“Even though it’s snowing outside, it’s like settling into a warm bath. It is such a cozy, comforting celebration of movies here, and as a film nerd since I was a little kid, I love it,” Wilson director Craig Johnson said, stopping by Deadline’s Sundance Studio to discuss the Fox Searchlight film that hits theaters March 24. Joining him were Woody Harrelson, Lauren Dern, Judy Greer, Isabella Amara and producer Jared Goldman. A Sundance alum, Johnson premiered The Skeleton Twins at the festival in 2014.
Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Daniel Clowes — who previously adapted his own works with films like Ghost World and Art School Confidential — Wilson centers on a lonely, neurotic, misanthropic dog lover (Harrelson) who learns he has a teenage daughter he’s never met, leading him on a misguided quest for redemption. “I play Wilson in the movie, and he’s kind of a gregarious curmudgeon who’s a little over-honest in life,” Harrelson said. “He says things that get him into trouble, but he really is just trying to reach people in his own way.”
Harrelson wasn’t the only one who found a complicated character to play with in Johnson’s film. “In terms of the great good fortune of finding fierce, complicated, flawed, beautiful, funny characters for women, this is an incredible gift, for all of us girls here,” Dern said, echoing past sentiments about her roles in the 2016 releases The Founder and Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women. “Seeing people who are equals, both in their rage, in their want to be loved, in their loneliness, in their vulnerability. For me, you really feel their love story, and know perhaps how dangerous it has been, at times, to have two people feel that deeply together, because there’s never a grown-up in the room.”
“But at the same time, what an incredible love story, to find your soul mate, in a way,” she said.
“I’ve always been a fan of Daniel Clowes’ weird, wonderful, strange world. It’s very, very specific. I owned the graphic novel because I was a fan, and then when I got the script, I was like, ‘Is this the same Wilson? This isn’t about the volleyball in Cast Away, is it?’ ” joked Johnson, recalling his own deep-seated attraction to the material. “I basically begged Fox Searchlight to let me direct it, because I so connected with Daniel Clowes’ world. I’ve kind of been describing it like, for me, I wanted to get on a spaceship and travel to his planet and play around in there, and I’m glad I got a chance to.
To hear more from the Wilson cast, watch Deadline’s video exclusive above.
Actors, directors, filmmakers and special guests visiting the Deadline Studio at Sundance 2017 enjoyed sweet and savory treats, custom cocktails and more at Applegate’s REEL FOOD CAFE. Find out more about Applegate and their mission to change the meat we eat at www.applegate.com.