“What’s your name again?” asks Sam Neill at the Blackbird media junket. “Steve Carell,” answers Rainn Wilson, most famous for his role in the US version of The Office.
“My character is somewhat comedic,” Wilson adds about his role in Blackbird. “It is very much like doing a play. It’s one location, eight actors shooting it in order from beginning to end. And when you do a play, there’s a lot of listening, and figuring out who is my character, and how they fit in, in the telling of this story.”
“And being real,” adds Sam Neill.
“I didn’t worry about that so much,” retorts Wilson.
“I’m very seldom nice about Rainn,” says Neill. “And this is the last nice thing I’ll say about him, but he can be comedic and real at the same time. That’s a very rare gift. I really believed that character. And as a son-in-law, he was deeply irritating.”
“Especially as I spoke to you,” says Wilson. “I improvised a line about pancakes being one of humanity’s oldest foods. They found them buried in the crypts of ancient Sumeria. And you were like, ‘I know, I know. I know’.”
Laughs aside, acting opposite Kate Winslet was something that Wilson will cherish for a long time. “I have a very powerful scene with Kate,” he tells us. “I think the extraordinary thing about Kate as an actor, is she’s not afraid to look ugly and real and wrong and gritty. She doesn’t need to be noble all the time. She plays a really annoying character, tightly wound, type A, suburban housewife. Kind of asexual. And it’s a role no one’s seen Kate do before. She made it funny and she made it real. And the transformation that she makes over the course of the film, at the end where she has a genuine connection with her sister and her mum in a way that she’s never had before, was really beautifully constructed. It’s really an honour to watch her work that way.”
Continuing the serious vibe, we ask what audiences should expect to walk away with after seeing Blackbird. “It’s not a movie about death,” answers Wilson. “There’s a death at the centre of it, but that takes up five minutes of the movie. The movie is about eating and celebrating and connecting and family dysfunction.
“What I feel like what we want the audience to come away with is, how do you want to die?” Wilson continues. “And that begs the same question, how do you want to live? Because when you look at death, it really informs how you want to live. You know that native American expression, ‘Today’s a good day to die’?”
“It’s what?” asks Neill.
“‘Today’s a good day to die’,” repeats Wilson. “Tȟašúŋke [Crazy Horse] said that.”
“What does it mean?” wonders Neill.
“Well, it’s not talking about dying, but it’s waking up every day and saying, ‘today is a good day to die, so how am I going to live my last day on the planet?’”
“I’m going to let that sink in, that’s really good,” says Neill before heading off to the next interview.
Blackbird screens on New Year’s Eve at Dendy Cinemas. General release is slated for February 25, 2021