Monday, February 28, 2005


The level of an actor’s versatility is perhaps the most telling indicator of his talent. And if there’s one thing Patrick Wilson has mastered, it’s the art of versatility. After playing a series of diverse roles in theatre and in film, Wilson is now drawing praise for his portrayal of Raoul in the big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”.

“Filming The Phantom of the Opera was a lot of fun,” Wilson tells me. “Everyone involved with the production were all great people. It was certainly the most physically exhausting role I’d ever done, though. It was harder than what I expected The Phantom of the Opera to be.”

Wilson performed nearly all of his own stunts in the film, including the intense sword fight between Raoul and the Phantom. “I had done sword fighting when I studied at Carnegie Mellon,” Wilson says. “You learn it, you get certified in school, and then you wonder, when will I ever use this outside of doing Utah Shakespeare festivals? [laughs] When I found out there was going to be a fight in the film, I went to the stunt choreographer and said that I wanted to be a part of the creation of it. They came up with the fight, and we tailored it to our strengths. It was something that I really loved doing. It wasn’t that difficult. It was just a little exhausting.”

Wilson’s refined work in “The Phantom of the Opera” is complemented by stellar performances from rising stars Emmy Rossum (who plays Christine) and Gerard Butler (who plays the Phantom). “Working with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler were both great experiences, but both very different experiences,” Wilson recalls. “Gerry is a much more passionate, let’s improvise and just roll with it kind of actor. I love that, and think that shows in the film. He brings such a passion and a humanity to the role. Emmy is also a very gifted actor, but she was a little more cerebral in her preparation. That’s the fun part about working with different actors, though. Their styles are so different, but the end result is the same.”

Besides earning rave reviews for his performance in “The Phantom of the Opera”, Wilson also recently won acclaim (as well as a Golden Globe nomination) for his role in Mike Nichols’ highly touted, “Angels in America”, in which he co-starred with acting legends Al Pacino and Meryl Streep. “Very seldom in entertainment do you get to do things that truly have an impact on people’s lives,” Wilson says. “I’m not saying that a film like Spider-Man doesn’t have its place, because it does. It’s an escape, and that’s what movies and theatre are all about. But when you have someone come up to you and say, ‘I struggled with my sexuality and Angels in America made me want to come out and be who I am’, that’s great. When you have that kind of impact on someone, that’s an unbelievable experience. Sometimes what we do is just entertainment, but sometimes you really move people and are really a part of change.”

Wilson’s next film, “Hard Candy”, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, tackles the challenging subject of an older man meeting a teenage girl over the Internet. Wilson describes the film as “very controversial” but says that the story will give viewers an altered perspective of the situation. “The movie is a little creepy and weird, but not in the way you think it’s going to be,” he comments. “It’s not a movie about pedophilia. It’s a movie about exploring revenge and justice and what that means to us as a society. In the film, the predator becomes the prey. At times you root for both characters, and at times you root for neither of the characters.”

If there’s one thing that stands out about Wilson, it is the passion and enthusiasm with which he speaks about his profession. Perhaps the reason he is able to articulate his opinions about his career with such eloquence is because he has an intricate understanding of the acting process. Thoughtful and intelligent, Patrick Wilson is an actor whose performances define what it means to be a great actor.