Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher and Amy Irving © Fox Searchlight Pictures

When Max Mayer was writing the role of Marty, Beth Buchwald’s (Rose Byrne) arrogant, corrupt, overbearing Jewish father, in Adam, he always had his good friend Peter Gallagher in mind. Gallagher and Mayer have worked together in the theatre many times, and the director felt he was perfect for the role as the father who objects to his daughter’s relationship with Adam (Hugh Dancy), a person suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome.

How is it playing a dad?

Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher and Amy Irving © Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher and Amy Irving © Fox Searchlight Pictures

I’m a dad in real life, I love being a dad, and playing a dad is interesting, because if you are a dad you know that the one thing you care most about in the world is the welfare of your child. Once they pass the age of 12 you are completely screwed. There’s not enough words in the language, it’s like trying to climb up an ice wall with your fingernails.

If the story of Adam took place in the characters’ history six months earlier, Marty would be a genius, he’d be a good father, he’d be like one of Madoff’s pals, he’d be like every other titan that’s getting bailed out and getting their bonuses on Wall Street. He was a white collar criminal – behind ever great fortune is a great crime. He got caught.

How was it working with Rose and Hugh?

I worked with Rose before I worked with Hugh. Soon as we saw each other’s eyebrows we thought, ‘We might be related.’ I’ve been very lucky in my life to work with some great actresses. I’ve worked with Uta Hagen on stage in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I’ve worked with Colleen Dewhurst in Long Day’s Journey into Night, great actresses, there are some people who swim in the same pool as you do, and you can feel it and you know it.

So when I looked at Rose, I thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s got a sense of humor,’ and I could just see that she was a really wonderful actress, and it’s not sexist, but she’s a dame, somebody who’s just complete. And Hugh blew my mind when I saw his performance, because I only saw him at the Cherry Lane Theatre [where they did their scene together] and I thought he was great.

What is your disability and how do you cope?

That’s interesting, I’m very shy and the way I cope with it is I talk way too much, and the way I deal with it is I try on occasion to shut up. One thing I’ve learned as a father is the father’s creed, ‘show up and shut up’. My mother was an amazing lady, she had Alzheimer’s for the last 20 years of her life, she was a poor kid, put us through school, my father’s father was a coal miner, my father worked in the mines, so we were immigrants and my mother barely left the house.

So I never had anybody over at my house growing up, so I was not introduced to a world where people were confident socially. And the freedom I have, and why acting is so important to me is that I disappear when I’m [playing a role] and I have freedom there that I don’t have when I’m in the world. Right now it’s a bit of a performance because I believe in the movie, and it’s really who I am, but I know I’m talking too much, so that’s my thing, I talk too much.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.