Woody Harrelson and the cast and crew discuss the new comedy Wilson

Wilson is a terrific, new comedy by director Craig Johnson based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes which stars Woody Harrelson in it’s title role about a neurotic misanthrope without a filter who reconnects with his estranged wife played by Laura Dern and discovers they have a daughter played by Isabella Amara.  I had an opportunity to sit down with the cast and crew for a few questions about the film that opened Friday March 24.

Wilson is a little bit traditional in some ways and some of it’s great and some of it’s problematic.  The film deals with some real problems that are happening now in America certainly, politically and socially, and I just wanted to see what you both thought about how the movie reflects what’s happening today?

Laura Dern: I believe we both agree with that, that it is an incredible time to be playing these characters.  It’s really interesting to consider people’s discomfort with the truth and people’s discomfort with a character that would get in their face and want to connect and yet there is a comfort with con-men.  That’s really troubling that we’re culturally more comfortable with a lie that somehow we can hang our hope on than the reality of where we are and what we need to do as a community to effect change. “There’s no global warming” or if we all make this an emergency and honor it together, we might actually do something, I mean those are two different ways [to approach the issue] and somebody like Wilson would be in our face about it. Even if I have to be shamed, you know- if I’m at Disneyland and throwing away my kids plastic drinks, I want a Wilson to be like “what the fuck are you doing?!  Put that in the recycling bin!”  I like that, I don’t want the person to be like “don’t worry about it, the more consumerism the better.”  It’s how you want to live your life, but I think the more Wilsons we get the better off we’ll be.

Do you agree with that Woody, the more Wilsons the better?

Woody Harrelson: Well I think in politics it’d be nice because you do get lied to quite a lot and there does seem to be a certain degree of comfort with this lie you know?  Most people don’t know that in Vietnam we killed 2 million people, right? Mostly civilians. In Korea, 4 million people, I mean where is our apology for that? Or the millions of Native Americans when we first conquered this land and what we did in terms of slavery you know, we built this country on the backs and blood and bones of so many dispossessed people. We’re comfortable with the lie of this beautiful nation. Well what about – let’s look at what the underbelly is and let’s look at how it really formed you know, so yeah I do think that’s true what she said, I think that we get comfortable with con-men and let’s face it, politicians are just businessmen working for bigger businessmen and if you don’t have a lot of money you’re not being represented, so to think that there are all these people that think our president is representing the common man, I mean come on.

I love seeing a character that just says anything all the time regardless if it’s totally inappropriate.  I am an artist and a lot of people that create comic books and graphic novels tend to be socially awkward and so I’m watching Wilson and I just feel a connection to this. So I was wondering how autobiographical this is? What parts do both of you guys relate to most?

Daniel Clowes:  I mean for me he began as kind of an id creature.  He’s sort of a version of myself that’s buried in here somewhere, but I’m much more socialized, I’m much more reserved Midwestern polite.  I’m sort of Wilson’s victim.  When my wife first read the graphic novel she said “you are everybody who’s table he sat at in the book” but I also admire it, I wish I was like that.  I have friends who are very Wilsonesque- you leave them alone at a coffee shop for 10 minutes and you come back and they’re making plans with somebody at the next table and they’re like “this guy’s really into rock collecting” and just have some connection and I’m not like that so I see the good in that.  To me, he’s sort of an admirable guy for all his difficult qualities.  I have a very high tolerance for the Wilson’s of the world I must admit.

Craig Johnson: I mean for me, I grew up in the Seattle area and there’s a high density of Wilsons in the Pacific Northwest, it just breeds them for some reason up there, probably in the bay area as well it’s probably a West Coast thing.  But I had friends in the artist community, in the music community in Seattle as we were all coming up that were budding Wilsons. These guys that I thought had brilliant minds and great world views but the actual ability to get off the couch and put the bong down and make something of your life, that wasn’t there, so they ended up being on the road to being a little bit more eccentric, a little bit more of somebody whose worldview rattles around in their own head.  I admire those folks, so when I read Wilson, I said boy this is like my buddy from Seattle.

This movie deals with topics such as body image, dysfunctional relationships, and other things that are relevant today socially.  What are your reflections on how the film deals with these topics?

Isabella Amara: I think the movie hits on some very controversial points throughout the entire thing and I think we discover new controversial points every time we talk about it but I think it’s cool, I really do.  I think we need to stop hiding behind a little blanket of ignorance and start trying to take action. I think they’re important topics that need to be discussed and what better way than a comedy because it’s light and not as harsh and it’s not as hard hitting and unlike Wilson it doesn’t scare people away as much.  I think it’s a great thing I really do and I think it sparks some great conversations.

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About Tim Needles

Tim Needles is an artist, photographer, humorist, and writer from Long Island, NY. His writing and art work has been seen in multiple exhibitions and publications around New York as well as the Photographer’s Forum, French Photo, the New York Times, and LI Pulse magazine. He is also an educator and currently teaches art and film at Smithtown, NY and as an Education Leader for Adobe. He was recently the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Award in Washington DC and serves as the director of Strictly Students, a non-for-profit group for media and education. His work can be seen on his website: www.timneedles.com
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