Matthew Broderick has moved comfortably into the mid-point in his acting career, and ever since he nailed it in Election, he's played several characters who are at breaking points in their lives. Beyond his voice acting in several Lion King sequels (and Bee Movie), he's been content to move beyond spectacle films and into character pieces, and his latest film Wonderful World is no different.
In this film he plays Ben Singer, a failed children's folk artist who is now divorced, on the way to alienating his daughter with all his talk about conspiracies and "The Man", and he's eight years into a job as a proofreader where he doesn't mix well with his coworkers. He shares his cramped apartment with a roommate from Senegal, while spending his free time smoking marijuana and playing chess. It might not sound like a wonderful world, but he's comfortable in it.
The movie opens in limited release in New York and California this weekend, but you can actually catch it in the comfort of your own home right now on VOD at places like Amazon. It's a great movie, and worth your time. Just don't expect Boobs and Explosions XXIV. We talked to Broderick about his role, acting, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, theater, and more. Check out the full interview after the break.
Cinematical: So what attracted you to the role of Ben Singer?
Matthew Broderick: Well, honestly, first of all it was that it was written by Josh Goldin, who is a good friend of mine. So first, I just always liked him, and it was very fortunate that he wrote a script that had a part that he thought was good for me. And then, I just thought it was intelligently written and it seemed like a good part. When I read something, I don't know until I get further into it, sometimes, what it is, really. But it seemed like a believable character. And it seemed funny when I read it, and worth doing.
Cinematical: What has brought Ben to this place in his life wasn't really explained in the film. Was that ever specifically addressed, or was there a scene that got cut, or was it always just meant to be sort of semi-ambiguous as it is?
MB: Well I don't think there was anything more about it except his failed music career, which he finally tells Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) about. I think that is all. I think, also, you can put it together from the scenes with his ex-wife and his daughter. You can put together that some awful divorce has happened. And you are told how long he has been doing that same job. But as far as a scene that says how he changed, I don't think there is specifically any scene missing. I think you just sort of feel it.
Cinematical: Right, audiences don't need to be told everything.
MB: Yeah, I hope so. That is how Josh feels.
Cinematical: You had mentioned in an interview awhile ago that you sort of became known in film by playing the coolest teenager in the world, and now you are playing men that are having midlife crises. Ben is very much in that same group. Does something draw you towards that particularly, or do you feel there are good stories that come out of those situations?
MB: I don't know. I think that is just a function of my age. Obviously, if I was playing teenagers who rule the world, it would be pretty strange. I think the age an actor is sort of affects the type of stories, you know. But in the theater ... I don't know. I don't want to ever play all people with crisis. It would be very boring. I like comedies, and I like to just do different things. But then, you know, you go by what...it is partly how people see you and what comes your way, and then what you choose. I don't know. Next year will be something different.
Cinematical: Yeah. Is there a genre you haven't done yet that you would like to do, like a Western? You have done Godzilla. You have done action. You have done comedy. You have kind of run the block, but what is something you would like to get back into?
MB: Well, I love ... period things are really fun. I haven't done that many of those. I just enjoy that because it is always fun to look at the sets and the costumes. You know, I like history and getting to sort of live it a little bit in Glory or The Road To Wellville, which I shouldn't even bring up, I guess. But the period pieces are really fun. A Western would be ... I don't know if anyone would ever see me in that, but a Western would be great.
Cinematical: You worked with Josh before as a writer, and this is his directing debut. Was his style natural since you worked with him before? Did he seem to fall into the role pretty easily?
MB: Yeah. He was extremely prepared, which he had to be, because we shot, I think, for 22 days. So it was one of those things. It was like releasing a boulder and then running. We communicate easily, so we didn't have any problem understanding what each other meant. But, you know, I suppose he is very inexperienced with working with actors, but you wouldn't have known it from the way we directed, and all the cast was very wanting to please him, because it just felt like he knew what he was doing.
And he always said things that made sense. And he wrote it, you know? When somebody is directing you who actually wrote something, you tend to listen, because they know what they meant, usually, although they don't always. You have to make it up, too, a little bit.
Cinematical: So this film is coming out in theaters this weekend, but it's been available on video on demand for over a month. Is this movie part of a new distribution model?
MB: Yes, this is the thing they do with ... I did another movie like this, too. Yeah, it is coming out in New York, LA, San Francisco, on Friday. And then next week it spreads out further. And then, if it does well, it will spread out more. This movie, we are very lucky. We did a good distributor and a pretty big release for a movie this size.
Cinematical: You split a lot of time between theater and film, probably more so than most actors do. You do a lot of theater. When you first started acting, was theater always the stepping stone to film, or did you think, at some point, you just may be doing Broadway and Off Broadway for the rest of your life?
MB: I just auditioned for everything I could and got what I got. The first job I got, a paying job, was Torch Song Trilogy. The second one was a movie ... Max Dugan Returns and WarGames. And then Brighton Beach on Broadway. In fact, after Torch Song, the first job I got hired for, it was Neil Simon and Herbert Ross, and they were doing Brighton Beach. So I was auditioning for that. And while I was auditioning, they gave me these sides of this movie, of Max Dugan, and then wanted me for that, too. So they cast me in a movie and a play on the same day, actually.
So that was sort of the way things went from then on. I did both. But lately, I seem to be more into theater. Basically, whichever will have me, I will do. I like both very much. But I never thought of theater as ... well, is that true? I was going to say I never thought of it as a stepping stone, but I suppose that wouldn't be true. I think anybody who is working in the theater sort of hopes somebody will come along and put them in a movie. I mean, you make a lot more money. And it is fun. I love films.
Cinematical: Well, so many actors now sort of ... they get so successful in film, and then they sort of seek this legitimacy by going back to theater.
MB: I do that, too, I think, for myself. I mean if I have done a bunch of movies in a row, I start to miss plays. For an actor, it is the only time you really get to run the ship, in a way. You know, you get to really do the whole performance without anybody editing or telling you what to do all the time. They are just different.
Cinematical: Have you written at all?
MB: No, not really. I don't seem to be ... that doesn't seem to be my thing.
Cinematical: Hollywood has been remaking everything in the world these days. It doesn't seem too out of the question that somewhere down the line they would remake Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Would that be strange for you, or would you think, "Well, it's business as usual. It is Hollywood and that is how it works."
MB: It would be fine. I would be perfectly happy for somebody to do that. They just redid Brighton Beach Memoirs on Broadway. I never got to see it, unfortunately, because I was doing a play. And that was a little strange to think of, just to be in an age where something can be revived or reinvented. But I found myself only wanting them to succeed. It was disappointing that it didn't last longer.
Cinematical: This year, at least, is when the remake of Footloose comes out, which is...
MB: The movie, Footloose?
Cinematical: Yeah. They are remaking Footloose. They are remaking Red Dawn.
MB: Red Dawn?!
Cinematical: Yeah. Some of these films don't seem that long ago.
MB: I know. I was almost in both of those. That is funny. Red Dawn was a pretty good idea. How would they put that in, with the Russians? Would they put it in today's world?
Cinematical: Yeah. I think it is set with the Russians again or the Chinese or something.
MB: But there is no ... they don't ...
Cinematical: I know. We are not at war with the Russians anymore. Maybe it is back set in the '80s again. It has got all the up and coming Hollywood kids in it.
MB: Yeah. Well it is kind of a good idea, that story, I think.
Cinematical: Yeah. It is the first time you see the fighting on our soil and a Russian invasion.
MB: Yeah. It's good.
Cinematical: But, let's say you get a call tomorrow. "They are remaking Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Who could you see playing that role these days? Or do you think it would have to be someone relatively unknown, like you were at the time?
MB: I have no idea. I am out of touch, pretty much, with the young upstarts. I see people with their name over the title of the movies and I have no idea who any of them are. I have become that person. I don't know who anybody is.
Cinematical: What if they asked you to cameo in it? Would you be averse to that?
MB: I probably wouldn't enjoy that. I would rather leave what we did as our thing.
Cinematical: So what is next for you? Looking at the press notes, you are working with Kenneth Lonergan again, and you will be in Margaret. What else is coming up, for theater and film?
MB: Well, nothing really specific, except the play I just did with Kenny, Starry Messenger, I think we might do it in London in the spring. So I have a feeling I am off for the rest of the winter.
Cinematical: And then Margaret comes out later this year?
I don't think there is a date for it, but hopefully.
Cinematical: But you guys are done. You are done working on that.
I am done. I was done three years ago. Yeah. They take a long time, these movies.
Cinematical: My last question is more of a wish list. I know you are good friends with Nathan Lane. The Producers was terrific, but I am always regretting the fact I never got to see him in Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Why don't you guys do that together? I am sure it is not up to you, but ...a guy can dream.
You know what, I never saw that show.
Cinematical: That is a great Neil Simon play. I think you would probably get a kick out of it.
Yeah, I bet I would. I love Neil's work. We kind of got kicked around with The Odd Couple recently, so we might be a little careful of that. But we will find something unique, I am sure. We have, throughout everything, stayed very close, so we will try to squeeze some more money out of theatergoers at some point.
Cinematical: I am sure they will be happy to pay. Well thank you very much.
Thanks a lot