Colin Hanks on Lucky, Kickstarting His Tower Records Doc, and Supporting Chet Haze

lucky_hanks_graynor630.jpgWith his nice guy looks and demeanor, Colin Hanks has played a lot of, well, nice guys over the years. But in Gil Cates, Jr.'s Lucky, in limited release this week, the 33-year-old actor and neophyte documentarian throws that image for a loop as Ben, a meek Midwesterner who wins a $36 million lottery jackpot, marries his dream girl (Ari Graynor)... and just so happens to be a serial killer.

The indie black comedy is buoyed by the comic one-two punch of Hanks and Graynor, whose characters' flaws (he's a psycho prone to rage blackouts, she's an opportunistic gold-digger) set the unconventional ground for what's really a sweet, twisted tale about relationships in which communication is key to staying happy together -- especially if you've got dead bodies and ulterior motives to hide.

Movieline spoke with Hanks about achieving comedic chemistry with his co-star, striking the right tonal balance, which veteran actor he considers a career role model (hint: It's not dad Tom), why he needed the help of the Kickstarter community to fund his Tower Records documentary, and what he thinks of the musical stylings of brother Chet, AKA Chet Haze.

Lucky is a twisted black comedy -- was the darkness of playing a serial killer part of the appeal for you?

That was a big chunk of it. For me, I'm always trying to see what's out there and try and do something different each time. I'm not really interested in doing the same thing over and over again. This came along and it was a chance for me to sort of tweak things a little bit, change it around. I got to do the nice guy thing, but I also got to have a very serious dark side that I didn't want to play too much, I didn't want to make a big deal out of. More than anything, we wanted to make this film as dark and as funny as we could. More emphasis on the funny than on the dark.

That makes it even funnier! Your character being a serial killer is almost incidental to everything else in his life.

Yeah, and that to me is really the thing that drew me to it. There were a lot of different shades to him. I really enjoyed coming up with two different looks for Ben, the sort of pre-lottery, schlubby, bad posture, silent type and then the fake façade, rich, better posture, better-fitting-clothes type of guy. And the fact that he's a super sweet kid, but he happens to kill people.

How do you take the comment that this is, in a way, a perfect role for you -- the nice looking guy who's just a little creepy?

I kinda like that! For me, and you find this a lot especially with actors, they never want to play what they're perfectly meant to play. The dramatic person kind of always wants to be funny, or the funny person always wants to be dramatic. The nerdy guy wants to be cooler or the cooler guy wants to be able to show off his nerd side a little bit. You always want to show that you're more than just one dimension, and for me it's nice that it's inherent in the character that he's got these different shades, these different elements, to him. And that is fun to play off of. I really take it as a compliment when people say it was fun to like a bad guy. It makes my job a whole lot more fun.

You and Ari play off one another so well, especially as the film goes on and you both let loose in your scenes together. How were you initially cast together?

I remember the first time I saw Ari in something, when she was in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. She has that scene with a speechless Kevin Corrigan, trying to get some of that sandwich. I remember seeing that and going, "Wow, that person's really talented, she's really funny." After I got cast in the film, Gil Cates, Jr., our director, said, "Will you help us find Lucy?" Because it was really important that the two actors get to know each other and work well with each other. So we met with Ari and she just struck me as, and this is true, I wasn't wrong in this assumption, and she has this ability to be able to handle a bunch of different stuff and try different things.

The two of us very early on said, "Look, you never know what the final outcome of a movie will be, but we have to try and be as supportive of each other as we can and have each others' back, because these two characters interact so much." Ari, I think, is so talented and does so much with this role that it was really more... I just sort of pushed her, because my job was to play off her. It wasn't really a plan, but I really kind of played it straight and tried to push her as much as I could to get her to unravel. Ari also just has a wicked sense of humor, she's just incredibly funny, and we had a great chemistry and liked each other. She's a dear friend now, and we just have a lot of fun.

Your dynamic is kind of a straight man-comic man two-person chemistry, but by the time we get to the scene where you kidnap your neighbor you're both on the same level, a comedic team.

The therapy scene is my favorite scene in the movie. We were so nervous about that scene, because it could have very well turned into a dramatic kind of thing, and I was always very cognizant of not wanting to do that. I wanted to try and keep things funny, to remind people that it was a comedy. And that scene, I think, we were able to find that balance really well. For me, that was fun because both characters are putting all their cards on the table and it's the first time they're being honest with each other. It's funny! I think it's this very funny that it's this forced couples' therapy counseling session, where they're both being incredibly honest about the fact that she married him for money and he kills people.

And they're using therapy speak! For example, "When you kill people, you hurt me."

Exactly! That kind of stuff, I think, is subtle but I think it's hilarious. So it was fun to get a chance to do that sort of thing, where it may not be super broad but if people really take a look at what we're doing... I think it's a funny scenario to play out.

During that scene I wrote down the note, "Psychopaths need love, too."

[Laughs] You're not wrong! It's true. Everyone needs help explaining their feelings.

Your character is about one step away from being Norman Bates, but he's got this humanity to him that makes you identify with him.

Well, great! In that case, I feel like Mr. Burns. "Excellent, excellent... everything's going to plan!"

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  • I know Russ Soloman and Russ Soloman knows me. As a leading woman in the music business still well known today, I established The Chrysalis Music Group USA 78-85 as leading independent. I BOUGHT records from Tower on Sunset. I preferred to own my own albums. I loved that the staff could recognise my poorly hummed melody or bits of lyrics and find the single I wanted. I WOULD LIKE TO NARRATE THE COLIN HANKS' DOCUMENTARY FOR FREE as a tribute to a man I admire very much, Russ Soloman.