January 16th, 2010 20:10 EST
It is a Wonderful World for Matthew Broderick "
There is much more to Matthew Broderick than meets the eye.
He has starred in dozens of hit movies, and danced and sang in TV movie musicals and on Broadway.
Broderick quickly won our hearts with his boyish charm in Ferris Bueller`s Day Off, " and took acting to a new level as the nerdy accountant Leo Bloom in The Producers " on Broadway and in the movies, and is known as a loving father of three and a supportive husband to Sarah Jessica Parker.
But Matthew, now 47, is also a true friend and gifted dramatic actor as well, and he gets to show both of these attributes in his latest film endeavor Magnolia Pictures` Wonderful World, " making its U.S. debut on Jan. 8.
His dozens of movies over the years include, Glory, " War Games, " Inspector Gadget, " The Stepford Wives, " Deck the Halls, " The Freshman, " Family Business, " The Music Man, " The Cable Guy, " and Election. " He has also done voice work for such animated features as The Bee Movie, " Despereaux, " and The Lion King. "
In the new indie film made in Shreveport, Louisiana in less than two weeks, is a bittersweet and moving comedy about families, friendships and a frivolous fight against corporate institutions, Matthew is brilliant as Ben Singer, a failed children`s folk singer, whose life is unraveling. He lost his job as a proofreader, he is divorced, his young daughter tunes out his pessimistic ramblings and is basically struggling in every aspect of his life.
Deeply cynical, Ben`s sole pleasure in life is derived from chess games with his Senegalese roommate Ibou, played by Michael Kenneth Williams.
When Ibou is suddenly struck ill and an insensitive municipal employee exacerbates the emergency situation, Ben`s pessimistic worldview seems unequivocally confirmed. But when Ibou`s sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan), takes his place in their apartment, what starts as an awkward living arrangement becomes something more, and Ben finds that cynicism may be all a matter of perspective. And there is hope "after all the films one message tells us, if the glass is half empty, at least you can`t drown.
Dane Zanes makes a cameo in the film and helped Broderick with his guitar scenes. Zanes is considered to be the father of the modern independent kids` music movement.
Broderick is also starring in a new play off Broadway, The Starring Messenger, " written by his friend Kenneth Lonergan. Many critics, including The New York Times, said that an inspired Broderick delivers his finest, most affecting performance in years. "
His next movie Margaret, " was also written by Lonergan and due out later this year. He stars with Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Anna Paquin.
Broderick was eager to talk about his new movie during a chilly day at an art deco hotel in Manhattan`s trendy SoHo district, shortly before Christmas. He spoke about his wife, Sarah, how the family is adjusting to the June 22nd birth of their twin daughters, Marion and Tabitha, the joy of spending time with his seven-year-old son, James, vacations in Ireland, finding time to chill, movies, theater and other passions.
The down-to-earth regular guy was wearing a black T-shirt under a suit jacket, beige cords, and brown boots.
You play a cynical dad and you are known to be a very loving dad " how did you relate your own experience to parenting in the film?
MATTHEW BRODERICK: This is an 11-year-old girl in the movie and I`m not sure how he was when she was born. I think we are catching Ben at a moment of despair kind of. the divorce is not that old and having to go to his wife`s house to pick her up is still not pleasant for him. He doesn`t have much money. His career has fizzled out. So he`s got some real challenges, I think, not just that he`s grumpy " there are some unhappy things in his life. Through what happens in the movie he works his way out of the hole, a little bit.
How do you approach this kind of role?
MB: I just follow my instincts in each scene and hope that the director would say "this is too sand sack-y.` Someone who is watching it, you have to hope will tell you. I can just do what feels right at that scene. And then if Josh says he has a different idea, I try to do that. I always think, Josh is very funny, too, so it was always nice to keep some humor, too, and not be too maudlin or depressing.
He does seem to come around some-what, don`t you think?
MB: Yes, I think it would hard to justify spending that hour and a half with him if nothing good came of it [laughed]. Somebody asked Josh if he ever thought of having Ben get the girl, because the sister doesn`t come back with him after his friend`s funeral. He said, "Oh, you mean, because those things that happen in movies that don`t happen in real life " that wouldn`t happen.` The ending can`t be too happy or it would strain belief, but it is happy enough, I think you feel pretty good at the end that he`s better than he started.
Did you find yourself using any parenting techniques that you use with your own children with the girl in the film?
MB: I don`t have any parenting techniques for one thing [he laughed]. My son is getting closer to her age now, but when we shot the film he was about five, which is pretty different from that girl. I`ve always unlike W.C. Fields have enjoyed acting with children. Particularly, Jodelle Ferland [who played his daughter in the film], she is so good. She was such a great pleasure to work with. She is a very grown up person. She`s at that stage where her mind is so grown up but she`s still a little kid. She was very sweet. I enjoyed our scenes very much.
How did being a father impact this?
MB: Well, having three kids I`m a little more interested in that part of the story. Anything about a father and a kid becoming distant; definitely interests me a lot. The play I am doing now, The Starry Messenger, is about that, too, a little bit.
What else intrigues about Ben as a man and a father?
MB: He`s very wounded and he`s in danger of passing it on to his daughter. What her mother is very aware of and keeps yelling at me, she says at one point don`t you ever ask her about her or how her day was. But that`s what he learns to do. There`s a really nice scene with the daughter in the car at the end. I also think it`s a very sad scene when he goes to pick her up and the wife says she is away and goes back to the car and sees the curtain in the window and he sees the daughter in the window and she is home and is hiding from him, which must be a terrible feeling. My son will never do that. [laughed].
Can you tell me how fatherhood has changed for you in the past seven years since James was born? I have a young son and my friend has two-year-old twins, so I know how exhausting it can be.
MB: The babies are pretty tiring. They are pretty good. They sleep pretty well so far. My wife [Sarah Jessica Parker] was away working [on the Sex and the City sequel due out this summer] and I was doing the play, so we`ve had to leave them a lot, so we still have a baby nurse, too. So I have to admit we are not doing it all ourselves.
Did you ever think of making a movie with your wife?
MB: Not really actively. We did a play together before we were married " we did a musical together How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I could see it happening, but it`s not something that we would look for. We actually try to work at different times, if possible.
Did you ever consider a cameo in the Sex and the City movie sequel?
MB: I don`t know that there was one. I never heard of one " it never came up. I had a couple of chances during the TV show was on, but I was never free for the right character.
You previously worked with [the film`s writer/director] Josh Goldin on the movie Out on a Limb, in 1992, so how was it working with him this time?
MB: It was better this time. That was a difficult thing. Out on a Limb was a really bad movie. When you`re in something that isn`t working well, you bond more with the people. We became really good friends and we stayed friends ever since. Any time I go to L.A. I hang out with him and he`s a very good friend of mine. It`s quite amazing that 20 years later it would lead to this movie " I`m amazed.
I understand you love to spend your holidays in northern Ireland, in Donegal " do you still go there often?
MB: Yes, most every year.
What do you do there?
MB: Hike, walk around and visit. I used to fish " but I don`t bother with that any more. I ride horses, sometimes.
What took you there in the first place?
MB: My parents took us there on a trip when we are young. My father has Irish roots, but he never knew any of them. But he and my mom took a trip and they just drove around and for some reason stopped in Donegal, stayed at a bed and breakfast and loved it. And went back and bought a house and the next summer we were all there.
And it just went on since you were a kid?
And no one bothers you there " away from the spotlight?
MB: No, very little.
In the movie you are playing a folk song on guitar in the movie. Did you actually try any folk songs before that? Did you hire anybody to help you?
MB: I did take some guitar lessons to try to learn how to fake the guitar. I got to know Dan Zanes who wrote the song that I sing. And then he taught it to me in the hotel room, we would sing it together. And when it came time to record it, he recorded it and then I recorded it and then he left and I re-recorded it or fixed it up. It was basically my voice but it was his phrasing. I had never seen him do a live show at the point, maybe I should have. He`s a very important element in the movie. He wrote the little guitar piece I play, too, it`s actually a big character in the movie.
Is there a philosophy or message you`d like people to get from the movie?
MB: It`s a human scale story, which I like. It`s nice to see a story about an average Joe. He`s a musician, which is a little cool. I don`t know " it`s not a story about money, or someone ending up with a lot of money. Those aren`t that common. Just to live in an apartment where you have a roommate is pretty unique, it seemed to be. I just liked the story. I don`t know what the message of it is really.
Did you ever go to an extreme in your own life like Ben does to sue the city for his friend`s death when they tow his car, as he is about to take his Diabetic friend to the hospital? Did it make sense to you?
MB: I hope I never go that crazy. That lawsuit is really crazy, I think [laughed]. I think he has lived alone for too long and smoked too much pot. I don`t know that I`ve ever done anything that crazy or extreme.
In the movie Ben`s roommates` sister approaches Ben for the green card " which approaches the immigrant issue. What is your take on this issue now?
MB: Generally speaking, I think it seems to me I know nothing. But there is no way to lock everybody up or throw everybody out, so people should admit that and make many more people legal, it seems to me. I like immigrants, I`m from immigrant stock, but maybe I`m naïve. I don`t live in Arizona, but I`m not paranoid about people from other countries. I go to other countries when I can. I hate the idea of a wall being built " it reminds me of Germany. I don`t think there should be a big wall on the continent of America if there is any way to avoid it.
What play are you in?
MB: I am doing a play called The Starry Messenger.
What attracted you to it?
MB: It`s another friend of mine " Kenny Lonergan wrote and it`s a wonderful play. He`s a great writer. The play is one of the best things I`ve done. I don`t mean to sound like Sharon Stone, who`s always saying, "Larry, that`s the best movie I`ve ever done.` But it is. I don`t mean I`m the best in it, but it`s one of the best pieces of material I think I`ve been involved in.
How do you chill out in New York when you have the time?
MB: What do I do in New York to relax? I cycle when it`s warm out. I like the river, go down there and bike or run. I ice skate. Like to play ping-pong, go to restaurants, shows.
Why did you want to work with two close friends " Josh on this movie and also Kenneth Lonergan, the writer of the play you are doing?
MB: Kenny is really one of the best writers working and he happens to be my friend since I was 15. In both of these instances I was able to work with them and we are all still friends [laughed], so that`s good. Like, I`m even more friends with Josh now than before we did the movie. So, I always wished I could do more things like that. I haven`t worked with the same people over and again a lot. I always thought it would be nice to have a group feeling.
Are there any favorite actors you haven`t yet worked with?
MB: I never worked with Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep or Al Pacino who are the greats. Daniel Day-Lewis. There are a million people I`d like to work with.
MB: Take care.