Published: October 28, 2013
‘About Time’ Star Domhnall Gleeson Is Your New Favorite Leading Man
Domhnall Gleeson hasn’t eaten all that much over the last month. “I’m a little bit drifty. I’m a little bit all over the place,” Gleeson told HuffPost Entertainment during a September interview in New York. Gleeson, star of the new film “About Time,” next appears in Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” a drama about prisoners of war in World War II.
“We’re not really putting numbers on it, but it’s a sizable amount,” Gleeson said of the weight loss. “I’ve lost a sizable amount and we’re losing even more. The world can get a little bit blurry.”
What isn’t blurry right now is Gleeson’s career trajectory. The 30-year-old actor, the son of acclaimed actor Brendan Gleeson, has built up quite a varied resume in the last three years, starring projects like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (he played Bill Weasley), “Dredd” and “Anna Karenina.” “About Time,” however, puts Gleeson where he hasn’t been before: in the lead of a major motion picture surrounded by big time co-stars (namely, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy).
Written and directed by Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”), “About Time” focuses on Tim (Gleeson), a young man whose father (Nighy) reveals the family’s big secret on his 21st birthday: all the men in their brood have the ability to travel back in time. It’s a technique that allows Tim to focus on what really drives him: finding a girlfriend and future wife. (It also helps Tim learn about living in the moment.) Gleeson appears in almost every scene in “About Time,” and he carries the brunt of the film’s comedy and drama with a dexterity that recalls both Hugh Grant and Woody Allen.
“All these people inspire you on some level. You probably steal something from all of them,” Gleeson said of his inspirations. “You just take little bits. Maybe my father, certainly, as well. There’s so many good comic actors that you just take the best of and try and run with it yourself. Try and bring a little bit of yourself to it too.”
With “About Time” out in limited release on Nov. 1 (a nationwide bow follows on Nov. 8), HuffPost Entertainment spoke to Gleeson about his budding career and the strangest meet-cute in recent Hollywood history.
Let’s start with meet-cute between your character and Rachel’s character, which takes place at a restaurant that’s entirely in the dark.
The words meet-cute, I had never heard before today. Is the meet-cute the first time people meet, or anytime people meet?
We get to do more than one in this movie, which is why it’s strange.
It’s also strange because of the setting. The audience is literally watching a black screen for a couple of minutes.
The only way a guy who looks like me can get together with a girl who looks like Rachel McAdams is in the fucking dark. That was the reason. That wasn’t in the script originally! Richard added it in! No, that’s not true. It was a very fun scene, actually. We did eat in the restaurant, Dans Le Noir, in preparation. We did go to that place.
Is it tricky to have to act in the dark, since your eyes and mannerisms become completely nullified?
It’s funny what matters and what doesn’t. Silence, obviously, is a killer, because there’s nothing to watch. That’s the way it is in the actual dark, too, when you’re in the actual restaurant. If no one laughs out loud, then you’re in real trouble. Everyone could be smiling, everyone could have enjoyed what you said, but your soul just died a little bit. Your spirit takes a tumble. So you have to be careful in the film with the same thing. I think it’s a sweet scene. I tried to convince Richard to add in some color to it. Every time they spoke or every time they said something particularly lovely or when he heard her voice for the first time, I wanted a splash of color on the screen. Not like a big thing, but just a pulse. I thought it would be really nice. He said, “No, this is a real-life thing, this isn’t a cartoon.” He was probably right. He knows more about them then I do.
Kind of like “Punch-Drunk Love.”
“Punch-Drunk Love” is my favorite movie. You know the segues in between scenes? I wanted it to feel like that. Fuck, you knew what I was talking about! Well, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. “Punch-Drunk Love” is the best. While we were shooting this movie, myself and Bill, one of our big connections was the fact that both of us would put “Punch-Drunk Love” in our top-three films of all time.
What are your other two?
“Punch-Drunk Love” is there, my other two change all the time. I would have to pick a Coen brothers’ movie, and that would be really, really difficult. “Miller’s Crossing” or “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” maybe. Then something along the lines of “Double Indemnity” or maybe one of my dad’s movies, like “In Bruges” or “The Guard.” Something in there too.
Your chemistry with Bill and Rachel is so great in the film. Did they make you do a chemistry read with them?
If there’s one person in the world with whom a chemistry read is unnecessary it’s Rachel McAdams. She’s been in a million movies where she’s had to have chemistry with boyfriends, girlfriends, as in the case of “Passion,” brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. She has never had bad chemistry with anyone. I think chemistry reads are bullshit anyway, but if there was ever a case where you would never have to do it with, it’s her. Also, I was cast before her. They certainly didn’t need to test her with me. Same with Bill. You just meet them and they’re generous actors and generous people. That just fucking helps. That just makes everything easier. They’ll mess you around from the other side of the camera, they’ll keep you guessing and keep you on your toes. They understand what it is to be good, because they’re so good. They understand that scenes will be better if you make the other actor better. They make you better. They bring you up to speed. We worked really hard, but it was really good fun.
I think that comes across onscreen. It looks like you’re all really enjoying each other’s company.
The trick, then, is being able to make it feel real, but also making it really entertaining. Sometimes you’ll have these actors who are like, “It’s very real!” You’re like, “Yeah, but I don’t enjoy watching it.” It can be as real as you want it to be, but I don’t give a shit about what I’m watching. You want it to be entertaining, you want it to be funny and you want to care. We managed to do both of those things, I hope, and that’s one of the things that makes me really happy about the movie. That you get there.
What did you think of the time-travel element to this movie?
I think the whole thing is: If it makes sense in your head, the audience will go along with it. There are some things in the movie where you’re like, “If you do that, why can’t you go back?” I would talk about it with Richard. We would talk it through and, sometimes, we couldn’t come to an agreement, so things would have to change. Most of the time we would say, “OK, it’s because of this and this and this.” Once you figure that out, you just go with it. Let’s face it: I’m pretty sure time travel doesn’t exist in real life. You’re making a leap of faith when you watch the movie anyway. You just have to trust in the rules of the movie. As long as we keep to our own rules, which we do for the most part, I think you’re OK.
It sounds like you had a lot of collaboration with Richard. Is directing something you want to do as well?
Every actor does. There’s no point in even saying it. Every actor is like, “I could direct!” I have directed a couple of short movies that did, you know, very well. I have written a lot of comedy sketches that we made last year to raise money for the hospice where my grandparents died. So I do write and I do direct — I write with a friend of mine — and I really enjoy that. For the moment, though, I’m being presented with some pretty huge opportunities on the acting front to work with people who I never in a million years thought I would get to meet, never mind work with on equal footing. That’s fucking crazy. So I’m trying to enjoy that while it’s happening.
I feel like that’s why Ben Affleck wanted to play Batman. He could direct now, but why pass up that kind of opportunity?
I would also point out that directing takes three or more years of your life. You do one project in three years. You act in a movie, it’s six months with prep and acting. You get to do five times as many movies. You get to work with five times as many people. You get to have five times as many experiences. All as an actor. I’m all about the life experience. I’m having a great time fucking doing all this shit. I don’t want to pass all that up.
Is that why your resume is so diverse?
Most of the time, I do what I’m offered, but after I worked for it. I think I try much harder for the things that scare me and inspire me. The things that scare and inspire you are things that are different from what you did before. The reason I think I ended up doing quite different projects recently, and for the last few years, is because I tried much harder for the things I haven’t done before. I’m having some great fun with some remarkable people.
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