Matthew Broderick on John Hughes, the Never-Finished Margaret, and His New Film Wonderful World

There's something so wholesome and reassuringly American about Matthew Broderick that it's no surprise he pops the most in roles that let him play against it. Whether it's the subversive streak he brought to Ferris Bueller's Day Off or the more venal elements of his character in Election, Broderick's nice-guy persona lets him get away with things that other actors would be unsympathetic doing. His latest addition to the rogues gallery is pot-smoking misanthrope Ben in his friend Josh Goldin's Wonderful World, who's relentlessly pessimistic until he falls for an upbeat immigrant (Sanaa Lathan).

I spoke to Broderick today at the Standard in Los Angeles, where the 47-year-old actor opened up about the way he sees the world, his relationship with Ferris director John Hughes before he passed away, and the thorny case of Kenneth Lonergan's eternally-delayed Margaret.

You've done your fair share of projects with first-time directors. Are there certain qualities they have in common when they get it right?

Yeah, I'm trying to think who that's been. Kenny, Josh...

Helen Hunt.

Helen Hunt, of course. One thing for me is that they've all been friends, they've all been people I know personally more than professionally. My experience with first-time directors is that they're all extremely prepared, because I guess they're worried. They spend weeks preparing everything, and they have to get used to the fact that once you get there, everything goes wrong and you have to make everything up. [Laughs]

Do you help them through that, as a veteran actor?

I don't know. I always try to let directors do things with their own style. That's interesting, I'm thinking of all the similarities between the three of them. Helen is an actor, so she was very easy. The others were writers, which is different. They're not used to actual human beings -- they don't like it, I don't think. Now Kenny, I've worked with again. He's done several things, so he's not a first-time director anymore. I've known him when he was and when he wasn't, and he's getting more and more relaxed. Maybe too relaxed.

While we're on the subject of Kenneth Lonergan, I have to briefly ask you what's going on with his long-delayed Margaret. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel there?

I hope there is. Yeah, I mean...there is, of course there is. The movie has some lawsuits attached to it now, there's some problems, but I think those are all solvable. I've seen the movie, and it's a wonderful movie. He doesn't feel quite finished with it, I guess. It feels to me like it's just ten percent away from where he would say it's done, I think. It seems to be very hard for him to get to that point, though.

What do you think it's going to take?

Well, we just did a play together and now he's back, so maybe that will work. I don't know. I could hit him with a wiffle ball bat, maybe?

If you think that will be of any help, please do.

I would love it to come out. I would love him to finish it. I have a very small part, a teacher to Anna Paquin. It's about her, basically, and I'm just a teacher at her school. I worked only about two days, but it's a nice, funny little part. It's based loosely on a teacher we had together. It's good.

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  • Is that an Amish dude beard he's sporting? I thought he had SJP for that.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    Matthew Broderick is one of my favorite actors! Thanks for the interview, Kyle.
    (this is to balance out the above comment)

  • Ben says:

    Ugh. I still get emotional when I think about John Hughes. I had always hoped to get to thank him in person one day for the enormous effect he had on me growing up, and on my aspirations as a writer and director. It's wonderful to hear Mathew speak so warmly about him.