In the film (which was nominated for this year's Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival), Wilson plays Joe, a born-again Christian, who is pitted against the man on the ledge, Gavin, an atheist (played by Charlie Hunnum).
Add in Joe's wife, Shana (Liv Tyler), who becomes the apex of a sexual triangle between these two diametrically opposed men, and a devout Catholic detective (played by Terrence Howard) to the mix -- and since none of these characters is what he or she initially appears to be -- and you've got a thriller.
"You don't usually see religious thrillers and that's what interested me," says Wilson. "What I also found compelling was the device of opening with a guy already out on a ledge and working backward to see how he got there before you find out whether he's going to jump or not."
Wilson was also impressed with other parts of the film's structure. "The script played like a fable, but it was very operatic," he notes. "All those monologues we have seemed like arias to me. You never see one character talk for a whole page at a time in a screenplay, but that's the way Matthew wanted it. I thought that was a very bold choice."
The actor has played religious characters before; most notably, Joe Pitt, the conflicted Mormon, in Mike Nichols' HBO film of Angels in America. "I'm fascinated with people's beliefs and I wondered what it might be like to have dinner with this Joe and Joe Pitt," he says. "However, the only research I did for The Ledge was to readThe Bible. I would find the passages in the scriptures that backed up my character's beliefs and then Matthew and I would have very passionate discussions before certain scenes. We had a very open collaboration. The film never felt preachy to me."
In A Gifted Man, Wilson plays Dr. Michael Holt, a highly successful, extremely self-centered surgeon whose entire belief system is severely shaken when his dead ex-wife (played by Tony Award winner Jennifer Ehle) begins to pop up for little chat, after which he begins caring for some of his late wife's Bronx clinic patients. "It's not a ghost story per se," he asserts. "But there is a kind of hip shaman played by Pablo Schreiber in it."
In addition to being able to work with a top-notch cast, Wilson was attracted to the series because it will film in his adopted home town of New York City. "My oldest son is starting kindergarten this year and I want to be part of it," he says. "I didn't want to be one of those fathers who isn't around."
Despite his continuing success on the big and small screen -- he also stars opposite Charlize Theron in the upcoming film Young Adult -- Wilson stresses he isn't turning his back on his theatrical roots. "I would never abandon Broadway," he asserts. "I do want to expand my horizons and do more film work, but I'm interested in good roles, wherever they may be. In fact, I would love to do a show while we're taping here. I'm looking for a musical."
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