Win Win

January 01, 1970

 

(Fox
Searchlight)

 

www.winwinmovie.com

 

BY
A.D. AMOROSI

 

Win Win isn’t just a
subtly poignant, deeply funny and uniquely literate film about high school
wrestling, poor choices, lost love and irksome adolescence starring Paul
Giamatti, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Ryan and young Alex Shaffer. It’s the newest
film from writer/director Thomas McCarthy. Like Shaffer’s wrestler in Win Win, McCarthy was a young mat hugger
in New Providence NJ. Unlike that same character, McCarthy is
an Oscar nominated screenwriter (the animated Up) who has directed his scripts for The Station Agent and The
Visitor
as well as being a memorable character actor with titles such as The Wire, Little Fockers, The Lovely Bones and Syriana to his credit.

 

 

Let’s rock this.

 

***

 

BLURT: You’re a NJ guy. Care to weigh in what the state has
become without you? Tom. It is not pretty.

THOMAS MCCARTHY: (Laughs) Thanks. But no.

 

 

Should we consider this at all autobiographical since the
film is set at New Providence high school
where you went and had something to do with the wrestling team?

Not really autobiographical, no. There are personal elements, yes, from my
history that I drew upon. I grew up there.  I know a little about the high
school wrestling team.

 

What elements in particular though Tom are yours? What is
closer to you?

Certainly reflecting upon our
wrestling experiences and some of the things we went through as kids and with
other kids. What the matches felt like.  I was a mediocre to bad wrestler,
so that helped.

 

All of the male leads in all of your films – The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win – they all seem put out, very put upon. Even when the best of luck is theirs,
they don’t seem easy about having it.

You wouldn’t be wrong. I don’t set
out that way. Some of them had good lives cut out for them to start. Maybe
things didn’t wind up good in the end. Now Paul’s character in Win Win: He loves his life. He’s built
that life. He likes his practice, his house. He’s trying to live his American
dream. But then he commits this act under an enormous amount of pressure that
invites the put-upon-ness you speak of. He’s a really good guy who made some
bad choices and now he has to pay for them. That’s what I was trying to
explore. Paul and I talked a lot about this. He didn’t want to play people he’s
been before. His character here is different than the ones he’s worked on
before. In fact this guy is quite content and happy in his life. It’s just that
in this moment in time – it ain’t working.

 

And laughs ensue. Next time, I will preface any queries
about being put out with “Willie Loman” level put out versus the lesser sort.

(laughs) That’s a whole different level of pain.

 

What made you want to do this film at this point in your
career?

It was gradual. I didn’t have a
eureka moment, in fact, I had the idea in my head for over a year before I
committed to start writing it. I had it. Laughed a lot about it. Then I fell in
love with the characters and the story. I do that with a lot of scripts. See
the merit as the passion grows. Plus it had something to say as well as had
heart. The characters, at first blush, are quite conventional – who they are,
where they live in small town New
Jersey. It was a challenge to make these characters
sing. I loved that challenge.

 

Your characters are truly lit from within. Did you get into
this business with an ability or a mindset to one of these things better than
the other – act or write or direct? One that you wanted to do more?

I did see my self as actor first
even though I entered this business late. Right after college. That was a big
jump to start. Hey, I want to be an actor. But as I was achieving THAT – hey I’m being taken seriously, this must be
a mistake
– I just found myself writing. After I had a few movies under my
belt where I started portraying the same guy, 30-something, not married, but
trying – I thought about what to do. Should I sit around and complain and do
the same part, or do I write? As I was writing The Station Agent, I began to think that I would love to direct
this.

        It was a very organic process,
honestly. My life and career shifted. It had options. I had options. Suddenly
there were a few different things that I could do. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t
be allowed to do all three. I will continue to do as such until someone asks me
to stop.

 

 

Pictured Above: Tom McCarthy, director and Alex Shaffer and
Andrew Greenblat pictured at a Q&A after a screening of Win Win at the Ritz
5 in Philadelphia, Pa on February 24, 2011 ©Scott Weiner 2011

 

 

 

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