Ask Away: The Best of 2011's Movieline Interviews

Another year, another couple hundred entries in the ever-deepening conversational archive known as The Movieline Interview. They're the collective backbone of our site, and in 2011, it was at its strongest. Look back with us now at the highlights, including the luminary likes of Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Segel, Jodie Foster, Paul Giamatti, and a certain honey badger of a director.

Kristen Wiig (March 11)
Do you feel that [Wiig's infamous SNL character] Gilly is polarizing? I feel it’s a character that people either love or they don’t particularly like.
Uh… yeah, probably. I mean, the first time that I did it, my mom, the next day was like, “Oh, I did not like that. That new character you did, I did not like her!” [Laughs]

When you thought of that character, did you figure some people wouldn’t embrace her?
No. I mean, I think that before I do anything.

But someone who doesn’t like Gilly can love Penelope. It’s not you — it’s just your recurring characters are different.
I don’t think about it at all. If you’re creating anything at all, it’s really dangerous to care about what people think.

Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer (March 15)
So we are tossing around the idea of doing a “Movies You Had No Idea Paul Giamatti Is In” post.
Giamatti: Oh?

Big Momma’s House was surprising to me.
Giamatti: Not to me! I remember being in that! I guess so. I mean, there are a lot of people out there in the world who know I was in that movie. A lot of people recognize me for that.

Shaffer: I remember your story from when you were in Ohio and you were in a bad neighborhood and they told you that you couldn’t walk around…

Giamatti: It was in Cleveland, they said, “Don’t leave the set, don’t walk around this neighborhood.” I was like, “Enh.” So I walked around. You know, it was a predominantly black neighborhood, and everybody had seen Big Momma’s House. So I was fine. Everybody was like, “Oh my God, don’t…” And [in the neighborhood] it was just like "[you're the guy from] Big Momma’s House!"

Amy Ryan (March 18)
[On the previous season of The Office] Are you prepared for America’s scorn?
What’s that?

Taking away Michael Scott...
Ohhh! [Laughs] I thought that was the name of a new show! I thought it was a new reality show!

I was going to ask what you had coming up… other than America’s Scorn.
America’s Scorn actually comes out at Christmas. It’s a Christmas release, yes. It’s me and Vin Diesel.

If you starred in a movie with Vin Diesel called America’s Scorn, I would see this movie.
I trained for three years for my action sequences.

And your character’s name is Melanie Scorn.
Melanie Scorn, right!

And she just got out of prison, and she and Vin Diesel are on the run.
Exactly! Right, they were married and they went their separate ways. But! They still work together.

OK, seriously, what do you have coming up?
[Laughing] I think America’s Scorn might be my best bet, I don’t have anything coming up, sorry. So… I think I’m actually going to have to look into America’s Scorn.

OK, we’re going with that for reporting on your next project. America’s Scorn it is…
[Still laughing] It’s the end of the day, we’re both losing our minds.

Michelle Williams (March 30)
[On getting used to the locations in Meek's Cutoff] When I first got there, I thought, 'I… I… I can’t stay here. I have to turn around and go home. I can’t live here.' [...] But I’ve come to love it. If you look hard enough, you can see variation in the landscape where you think it’s actually completely barren and nothing lives out there. You spend a little time, you look a little closer, and you see what’s actually inherent to the land. But at first it felt like we’d been sent to Mars. You know! The desert does crazy things to people’s minds! Mirages! Carlos Castañeda! Peyote! It’s the desert!

Wes Bentley (May 3)
Are there big films or opportunities that you feel your addiction led you to miss out on?
Oh, yeah. Definitely. I definitely did. I had a lot of opportunities. When you’re in that state you miss meetings, you don’t pay attention to what people are asking you to do, which could be great things. I also feared it; I think I feared my success and what I thought were the expectations of me — which was actually just people believing in you, you know? So your addiction can make you believe certain things are happening that aren’t. It also can make you miss things that actually are happening. Your mind is all twisted. I missed a lot of opportunities. I regret how I acted and behaved in those choices, or if I hurt people especially, but I don’t regret where I’m at now. I’ve never been happier, and I could only be here by having made some terrible choices, unfortunately.

Jodie Foster (May 4)
Knowing him as well as you do, do you think that Mel Gibson really would be OK with never acting again, as he recently said?
I think it probably sounded more glib than it was; it’s a conversation he and I have had many times, and I say it all the time. You know, I’ve worked for 45 years as an actor and it’s a long time to do one job and there are a lot of other ways to tell stories.Would I be OK if I never acted again? Who would I be? Would I be somebody new? We ask ourselves these questions all the time. He was a kid, too, when he started. There are times when I really put it aside, and as I say to him, ‘Look, there’s only one reason for you to act, there’s only one motivation, and that’s because it moves you.’ And honestly, you shouldn’t do it for any other reason. Because you don’t need to — he doesn’t need to, he doesn’t need that identity. And he doesn’t need the extra inhuman stress of being a celebrity.

Paul Feig (July 5)
[On Bridesmaids' success] It got me out of movie jail, which I at least had one foot in. You’re proud of all your babies that you make, but I’m a realist and I know the business. If you make babies and they don’t make money, people don’t want to make more babies with you. So, at least I get a few more shots.

J.K. Simmons (Aug. 3)
It seems like you're in a pretty sweet spot in your career right now with four movies in various stages of production, your work on The Closer, a steady stream of voice roles. Do you remember the moment when you felt like you had really established yourself as an actor?

I'm still not sure that I have. [Laughs] Unless your name is Clooney or Pitt or Hanks, I think it's hard to feel completely like you're established or where you want to be. This script, which I am eternally grateful for, came to me but only after it bounced off a couple other guys first who didn't want to do it or couldn't schedule it. I'd love to be more established. I'd love to never have to audition for the rest of my life and have every good script in Hollywood come my way. At the same time, when I look back twenty years and remember that I was struggling to pay my rent for a crappy apartment in Hell's Kitchen and doing regional theater for a subsistence wage, and now I'm able to live in a big, fancy house and send my kids to private school -- there's always somebody who is better off and worse off than you are. That's an important perspective to keep in mind I guess.

Jessica Chastain (Aug. 29)
[On the fine line of awards campaigning] "I’m never going to take out an ad. I know, famous last words — never say never — but I really can’t imagine ever in my life doing something like that. To me, it’s not a short sprint. I want to be a career actor. The most important thing to me is that people like the films. If they like the films and they like the performances, it means that I get work with other great actors and make other great films. So it’s not about an award. Of course it’s nice that there’s awards buzz around the films because it means they get more attention. But I’m not the person who’s going to… I mean, I’m not outgoing. I’m very shy. I was never the girl in high school who was wanting to be in office or something — who would campaign for myself to become student-body president. [Laughs] I’m just not that person."

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