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Peter Dinklage Talks About "The Station Agent"

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Station Agent

Peter Dinklage stars in "The Station Agent."

Miramax Films
If “The Station Agent” isn’t at the head of the pack of nominees for Academy Awards and other year-end honors, then there’s something seriously wrong with the whole system. From the three lead actors – Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale and Patricia Clarkson – to the original screenplay by Tom McCarthy, this movie achieves a whole different level of excellence than 99% of 2003’s theatrical releases.

In writer/director Tom McCarthy’s “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, “We’re going to get through this together.” It’s 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 aren’t 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 he’s an actor himself, knows how it’s 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 actor’s sleeve and what I usually rely on. He was like, “Pete, just strip away all that stuff that I know you can do. I don’t want you to do any of that. You’ve got to simplify this.” There’s not much dialogue to rely on so you’ve got to rely on the simplicity of this person.

The great thing is I don’t think this character is shy. That’s not a reason why he disconnects himself. He’s a very direct person. It was interesting to play that, somebody who was isolated but doesn’t have a shy quality about him. He’s not really bitter. He’s perfectly comfortable in this path he’s chosen. He just doesn’t know what he’s 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 weren’t going to make it if one of us wasn’t 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. It’s 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 there’s 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.

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