caught something. And, it's really cool to see that happen - especially for young performers.
PC: Speaking of whom, you worked extensively with Lindsay Lohan on GEORGIA RULE - who has also worked with Robert Altman. As such a tenured actor, what did you think of her?
DM: I saw a lot of talent in her. Obviously, she is operating with a lot of distractions - especially at that time - and, I haven't stayed in touch with her, but I can tell you I had a lot of respect for what she brought to the scene. It wasn't just rote. She is pretty strongly thought-out in her approach to performing a character. Lindsay knows what she is doing and, at this point - and, hopefully, given the opportunity to continue - she will show us all, for sure.
PC: It is a very popular replay on cable and the pay stations. It is on constantly
DM: I think I've missed that one, then. I imagine that one probably does roll over on cable a lot, though.
PC: Your movies are some of the most-shown on cable, actually - especially MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING. Is that strange to see yourself on TV constantly, especially the same movie all the time, made almost fifteen years ago?
DM: I don't catch them, usually. I mean, I did see MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING after a number of years - I saw it a year or two ago and I was impressed!
PC: How wonderful.
DM: Yeah, you can see what all the hubbub is about! (Laughs.) You can see why people really like it! It's a terrific movie. (Big Laugh.)
PC: Very entertaining and fun.
DM: It is! It really holds up. For me, whether it is a blockbuster in theaters or not, what really has more impact on whether people recognize me or anything is their home-viewing habits and that movie is just on a continuous loop in some households - still.
PC: Some people watch it once a month that I know, personally, actually!
DM: Exactly. That's its own phenomenon - you know what I mean?
DM: To have a movie play that way; it just intensifies the impact it had as a movie in the theater.
PC: It left a definite legacy.
DM: MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING and YOUNG GUNS are the two, for me, that were, obviously, big in the theater, but there is this whole other following that is from people who own the DVDs.
PC: I just witnessed your first screen appearance recently - in FAME: THE SERIES on YouTube, no less!
DM: No way! Did that go up on the YouTube?
PC: Yes, it did!
DM: That's terrible news!
PC: Is that really you, then?
DM: That really is me. I think that was the second job I had when I got to Los Angeles.
PC: That show was the real, original GLEE in many ways - almost thirty years ago.
DM: Yeah, that was GLEE 1!
PC: Did you get to work with Debbie Allen on it at all?
DM: Hmm. Maybe she was on it, still, but I don't remember shooting with her. I remember the days I worked on it, of course. I know that was the last season of the show, so it was the second or third cast.
PC: What about working with Gene Anthony Ray?
DM: Gene Anthony Ray was still in it. I remember he was in that episode. He was one of the only original guys that played the whole series.
PC: I'm so glad I got to touch on that with you since I don't think a lot of people know you were on FAME.
DM: And perhaps we should it keep it that way! (Laughs.)
PC: Back to FAMILY TREE: What was your experience working with Hope Davis?
DM: Oh, Hope Davis is the finest. She is tops. I have had the chance to work with her twice - not only on FAMILY TREE, but we did ABOUT SCHMIDT together.
PC: With Jack Nicholson. Of course.
DM: Yeah. So, we are terrific friends and stay in touch. You know, as much as you like actors you work with, it doesn't always happen that way - that you get to stay as friends. So - man - I count myself so lucky to know her and her family. I'd work with her again in a second.
PC: How fantastic to hear.
DM: I'll be honest with you: I think that in THE FAMILY TREE I am a better actor in the scenes I am in with her.
PC: You have a palpable chemistry - a real marital dynamic. It reminded me of AMERICAN BEAUTY a bit in that sense.
DM: Yeah! Yeah. She's just a truly, truly talented genius as an actress.
PC: Did you find it difficult to disappear into such a nebbish-y role? Did the moustache perhaps help?
DM: Yeah, the mustache helped a little bit. But, I always enjoy trying to shift the look and do stuff like that. So, it wasn't hard, it was fun! This is what I like to do.
PC: So, you have some distance from it now, looking back, since you shot it almost three years ago, right?
DM: Exactly. So, it's awhile ago now and it's good news out there for movies this size - as things are warming up again and there is a place for them to go. A couple of years ago things were real tough.
PC: You can say that again.
DM: And that was right after we made it. So, I am happy that, now, people get a chance to finally see it.
PC: Congratulations on all the upcoming movies you have coming out, as well. What a spate!
DM: Right on. Thanks a lot. Some of those are going to be really good movies, so I hope you enjoy them when you see them.
PC: Is ABDUCTION going to be something special? It's Taylor Lautner's first big headlining role, post-TWILIGHT.
DM: That one I haven't seen. I, literally, have a tiny part in it. It's a key plot role, but a small part. I am looking forward to seeing it myself.
PC: Did you enjoy working on it?
DM: The day I worked with John Singleton was really exciting. It's a big, full-scale action movie. I hope it comes out soon!
PC: You are also soon co-starring in THE GREY with Liam Neeson. You are second billed, so I am safe to assume it's a big part?
DM: Yeah, that is a big supporting role in this gang sort of movie where we get in a plane wreck and then get chased around by a pack of wolves.
PC: Wow! Sounds thrilling.
DM: It is a killer movie! Really fun. It is gonna be a top notch action/thriller.
PC: Aaron Lazar and Denis O'Hare have both done this column, who are also both in Clint Eastwood's J. EDGAR with you. Do you have scenes together in it with either of them?
DM: Yeah. Yeah. I worked with Denis on the same day a couple of times. Of course, they are all great actors in that movie. That is a fine company to be in. I was proud to be there.
PC: I am so glad we will get to see you two together onscreen, then.
DM: We actually are, but just for a moment - you'll see!
PC: He is such a smart guy and such a phenomenal actor.
DM: No kidding. Fantastic. Such a great guy, too.
PC: And STOKER - is it about Bram Stoker in any way?
DM: No, it's not. That's just the family name of the characters in the movie. That one I haven't even shot yet, so we will talk about it next time.
PC: I've read it's going to be quite an achievement for horror.
DM: It's fantastic. It's this thriller/horror type of thing.
PC: And with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode in it - you can't go wrong, right?
DM: No, you can't. It's gonna be a real nice show. Like I said, that's a year away at least, but I am looking forward to working on it.
PC: And INHALE was your last appearance in theaters, of course.
DM: Yeah, that was out, I guess, in the Fall and it was really well-received, even with the small release it got from IFC Films.
PC: I haven't seen it yet. Is it available to see anywhere?
DM: I think it is on Video On Demand. It's not on DVD yet, but when it does come out you should see it.
PC: And you just made your directorial debut with LOVE, WEDDING, MARRIAGE - featuring your FAMILY TREE co-star Jane Seymour.
DM: Exactly. She did a great job.
PC: What was directing your first feature like?
DM: You know, we did what we could with the time, money and material that we had - and, we made a really warm, funny movie. That one, too, is not gonna shatter the earth, but it was fun to do and everybody did a nice job on it.
PC: Kellan Lutz is becoming a huge star - Mr. Calvin Klein.
DM: Exactly! Exactly.
PC: Is it going to have a bigger release?
DM: I think it has done what it was meant to do and you can catch it on DVD and Video On Demand soon.
PC: Will you be directing another film anytime soon, do you think?
DM: No, nothing in the works at the moment. I am just focusing on getting good at acting parts.
PC: Speaking of which, I just have to mention: I loved you in ZODIAC, as well, and that movie will undoubtedly get its due someday, no question.
DM: (Laughs.) Definitely. Thank you.
PC: You're the man and thanks so much for this today, Dermot.
DM: You got it, Pat. Thanks a lot. Bye.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro