Luke Wilson takes on the title role in the dramatic movie Henry Poole is Here directed by Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies). Wilson plays a real sad sack of a man, a solitary guy who has totally given up on life. Although he purchases a new house, Henry's sure he won't be living there long and doesn't care how it looks or who his neighbors are. All he wants is to be left alone to drink, think, and sleep.
But when his next door neighbor (played by Academy Award-nominee Adriana Barraza) - the neighborhood's gossip queen – believes she sees the face of Jesus on an exterior wall of his house, all hope of living out his life quietly is tossed out the window. Radha Mitchell co-stars as Henry's other neighbor, a single mother caring for her adorable young daughter who hasn't spoken a word in over a year.
A film about hope and faith, Henry Poole is Here asks the audience to believe in miracles. And at the film's Los Angeles press junket, its stars were asked to share their opinions on the topic of miracles. "We've been getting asked like, 'Do we believe in miracles?' I mean, I think I do. I'm a believer in fate, I don't know about miracles per se," said Wilson.
"What is there not to believe in?," asked Mitchell. "It's kind of miraculous that we're here. I mean, no one can explain existence. So some aberration occurs…why not?"
Wilson has his own take on the mysterious ways of the world. "Clint Eastwood spoke at this little theater on my street like a month ago," explained Wilson. "He said fate has always been his mentor, and I kind of like that phrase. Yeah, just that things kind of happen. I don't really think about it that much."
Mitchell added, "I believe in tether your camel and leave the rest to God. There's so much you can do, and then whatever's going to happen is going to happen, which I guess is fatalistic."
So what would she think if someone told her they saw a face appear on a wall? "I don't disbelieve in anything," answered Mitchell. "That wouldn't be my fantasy, to see the face of Jesus in a cinnamon bun, but some people would get off on that and why not? And why would that be impossible? I've never seen the Shroud of Turin. I've like never had a similar experience, like being close to any of those miracles. But I do find that sort of pursuit interesting."
It wasn't the 'do you believe in miracles' theme that snagged Wilson when he first heard about Henry Poole is Here. "I liked the script a lot. I mean, obviously, I guess I do more comedies so I just read the script and I liked it. It seemed like something different. I liked the idea of playing a guy that's kind of given up hope. That seemed like kind of an interesting place to start a movie, with a guy that's just kind of trying to fade away. I thought that was kind of interesting. And then he kind of keeps getting drawn out. I just thought… I mean, I kind of like go back to comedy because there's something kind of humorous to me and kind of touching about a guy that moves in between these two strong women who just kind of keep drawing me out of my shell."
The script didn't read like a comedy. Instead, Wilson says it's just where his mind took the story. "There was stuff that was funny, but I don't know. That's just my first instinct is to go to that, to think about stuff like that. I mean it had humorous aspects, but it read definitely more like a drama."
Although the film could be considered a message movie, Mitchell sees it as a story of human relationships and how we can heal each other. "I think it has a positive message in that sense. It's nice to tell a story that offers something to the world, rather than commenting on it from a distance in some snide way. That's definitely interesting. But what I really liked about it was the sort of unfabulousness of all the characters, and just how sweet they were and how vulnerable they were. I think Mark was very clear that he wanted it to feel very real. And as much as there is a comedic tone to it, that he wanted it to be based in this sense of real people – not movie people. And that was interesting to me," said Mitchell.
Wilson agreed. "I never think in those terms. I really don't. I just kind of think about the story. From my perspective, that's not a good way of trying to go about it – to think of trying to get a message across. You know what I mean? I just have enough to think about, just trying to play the character."
As the story moves forward, the relationship in the movie between Wilson and Mitchell changes from strangers to friends to something a little more intimate. Mitchell says it was a matter of a few rehearsals and just sticking to the script in order to make the relationship believable on the screen. Wilson added, "It was just one of those things where it was kind of written well enough to where it was just that if we kind of played the scenes, it would come across. It was one of those things where it just kind of built up in a logical way, too. Just the way from our first meeting to kind of getting to like each other more, to Henry having to open up to her and say he cares about her too much to where he then tries to shut himself off again."
Not only does Wilson's relationship with Mitchell change and evolve in Henry Poole is Here, his relationship with her intelligent yet silent daughter, Millie (played by newcomer Morgan Lily), also develops over the course of the movie. They say don't work with kids or animals, but Wilson didn't mind sharing the screen with Lily. "I have worked with kids before. I've done My Dog Skip and stuff like that – which is a kid and a dog. I haven't done a lot, but I was very conscious of just trying to get to know Morgan. It was her first movie and she's obviously very young so that can always be kind of tenuous. It's overwhelming just for me to be on a set, and you get a child on a set and there's so much going on… But Mark Pellington the director was really good with her. He has a daughter about her age and he was very sweet with her. And yeah, you just want to help them kind of concentrate and focus. But she was nice and such a sweet little kid. It was a very relaxed set. As heavy as some of the material was, it was kind of a nice, tight-knit crew. And yeah, she did a great job."