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Hesher – Why Rainn Wilson and on screen son Devin Brochu are shell-shocked

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Hesher - Rainn Wilson and Devin Brochu
Paul Forney (Rainn Wilson) and TJ (Devin Brochu) © 2011 Newmarket Films

Rainn Wilson, known for his role as Dwight Schrute, the eccentric paper salesman on TV’s The Office, gets to show of his dramatic side in the new movie Hesher. He portrays Paul Forney, whose wife has been killed in a terrible car accident, leaving him and his 13-year-old son TJ (Devin Brochu) to grieve. Then a strange, unbalanced drifter named Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) comes into their lives and changes them forever.

Rainn and his onscreen son, Devin Brochu, spoke with us about the movie at the press day for the film.

This is an unusual role for you, Rainn, can you talk a little about it?

Hesher - Natalie Portman and Devin Brochu
Nicole (Natalie Portman) and TJ (Devin Brochu) © 2011 Newmarket Films

Rainn: Yeah, it was an amazing opportunity that was offered to me when I was given the script. I was told, ‘They are interested in you for this; do you want to meet with the director?’

I started reading the script and, it sounds like an actor’s cliché, I fell in love with it. I’d never read a script that had so much pain, heartbreak and tragedy in it and, at the same time, so much absurd humor. It was so funny and so sad, sick and dark at the same time. You don’t really know whether to laugh or cry at any given moment.

It was a great opportunity for me as an actor to use my chops in a different way.

How did you get the role of TJ, Devin?

Hesher - Devin Brochu and Natalie Portman
TJ (Devin Brochu) and Nicole (Natalie Portman) © 2011 Newmarket Films

Devin: I went for a regular audition and then I got called back a couple of times. I met with Spencer and then I went to a few sessions where I worked with Spencer, Joe and Rainn. Eventually, Spencer called me and said I got the part. It was a long process.

Rainn: One thing that was great is that we got to have some rehearsals before we went in [to shoot]. So by the time we went into the house and had to be depressed, we kind of knew each other a little bit and we knew what Spencer wanted from the scenes.

Have you watched The Office, did you know who Rainn was?

Devin: I didn’t watch it at first, but then I saw that Rainn was in it and I really liked it a lot

Rainn: Dwight is your dad!

What are the motivations for your characters to let Hesher move into your house, especially the father?

Hesher - Devin Brochu and Natalie Portman
TJ (Devin Brochu) and Nicole (Natalie Portman) © 2011 Newmarket Films

Rainn: I think there isn’t a motivation; I think that it’s part of their condition. I think the father and son are so shell-shocked and in so much trauma and so much denial that this heavy metal guy moves into their garage and they don’t really blink and eye about it. TJ’s a little more with it then Paul is.

Devin: I think I definitely do want Hesher out. but there’s nothing I can do about it and my dad’s not there so he comes in and [takes over].

What was Joseph like on the set, did he stay in character or did he go in and out, because I’ve never seen him play a part like this before?

Devin: Between scenes he was listening to the music and staying in character. I thought it was really cool, I learned a lot from him.

Rainn: I wouldn’t say he was in character the whole time, but close to the character and kind of kept close to himself, in his reality.

Has this been a crazy time for The Office with Steve Carell leaving and these huge guest stars like Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell coming in?

Hesher - Rainn Wilson
Paul Forney (Rainn Wilson) © 2011 Newmarket Films

Rainn: Absolutely, it’s a crazy time. There were a lot of tears shed when Steve left and a lot of amazing guest stars. I got to film with James Spader, who has been a hero of mine for a long time, that was really cool. And now we just have to figure out what season eight is all about. I’m actually going in later this week to meet with the writers and talk to them about it.

What can we expect from Jim Carrey on The Office?

Rainn: Hilarity. I do know that he had a Mohawk and so they had to cover it up, so he’s wearing a hat the whole time. I wasn’t even there for what they shot, so we’ll see if he improvised at all or what they got from him.

What do you think this film teaches people?

Rainn: How great Metallica is! I don’t think it’s a film that teaches people anything. What do you think?

Devin: We have two deaths that are pretty close, and Hesher comes in and tells us life’s not over, there’s still a lot more to live for, so I think it teaches us not to give up.

What do you think it is that makes a movie about these issues entertaining as opposed to just a tear-jerker?

Rainn: I think these people find life in the weirdest way. They are so shutdown and so closed, and of all people to bring them to back to life and to light it’s a tattooed, heavy metal, drugged out guy. I think that’s where the comedy comes from.

I think it’s like life, life can be really sad and life can be really hard, and life can also be absurdly funny at the same time. That’s what I think Hesher captures really well.