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Interview with Peter Sarsgaard

From "Garden State"


Peter Sarsgaard Natalie Portman

Peter Sarsgaard, Natalie Portman, and Zach Braff in "Garden State"

Photo © Fox Searchlight
How do you pursue films? Do you deliberately stay away from big movies?
I'm doing a really big movie right now and then I'm doing another big movie, an $85 million dollar - maybe something like that - Disney movie with Jodie Foster on an airplane. Co-starring with her. And I'm doing a movie now that's like an Iain Softley [film starring] Kate Hudson [and] Gena Rowlands.

I think it's like natural selection. I've been offered bigger movies but they're always bad. …Ed Norton, Billy Crudup or Jude Law passed on it and they passed on it for a reason. Then it will come my way, maybe. And that's why I've played a lot of outsiders, too. A lot of times those roles get passed not because they're not well written, but because people don't want to be seen in that light. It's not that I've chosen to play drug addicts and killers and people like that. The good parts that are left over are not usually flattering parts.

I wanted to do “Skeleton Key,” I can't tell you exactly why because it would give away a plot point... I never got to play a part where I got to have a romantic relationship with someone and the kind of romantic relationship that we have in the movie, Kate and I. I never wanted to play a flat-out rolling around on the sand on the beach making out love story, not really. Unless I have something else going on. This one has a lot of other factors included and I thought it would be an interesting kind of love story for me to do.

"The Flight Plan" actually is probably one of the first big movies that probably a number of actors wanted to play the role.

Can you describe “Kinsey?”
"Kinsey" is about Alfred Kinsey [and] the Kinsey Report. Liam Neeson plays him. There's a role that's a great role, and I got to fool around with Liam Neeson in the movie. Make out with him. I am a bisexual character, I also get along with Laura Linney, separately. For a lot of actors, that would be reason enough to turn down the role. And so I got lucky with that one.

Actors are afraid of everything. Some actors, their good will and their charm are in every role and they need to find roles that match that. I didn't choose not to be that type of actor.

Who's a better kisser - Liam or Laura?
Liam isn't in the running.

What’s “Flight Plan” about?
“Flight Plan” is about Jodie Foster's husband who's just died. She's in Germany and she has to fly back in one of these new Airbus planes, which are being built now, so it's actually slightly in the future. She's flying back to New York, and she loses her child on the plane. It's one of these huge planes. I'm the guy sitting next to her and I try to help her. It's kind of a "Sixth Sense" thriller airplane movie. It's kind of a crossbreed of a movie.

There's a supernatural element?
For awhile in the movie, if you lose your kid on an airplane, there's something supernatural about that. Jesus Christ, how big is an airplane, even if it's an Airbus? I haven't started shooting that yet, still shooting “Skeleton Key.”

Have you met Jodie yet?
I met her a long time ago when she was directing that movie "Flora Plum." I was up for a role in that. I feel privileged to work with her. There's this great German director, Robert Schwentke, it's amazing that the studio is letting this guy doing it. He did this movie "Tattoo," this big German movie, and did a movie called "The Crown Jewels." His two German movies were really sophisticated kind of artistic movies.

And they're giving him an $85 million Hollywood movie?
Movies on airplanes are like movies on submarines, there's a history of them. And I imagine he's watched every movie that's ever been done on an airplane. This one has some very sophisticated elements in a movie that could just be a thriller. We're shooting at Disney, except for Germany for parts of the movie before she gets on the airplane. I think they're filming in Berlin. I don't know.

What can you say about “Skeleton Key?”
I think that it will be very scary. And what is great about that one is it's tough to make a good horror movie, everyone's so used to getting scared. The conceit of the movie works so well, it's so surprising, yet inevitable. It's clever enough that it will distinguish itself from other horror movies.

I was a [horror movie fan] when I was a kid, but only really religious horror movies - "The Omen," "The Exorcist." I'm Catholic, Satan scares me. I was an altar boy and stuff. I learned in high school that the “Exorcist” is a real person, then of course it scares me more. I remember watching just the previews, I was too young when it came out [in] theaters.

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