In writer/director Tom McCarthys The Station Agent, Peter Dinklage stars as Finbar McBride, a quiet man who prefers watching trains to interacting with people. In this interview, Dinklage discusses the long process of bringing The Station Agent to the screen, friendships on and off the set, and choosing roles.
INTERVIEW WITH PETER DINKLAGE:
Had you worked with Bobby Cannavale before?
No, Bobby and I became friends in the process of making this movie. Tom [McCarthy] wrote the rough draft about 3 years ago for the three of us [Dinklage, Cannavale and Patricia Clarkson]. Over that period of time we became close friends. Making this movie over 20 days, 6 days a week, you become fast, good friends under all the pressure. You are sort of holding on to each other like, Were going to get through this together. Its so much fun working with good friends. You have so many laughs and Tom was so open to our input.
How did you get inside a character who is so isolated?
It was a challenge because Tom knew me as an actor and those arent the roles I usually play. I usually play a sort of extroverted character, the little supporting roles who come in and chew the scenery. But Tom, because hes an actor himself, knows how its great to be challenged as an actor. He wanted to challenge all of us as actors.
At least in my case, I was incredibly challenged. He knew the tricks up my actors sleeve and what I usually rely on. He was like, Pete, just strip away all that stuff that I know you can do. I dont want you to do any of that. Youve got to simplify this. Theres not much dialogue to rely on so youve got to rely on the simplicity of this person.
The great thing is I dont think this character is shy. Thats not a reason why he disconnects himself. Hes a very direct person. It was interesting to play that, somebody who was isolated but doesnt have a shy quality about him. Hes not really bitter. Hes perfectly comfortable in this path hes chosen. He just doesnt know what hes missing and he finds out midway through the movie.
Did you feel like the script was pretty well set by the time you started?
Yes. We were trying to find funding and we were shot down a couple of times. There were times that were like, God, are we ever going to make this movie? But we really all were very determined. We werent going to make it if one of us wasnt a part of it.
Were there many changes made during the 20-day shoot?
Oh yeah, we would change things, minor things, while we were shooting it. Because we were close friends and he knew we knew these characters so well, by the time we shot this movie he trusted us. Its a great feeling to have someone trust you so much.
I loved working under that pressure. On a movie set, as an actor you just sit around. The crew is always the hardest working bunch on a movie set, but as an actor, you say two words a day and then theres a lot of just sitting around smoking cigarettes. But in this, we were shooting five scenes in one day. It was great working under that pressure.