Interview: Tom McCarthy and Alex Shaffer
'Win Win' Team Stops by KPBS
Filmmaker Tom McCarthy and high school wrestler turned actor Alex Shaffer came by the KPBS studios to talk about "Win Win" (Currently playing at Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas, AMC La Jolla, and UltraStar Flower Hill). Watch the video.
The trailer for "Win Win" opens as the film does with a daughter asking her mother, "Where's daddy?" To which her mother (played to perfection by Amy Ryan) answers, "He's running." And the little girl innocently inquires, "From what?"
And daddy, Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is running. He's running to try and improve his health and he's running in place because he just can't seem to get ahead in life. In other words, he's the perfect kind of real life character that interests filmmaker Tom McCarthy. McCarthy has a knack for telling stories about such real people with movies like "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor." Now he looks to a high school wrestling coach struggling with hard decisions for his latest film "Win Win."
TOM McCARTHY: I was having a conversation with an old friend of mine about wrestling, we’re both high school wrestlers and we were reliving our painful high school wrestling memories. We started laughing about it thinking this would be a funny thing to work into a story and that was really the first seed of the idea. And two I started to develop this story, which was this story of a decent family man who was really grappling or wrestling with his own sense of responsibility and ethics. And how to marry the two in tight times. How to make responsible decisions and at the same time still perform his duties or what he perceives as his duties, which is to take care of his family.
TERRY: Okay dude how long has this been happening?
MIKE: A couple of months. The doctor says it's stress.
TERRY: Did he prescribe anything for you?
MIKE: Yeah jogging, what the hell do you think I'm doing out here.
JACKIE: Are you out of your freaking mind?
MIKE: I didn't think it would get that complicated.
Part of the fun comes from McCarthy wanting to bring high school wrestling into the mix.
TOM McCARTHY: We had a coach that used to smack us up side of the head like happens in this movie. He was this little fireplug of a guy who used to belt us side of the head before we’d go out on the mat. But all it did was freak us out more.
KYLE; Can you give me a slap?
KYLE: Give me a slap across the face like you are trying to wake me up.
MIKE: Uh-huh. Okay, like that?
One of the first challenges was casting the role of teen wrestler Kyle. McCarthy first looked to professional actors.
TOM McCARTHY: And then I started thinking about, like you know what? I’m not getting the quality I want I need something raw here and it would be really helpful to the production if this kid could wrestle.
COACH: I don't think we can teach him anything.
ALEX SHAFFER: My friend texted me and said you should audition for this role and my initial response was like no, cause I mean this is wrestling season and I’m focusing on wrestling. And not to say I didn’t want to do it I just didn’t think I had the time to really go out and audition for a role for acting it was just something I never did and had never been interested in. But then he told me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I thought about that and then I became interested and I was like yeah it really is. And I’ll never get the chance to be in a movie again so why not just go out and audition.
JACKIE: Did you reach your mom?
KYLE: Yeah I told her I was coming home.
JACKIE: Well did she want to talk to me or anything?
KYLE: If I wanna smoke, should I go outside?
JACKIE: You shouldn't smoke.
KYLE: I know but if I do.
JACKIE: Then yes you should go outside.
KYLE: All right. Good night Jackie.
JACKIE: You're good, I'm glad you started wrestling again.
KYLE: Yeah, me too.
JACKIE: No quitting this time. You got that?
KYLE: Can I tell you something?
JACKIE: Of course.
KYLE: I didn't quit my old wrestling team. I got thrown off.
KYLE: I stole a car.
TERRY: [as Kyle fights with Mike] Kyle, Kyle, com'on, get up... whoa, I'm just the ref, I'm just the ref.
ALEX SHAFFER: When I’m wrestling I’m always putting on a show for people it’s kind of what I like to do. I want people to watch me and say wow! Did he just do that? Oh my god how did he do that. I want people to watch me and be really interested in my match and I guess that’s what of me onscreen, I want people to feel about my acting, I want people to watch me and say holy crap this kid’s good at acting. You know I just want people to enjoy me. So I guess those two relate. Also I guess the discipline with wrestling. I was always very disciplined with acting I’m kind of disciplined.
TOM McCARTHY: My feeling is when audiences connect with characters they are going to go for the ride. They are going to believe it, they are going to enjoy that experience. And I think it's been really fun watching it with audiences and see what they take away.