A Win Win Situation
Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer, and director Tom McCarthy discuss the making of the acclaimed new film about a high school wrestling coach.
"I think the great thing about Joe and I writing this story together was there are little bits of each of us in the characters," says McCarthy. "Joe and I have very different lives, but we've stayed really good friends over the years, and it's always fun to revisit that. Terry and Mike are very different guys, but they have a common ground. I think most of all they have a sense of humor that they enjoy, and I think that's where Joe and I come in."
In the movie -- which earned rapturous reviews earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival -- Mike is a decent, family-oriented guy who finds himself way in over his head financially. As a result, he makes a really bad decision to try to get out of his money problems -- a decision that leads to an unexpected addition to his family, Kyle Timmons (played by newcomer Alex Shaffer), a disaffected runaway teenager. "What interested me was how good people sometimes make very faulty decisions and then have to find a way to live with them in the end," says McCarthy.
The family's center is Jackie, says Ryan, a two-time Tony Award nominee. "She is the glue that holds them all together. She's the one who first says Kyle can stay and she's the one who first helps him integrate into the family." Giamatti has nothing but the highest praise for his co-star. "Amy is so present that when the camera would roll, she would become this person. You'd just see it in her eyes; she was just there completely," he says. "And she kind of did for me what her character does for my character; she kept me on point and sort of steady. But we didn't need to talk about it much and we didn't. We'd just fool around [between takes] and have a good time."
Shaffer recalls that trying out for the part of Kyle was all a bit of a lark in the beginning. "Tom sent out a cattle call in the newspaper for all wrestlers to come in and audition, and my friend said, 'You should audition for this,' and my initial response was, 'No' and he was like, 'No, you should seriously audition for this,' and I was like, 'Alright, cool man. I'll go in.' I finally went and auditioned for it and then went back seven or eight times before I got the role."