This film was shot in Atlanta, Ed, does your family still live there?
Ed Helms: My mum does, yeah.
So then there’s no excuse, “why didn’t you call?”, “why didn’t you come over?”
EH: Well she’s a fixture on set. I think I was joking just the other day that she shadow-directed this movie. I had a chair made with her name on it, so she always has her little spot… She came to visit me on Hangover 2 in Thailand. Yeah, she’s very adventurous. That movie we shot over the Christmas holiday. We stayed in Thailand so she sort of made a holiday of it…
We all think we know our parents but as this movie says sometimes there are secrets or there are things that your parents don’t tell you because they don’t think you could handle it. How open do you want your parents to be with every aspect of your life?
EH: I don’t want them to be that open with me. I’m kind of weirded out by families that are super transparent. I see the value in it, but I also guess I’m a little bit of a prude that way. I don’t know too much about my parents…
Owen Wilson: You don’t want to know that you were conceived in New Orleans.
EH: I was telling Owen that I learned that I was conceived in New Orleans and that was… sort of fun. I didn’t know that.
OW: Well that was fun? You’re sending mixed messages.
EH: Yeah I don’t like to think my parents as sexual beings. I guess that makes me a prude.
OW: I was a little bit the family historian. I always was very curious about stuff with my parents and grandparents and everybody and was pretty good at remembering the stories, but I would be on the same page with Ed. There’s some stuff you don’t need to know but I like good stories.
How does it feel to be the new partner of Owen Wilson?
EH: Being a fan of Owen’s for so long even before I met him… and of course now that I know you… no longer a fan.
OW: They say to be careful when meeting your hero.
EH: Watching Owen with Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn and all these great sort of teams… I also feel lucky to have been part of – kind of these little groups with Zach and Bradley and The Office crew. There was a comfort coming together in kind of a – I think we spoke the same language comedically. The rhythm of…
OW: Pig latin.
EH: Just that rhythm of having done a lot of these types of movies and TV shows with other…
OW: We’re just on the same page.
How good are you at road trips?
EH: I love a good road trip. I love it.
OW: Yeah I am a good conversationalist.
OW: As long as we’ve got a football game going on in the background. I know Ed is a great person to take a road trip with, because I was stuck in a car with him for a big portion of this movie and it was great to kind of talk and also when Ed was just over in Hawaii, he and my brother had a road trip, and Ed also is good at DJing.
EH: I’m a good road trip DJ.
OW: I don’t want it to be the typical fare that, you know it’s not just going to be classic rock which I love, but you’re going to get something different, you’re going to get something more special. You’re going to get some bluegrass – and you’re going to get a lot of it.
Have you ever picked up a hitchhiker?
OW: That’s a little personal! [laughs]… yeah many times!
EH: You kill lots of hitchhikers! But it’s a dodgy prospect. I hitchhiked a little bit out West in my twenties.
OW: It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? Out West…
EH: I was just finding myself.
OW: Neal Cassady… met some hobos… jumping freight trains…
EH: Riding the rails! But it’s dodgy. Especially now I feel it’s gotten a little more dodgy. Kind of depends on where you are.
OW: And I bet it hasn’t. How could it be more dodgy than the ’70s? But yet, that’s the way everyone thinks. “Oh it’s gotten more dangerous”.
EH: Yeah you’re right!
OW: And it isn’t more dangerous.
EH: No, maybe it’s safer.
OW: You know it’s like New York City. Is New York City safer now than it was you know… 20 years ago?
EH: Well now with cell phones it’s probably more safe to hitchhike. But do you remember – you know Jewel the singer? She hitchhiked across Alaska all the time, as a young woman!
OW: She did?
EH: Yeah. But she’s tough.
OW: I met her once in real life. She’s great. Yeah, great singer.
If you had a fantasy moment to work with a sports person in some capacity, to play against that that person, who would that be?
OW: I would say Nadal is my favourite tennis player. So, I would love to just hit with Nadal. And he’s a lefty like me so he’s not going to be able to have that advantage that he has over Federer. When he thinks he’s hitting it to my backhand… hey it’s my forehand!
He has a school in Majorca. You should go.
EH: A tennis school? Oh, that’s cool.
OW: I’ve met him once at the French Open, got to shake hands and take a picture and saw Uncle Toni. You can just tell he’s a great guy, very humble, nice person. I think that’s why he’s my favourite player. Because even when he wins he seems sort of apologetic. He just has a real humility.
EH: Not really a McEnroe in that regard.
OW: I’m pretty good at ping pong, so I don’t know if there’s a good ping pong player. But maybe that. Larry Bird… maybe a game of horse against Larry Bird.
EH: I’m more of a music person than a sports person.
OW: Well that wasn’t the question Ed.
EH: I’m just going to hijack this for a second. I play guitar and banjo and sing. It’s a little poignant, but Tom Petty. I just loved that guy. Bob Dylan, I really love the old rootsy kind of music.
Owen, a large part of Father Figures takes place in Hawaii. You live in Hawaii, so is that something that was in the script, or that you brought?
OW: No, that was in the script. It just worked out that way. Although, is it Maui?
EH: I don’t think they say. But it is funny because in the script – and I can’t even remember if it’s in the movie actually – but in the script your character sends me photos of Hawaiian sunsets because you’re trying to cheer me up. But I always get mad at them. But then what happened is after the movie, Owen started sending me old pictures of Hawaiian sunsets. And it is a double edged sword because it’s sort of like “oh what a beautiful picture. I wish I was there”, but I’m not there. Owen’s there and I’m not! He’s rubbing it in.
Ed, I know Owen has a couple of brothers, do you have any brothers?
EH: I have an older brother and then a sister who’s the eldest.
So how competitive are you both as siblings?
EH: I’m super competitive.
OW: Yeah, our family, that came from my dad. But you know not competitive with like… you know who can get better grades, be more punctual, or things that might be useful. Competitive about like “okay, let’s see who can take this bottle cap and get it to go out on the patio” and sit there for hours and bet on that. So, it’s stuff like that. In fact, I’d say that’s when I’m happiest is competition, playing games and stuff. But there’s some people that are so competitive, they can’t compete, because they get mad when they lose. I’m not like that. I definitely want to win but I would rather play someone who’s a little better than me or I’m going to lose some but when I do win it’s really exciting, rather than playing someone who is going to win all the time.
EH: I think my brother and I were very competitive when we were little, but we’re just such different people. We’re still very close but, I think as kids it was more just about being right. Not so much about winning a competition but just arguing about inane things.
OW: Yeah that’s true. That’s something we did too. Right. “The Harlem Globetrotters could not beat…”
EH: “Professional wrestling IS real, you idiot!”
What qualities of your father do you see in yourself?
EH: Well, if I’m being very nice to myself, I think my dad’s sense of humour – I just loved it. He had a very intelligent sense of irony and wordplay.
OW: I wish I had my dad’s work ethic. My dad’s a really hard worker. But I would say like Ed, yeah, the sense of humour and kidding around that I try to do with my kids, definitely, I think about my dad, who is great in that department.
Do you see a sense of humour in your own kids?
OW: I do. Yeah, I would not have believed that a six year old and a three year old could get me to like genuinely, really laugh, but these guys can get me laughing. Yeah, they’re funny.
Father Figures is in cinemas February 1, 2018