ROCKER OF AGES Rainn Wilson

Funnymen Wilson and
Teddy Geiger make merry with mockumentary.

 

BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

Maybe the two people you least think of when it comes to starring
in sweaty sloppy rock comedies are Rainn Wilson and Teddy Geiger.

 

Wilson
is gracefully unhinged for his most familiar roles in The Office, Six Feet Under and his cameo in  Juno . Geiger of Love Monkey and New Partridge Family  fame has Warren Beatty’s hair from Shampoo and seems gently becalmed even
though he’s a prince of teasing power pop.

 

Yet, for The Rocker Geiger is appropriately cute and Wilson
is mullet-ready and mightily manic in his role as Robert “Fish”
Fishman, the occasionally bare-assed drummer of the Van-Aero-Bon-Triumph-like ‘80s
rock act, Vesuvius, who, on the occasion of signing their major label record
deal, dump Fish. While Vesuvius becomes a Beatles-of-hair-metal throughout the
next two decades, Wilson-Fish puts the dream on ice until his nephew Matt (Josh
Gadd) finds himself in need of a drummer for their high school band A.D.D. to
play at the school prom. Fish gets the gig and laughs ensue as the
man-post-mullet gets that second chance at rawk’s elusive holy grail.

 

“Indeed I do believe in second chances,” says Wilson after strolling
into a Philadelphia NPR broadcast studio to chat about his Rocker.  No sooner in the
room, Wilson
jokingly calls one reporter a “corporate stool… no, stooge” and eyes me weirdly
after having dealt with my BLURT photographer (“I know about you, A.D.”). Wilson kids around with
our crew, but not obnoxiously so.

 

“It’s only now that I’m in my early forties that I’ve
achieved a sort of celebrity,” notes Wilson who studied acting and struggled as
a young actor since his twenties. He got the strength to carry on and out from
his folks, who he calls failed-but-committed artists. “They were strong,
though. I committed to this acting thing whole hog so I was like a pit bull. I
didn’t want to wind up wishing I had the career I hoped for, living in regret,
so I thought fuck it.” He kept his overhead low and “lived in shit holes” until
the jobs got better, and “Arthur” on HBO’s Six
Feet Under
gave way to “Dwight” on The
Office
.

 

“My manger told me my life would change after “Arthur” and
it did,” says Wilson.

 

Before his 2003 role in Six
Feet Under
and 2005’s The Office,
Wilson did a little rock flick, 2000s Almost
Famous
, that in his speedy words “cost $70 mil, ours $14; theirs took five
months to shoot, ours was a six week long run ‘n’ gun-low budget comedy of 15
hour days and break on through to the other side,” he says in one rush. Wilson also did Rob
Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses in
2003, that hirsute rocker’s directorial debut. “That was my first lead role in
a film,” says Wilson who can’t say enough about Zombie. “He’s a singular filmmaker,
smart and with a great eye. We still talk. He even came by The Office‘s set. He’s a big fan of the show.”

 

Fans of The Office – including Rocker director Peter (The Full Monty) Cattaneo – are most
responsible for Wilson’s
rocking out here. He jokes along the lines of popular wisdom that all comedies
in Hollywood start the process by being offered
to Jack Black and Will Ferrell, and that when they pass a collective big Hollywood sigh can be heard. “I love when people ask why
this is my first real starring role – as if there was this wealth of projects –
the suburban romance, the action comedy. I think I’ll take The Rocker. I don’t mean to mock. It’s a funny misconception. I’m
lucky to have gotten it.” Wilson
fought for The Rocker and only got
the studio’s blessing after its director and producers showed them that
Thursday night’s Office episode where
co-star Steve Carell and Wilson were on a roof throwing watermelons and rocking
out with air guitars.

“The episode where I’m screaming ‘burn a hole in the sun’ – those 17 seconds sealed
it.”

 

Next thing you know he’s doing rock ‘n’ roll humor with
heart to it – warm with real characters and cute smart good people that’s a
curious throwback to a John Hughes movie (“wholesome despite the fact that’s
about heavy metal”) with his ass out for long stretches (“feast your eyes; I’m
all about giving people what they want, and if they want my long creamy torso,
so be it”) while drumming.

 

And what has he learned about rock? About drummers? Like why
is the failing drummer, dumb drummer such a cliché?

“Because drummers are idiots,” says Wilson. “You can quote me on that. I have a
newfound respect for all those other musicians that have to deal with drummers.
What do you call a guy who hangs out with a group of musicians? A drummer. It
takes a particular mindset to want to sit behind a bunch of guys and bang
really loud. There’s got to be something primal about that.”

 

Along with getting a chance to bang loud while in his
underwear for a majority of The Rocker.

 

Wilson
says the biggest benefits have come from being allowed to dress up like the
Pinball Wizard and interview The Who for its recent VH-1 Honors program and
hanging out with some of the bands (Flaming Lips, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters) who
joined together for Daltrey, Townshend & Co.

 

“The Who was so special to me growing up. I could feel blood
rushing to my ears doing it. Those songs were the soundtrack of my adolescence,
and sitting with the man who was responsible for that was strange – but such a
great perk. Meeting Julia Roberts and George Clooney – yawn! Besides it was fun
to fake-play concerts and get that fake rock ‘n’ roll rush.”

 

 

***

 

 

Days later, Teddy Geiger was playing a real concert with some
real rush to it as a group of girls could be found screaming outside Philadelphia’s World Café
Live while he was sound-checking. After releasing Underage Thinking in 2006, Geiger found himself working on a new
record with producer/Philly boy Billy Mann in 2008 when he got the call for The Rocker

 

“‘Yeah, sure,’ I said,” intones Geiger, in his deep
soon-to-be-20-year-old voice. “I had some free time. [laughs] It’s not something I didn’t want to do – it can only help.
I definitely had something like that in mind. Besides, I really did want to try
some acting and seeing what could happen.”

 

After almost being the next Keith Partridge for VH-1 and
playing a guitarist on the Jason Priestly series, Love Monkey, Geiger wanted something different from his big screen
debut. “Rainn was hilarious; very talented,” says Geiger of The Rocker star. “I learned a lot
watching him – even just being around him. I’d read this stuff that he’d have
to do in any given shot it was so different than what I imagined would go on in
the scene. It helped me realize how much creative space there is in acting.
Rainn definitely uses all of that space.”

 

As for Geiger, he’d like to do more films – less comic, more
romantic ones, maybe without music attached – but right now wants to polish off
this new record of his. “I’ve been listening to a lot of The Band as well as some
M.I.A. and Madlib records – things that helps me hear music in different way.”

 

 

 

 

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