Thomas Haden Church moved away from the Hollywood scene three years ago to a ranch in Texas and stays busy writing, directing, and working his land. However the script for "Sideways," combined with the opportunity to work with writer/director Alexander Payne, proved too tempting to pass up.
In "Sideways," Thomas Haden Church plays Jack, a womanizer who is about to be married. Best friend/wine lover Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his buddy on a tour of the wine country as a last hurrah before Jack ties the knot. The two buddies soon find themselves caught in a heady mix of wine and woman, with Jack's upcoming nuptials fast approaching.
INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS HADEN CHURCH ('Jack'):
What's the title of this movie mean to you?
The title of the movie is open to interpretation. We talked about it often. You go through a door sideways. Or the little roads that go off to the wineries in the Santa Ynez valley are sideways of the 101. But its also these little portals that open up, and the experience. These guys are at such a crossroads in their lives. Their lives have been largely defined by failure and you would think the prospect of marriage, which is supposed to be bountiful and hopeful, its just really another kind of tangential thing in his life. I mean, hes so kind of desultory about it even at the beginning. Whenever Miles comes, he cant wait to get away from it. One week away from being married and he cant wait to get away from his new in-laws and his fiancée. And theres actually some stuff that we shot that was cut out of the movie, these very antagonistic phone calls with his fiancée that Alexander [Payne] took out of the movie.
We debated it early on. I never felt the necessity for it because I think you get a sense of that antagonistic [feeling] between [them]. Like the very first moment shes like, We want you to try the cake, and Jack doesnt want to try the cake. He wants to get on the road. And whenever theyre backing out, hes sugary sweet to them saying goodbye and then immediately whirls on Jack and is kind of attacking Jack. Thats the dynamic that exists in his engagement.
How difficult was it for you to tap into that delusional sense of self-justification?
Difficult because my value system couldnt be more diametrically opposed to the characters. I believe in singularity in relationships because youve got to have trust on both sides. Although, having been a guy that has existed in that world Ive lived in Texas exclusively, but I certainly had my run of years in LA and success in television and some in movies. Just being plugged into the industry and seeing how fast and loose people play it, in terms of romance, its almost like a parallel universe. And the rest of the world, unfortunately, sees it like a benchmark or a template of some sort. Especially like the whole J-Lo and Ben Affleck thing. You know, where theyre just so destiny bound? Theyre giving each other multi-million dollar gifts. And then its over and shes pregnant with some other guy! So its like the justification sort of exists already, by virtue of the environment he lives in.
Whats one of the things that makes Alexander Paynes movies so interesting?
Alexander always has this kind of beef for human-kind of tendril that goes through his movies. We comment on it in the movie when were walking away from the golf course and [Paul] says, Were all just pasture animals waiting to be slaughtered. Alexander sees everything as just a struggle against the inevitable, which is death. And however lonely or rote or insignificant its like everything that you dream that it might be and you absolutely campaign and challenge it the whole way. Its completely what About Schmidt was about and it is absolutely what this movie is about. It even to some extent is what Election is about. This guy thats so middle-aged and middle American and middle of the road and he pinpoints this senior and shes where he makes his stand against inhumanity. And he fails. He gets his ass kicked by an 18 year-old girl.
Are you a wine drinker?
No. I mean, like many people I had a brief vocational fling at waiting tables in college. You kind of have to try to learn something about it to knowledgably serve it or make recommendations about it. But no, Im really not. Last summer when we were preparing for the movie, I actually kind of wanted to stay fairly uninformed about it. As we went through the process that we do in the movie, I wanted to be a little wide-eyed. Its a complete new experience for him and one that hes willing to embrace because it serves the larger purpose, which is to hopefully pick up girls with this pseudo-intellectual lexicon of wine aficionados.