Santa Monica resident Luke Wilson is starring in Henry Poole Is Here, a modern-day fable written by Albert Torres that explores faith in the existence of miracles. Directed by Mark Pellington, who suffered his own personal tragedy, Poole (Wilson) is given some life-altering news by his doctor and, while some people might, for instance, take that special trip of a lifetime, Poole decides to hole up in a run-down house in the blue-collar neighborhood in which he grew up.
Much to Poole’s chagrin, spending his days in isolation, surrounded by an unending supply of vodka and Krispy Kremes, is not exactly in his karmic cards due to his meddling neighbor Esperanza, played by Adriana Barraza, whom one may remember from her stunning performance as the housekeeper in Babel.
Esperanza is convinced that the water stain on the back of Poole’s house is actually the face of Christ and possesses miraculous healing powers. A variety of miracles unfold throughout the film as the image of Christ becomes more pronounced, constantly testing Poole’s resistance.
Mr. Wilson recently spoke with the Mirror about the film and various other subjects.
Mirror: What were some of the emotional challenges in developing your character?
Wilson: It was kind of all there on the page. It’s about conveying what’s written, and I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think I could do it. But then, sometimes you wonder, can you get the point across. I tend to think about Old Yeller if I have to get emotional and that helps.
Mirror: Was there an emotional residue when you finally finished the film?
Wilson: Yeah. It was kind of a long shoot and I was in almost every scene. We all got worn out. We shot a year ago and it was hot. I remember heading down to La Mirada and was in a traffic jam and thought it was great because it wasn’t my fault that I was late.
Mirror: What attracted you to the project?
Wilson: It has a lot of heart. I also liked the idea of playing a guy who had given up and just wanted to fade away. Also, when I read I think about the other characters besides mine and I liked all the other characters.
Mirror: What was the process? Did you create a back story?
Wilson: We rehearsed a lot and also got together and just talked. My experiences with other movies is that a lot of times you don’t get to rehearse much because there’s so much going on with the director who is trying to work out all the details. So, you just show up and do it. But this was different. I learned from an earlier draft that Henry was married, that his dad had died and his mom was kind of his boss. The back story is always fun.
Mirror: Did you like the faith transitions Henry goes through?
Wilson: I thought it was kind of interesting that Henry was forced into believing. There are people, who, when something horrible happens, they lose their faith or conversely if something great happens, they suddenly become believers. When something major transpires, it can turn how someone feels on a dime.
Mirror: Do you have a specific method of acting and how do you connect with actors who work differently from you?
Wilson: I never studied acting and don’t have a specific method. One fun thing about working with different actors is you work how they work. Some actors are intense and that can be interesting and some keep it very loose and I like that too.
Mirror: Do you believe in miracles?
Wilson: I’m kind of a believer in fate. I keep getting asked that question, but I just don’t know how to answer that.
Mirror: What’s next for you?
Wilson: I just finished a comedy called Tenure, in which I play a second-rate college professor trying to get tenure. Besides that I don’t have anything lined up.
Mirror: What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Wilson: I like being around my family and being outside. I also like making love in the afternoon.
Mirror: What other directors would you like to work with?
Wilson: All the people I grew up admiring like Oliver Stone and Michael Mann. Then I thought it would be great to meet a talented young unknown director who hasn’t made it yet.
Mirror: Why did you choose to live in Santa Monica?
Wilson: From when I first moved out here, I always liked that part of town. Being from Texas, it was kind of exotic being near the beach. I came all this way, I wasn’t going to stop short of the 405 – I thought I might as well go to the end.
Mirror: What are some of your favorite places in Santa Monica?
Wilson: I always liked Montana Avenue. You know, good coffee shops and places to eat. The Third Street Promenade is always nice and Ocean Avenue. It has a nice neighborhoody vibe to it.
Mirror: Do you have any hobbies?
Wilson: I play a lot of golf, but I don’t really have any hobbies. I should probably pick up a few – healthy ones.
Mirror: Are you involved in politics on any level – local or national?
Wilson: Not really. I am running for something in Santa Monica and you can be the first to break that story.
Wilson: No. I’m just kidding.