*Exclusive official photo from The Rocker, courtesy of Fox Atomic.
The first cast member to acknowledge the presence of the online press guys that night was Rainn Wilson, who eventually agreed to sit down with us for an interview in the cafeteria area in between takes. He was a perfectly nice, pleasant guy to talk to, but you could tell that he was a little tired from the switch to night shoots, and he was very much in a business frame of mind. In fact, I'm sure I have the tenacity of the unit publicist to thank for the interview happening at all: despite the tough, pressurized circumstances of the shoot, she went out of her way to try to help me get what I came for that night. Here's the interview with Rainn in full, with some questions being asked by myself and some from the IGN journalist. It will give you a good idea of the basic plot and characters of The Rocker, what kind of tone the filmmakers are shooting for, and also what you can expect from Rainn in the future, project-wise.
The plot of the film has been kept pretty much under wraps -- we only know what's been in the trades. What can you say about it?
RW: It's a movie about a heavy metal drummer who gets kicked out of a rock band right before they become, like quadruple-platinum huge. Like the drummer of Aerosmith getting kicked out before Walk This Way, or something like that. And it kind of haunts him for his whole life. The movie does take place in the present day, and he gets another chance at fame, another chance at redemption, by joining his high-school nephew's garage-rock band. So, you know, it's kind of a fish out of water story and my character is named Fish, so it's perfect for a fish-out-of-water-story.
What kind of comedy is it? Is it like Bob Odenkirk-style absurdist comedy, or more straight-ahead?
RW: No, it's a pretty straight-ahead rock n' roll comedy. You know, it would be like a highly-comedic version of an Almost Famous, or something like that, maybe. I play ... he's a crazy, man-out-of-time, you know? He lives to rock, but his idea of that is trapped somewhere between Def Leppard and AC/DC. So he gets this new opportunity, he gets a new lease on life, a chance to live his dream, and in the course of it, he meets Christina Applegate.
RW: Not so bad.
So are you going to actually reference those old bands? Should we expect cameos from, like, Def Leppard or Winger?
RW: We talked about that, having heavy metal cameos but we didn't go with that. But we do see the old band that fired him. Vesuvius is their name, and we got a great cast for that. Will Arnett, Fred Armisen and Bradley Cooper are playing those guys.
Was it the redemption-angle that attracted you to the story?
RW: Yeah, definitely. I always like a good redemption story, and I think a second chance at life and kind of finding yourself is always a good journey for a character to take, and one thing that's great about this is that it's a pretty broad comedy that will appeal to anyone from teens to people in their thirties, but it's also got a lot of heart. It's a lot of a character's journey, from where Fish starts and where he goes over the course of the two hours, is pretty remarkable -- the journey he takes in finding himself. So it's not really a sketch comedy movie like Blades of Glory, where that's kind of a big sketch idea and there are characters thrown in there. It's more rooted in real life, and that's one thing I loved about Peter Cattaneo, is that what he did in The Full Monty, is that it was plenty absurd and silly and very funny, but it was also very grounded. It felt like it lived in the real world and I really believed that these were working-class guys in England doing stripping, and hopefully we can get the same kind of balance of tone, that it feels like a real story of a real guy who has been left out. He's a little bit thick and he's a little bit of a buffoon, and he's hanging on to the past.
What do you like about him?
RW: Nothing. [laughs] You know, he's got a good heart and he's a lot of fun. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he's just a big, open kind of baby puppy-dog kind of guy. That's how I see him, and I think that that's a fun guy to kind of go and have a story with.
Did you set out to do something different than your roles on The Office and Six Feet Under with this part?
RW: Well, as an actor I went to acting school and started in the theater and my whole thing is always just, how do you serve the story? How do you as an actor serve the character and the story and the journey they take? I think what's important with a movie like this is that you see a lot of different sides of this guy. You know, you see the wild, kind of whirling-dervish bacchanalian monster when he's partying on the road, and you see the young kid in 1988 and 89 with his dreams of being a rock star in this heavy metal band. You see a guy who's been shut down and is working in menial jobs and in a dead-end relationship, and then he gradually comes to life. This is kind of tracking that path that he goes on.
What were your dreams as a young kid in 88 or 89?
RW: I wasn't a young kid in 88 or 89. You know what, honestly? My whole dream was, like, I just want to be an actor and make a living at acting. I had no idea what that was going to be. I thought it was going to be, like, theater, and it was for a long time in New York. And, you know, I recently hosted Saturday Night Live and people were like 'Was that a dream come true?' and I was like 'It wasn't even a dream of mine. It wasn't on my radar. It's not like I had this aspiration to be a comic actor that would be hosting Saturday Night Live. I just wanted to get a paycheck and not have to ... I had my own moving company in New York, and I didn't want to be moving boxes
Are you focusing on original music, creating a distinctive sound for the old band and the new one?
RW: Yeah, we got a great composer. His name is Chad Fisher. The only thing I know about him is that he did the theme song for Scrubs -- that's all I know about his previous work, and he wrote both the songs of Vesuvius, the old period heavy metal band, which is fantastic, called Promised Land, and he also wrote three or four songs for the new band, ADD. And then I had couple of friends that are musicians in L.A., they wrote a couple of songs for ADD as well, so ADD's got about six songs in its arsenal that you hear, kind of interwoven throughout the story. So there's like seven or eight songs from the movie. That's one thing I love about this project, too -- I've always been a huge rock n' roll fan. It meant so much to me growing up, and on my computer at home, you know how it has on your iTunes library how long it is? I have sixteen days of music on my computer.
Any particular period?
RW: For me, it's mostly contemporary stuff -- stuff from the last fifteen years, but I have a lot of classic stuff and country-western and stuff like that.
How were you brought on to the project?
RW: I knew Tom McNulty, the producer, and the other producer, Shawn Levy. They were big fans of The Office and they were trying to develop something for me that just didn't get off the ground. Then Tom called, he sent over the script, and said 'I really want you to check this out' and I read it and I really loved it. I loved how you could balance so much of a character-based and heart-based feel-good movie with really broad, physical comedy as well. They've got me swearing buckets and running into doors and falling off drum sets and setting myself on fire -- lots of crazy shit like that, as well. There were some big problems with it, but everyone was on the same page about what those problems were, so we just pursued it and did some rewrites. We hired some writers from The Office to do a pass on the script and they did a great job, and we got Peter Cattaneo on board and then got it green-lit and went from there. It happened very, very quickly. The first time I read the script was, like, February, and then we were shooting in May. They were fortunate to get a green light right away, and for Fox to take a chance on me, as an unknown kind of star, and to try and shoot it before I go back to the office. I finish this and then I literally go home and walk onto the set of the office.
What's your next feature? Girlfriend Experience?
RW: Well, I have a number of things I'm developing. The Girlfriend Experience is one, and this one I was doing with Bob Odenkirk, called Keenan Rhodes: Unkillable Servant of Justice. There's a movie I've written a first draft of -- I'm working on another draft, for Jason Reitman, called Bonzai Shadow Hands, and that's about a down and out ninja, and now I'm writing another script with a friend. I've got a lot of irons in the fire.
Is writing hard for you?
RW: It's really hard. It's really, really hard, awful work, but at the same time, I had a great time writing Bonzai Shadow Hands. I'm really happy with the first draft, and I know Jason is as well. He really wants to shoot it next hiatus, and I really just need to do another pass and fix some story issues and character stuff. That would be a lot of fun to do. It's very different from this -- it's a real low-budget, gritty, almost more of an indie film.
It looks like this movie is pretty much almost wrapped -- are you basically done with all of your major action?
RW: Well, there's a little over a week left. Let me think what we're doing ... no, I've got some stunts. There's me sliding down a roof, next week. What else ... I'm trying to think about the week's schedule, I can't even remember, but I'm sure I have some more stuff.
You're doing a lot of nights like this one?
RW: Yeah, a lot of nights. These are the longest, craziest hours I've ever worked in my life. The other day I worked from 5pm to 10am.
When do you sleep?
RW: I go back to my hotel and seal off the windows and sleep. Last night I slept from 10 to 4:30. It's weird going to bed at noon.
Is this going to be an R comedy?
RW: I think it's PG-13. We really want it to be edgy, but fun for the whole family, with a rock n' roll spirit.