Matthew Broderick has been a working actor since the age of 17 when his father, James Broderick, got him his first role. Since then has won two Tony Awards – as Best Actor for Brighton Beach Memoirs and Best Actor (Musical) for a revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and was nominated as Best Actor (Musical) for The Producers. Broderick is married to Sarah Jessica Parker of the Sex and the City franchise and they co-parent three children.
Broderick’s latest film is Wonderful World in which he plays Ben Singer, a failed children’s folk singer living a life of quiet desperation. He gets stoned every night and plays chess with his Senegalese roommate Ibou, played by Michael Kenneth Williams. Ibou’s life-threatening illness, along with the influence of Ibou’s sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan), changes Ben’s outlook, very slowly transforming his despair, hopelessness, and cynicism into a more positive outlook.
Mirror: You looked very rumpled in the film. Was it fun to play such an unkempt guy?
Broderick: Yes, it was fun. The look is basically Josh (director Josh Goldin). He always has stubble, same hair, and same clothes. I think, whether consciously or not, he wanted me to look like him.
Mirror: What’s the first thing you look for in a script and what attracted you to this part?
Broderick: I’m not sure, but the first question is do I want to keep reading it to find out what happens? Then you think about the part and whether it’s something you think you could do well. Then you have to consider the director and a whole host of other things.
Mirror: Did you have a bias because of your close relationship with Josh?
Broderick: I read it knowing it came from my friend, but I thought it was very original and kind of a quiet script, but very thoughtful and funny. I liked it and thought it was worth doing.
Mirror: Are you by nature someone who sees the silver lining, or was it easy to relate to such a depressed character?
Broderick: I was able to relate to him because I know what it is to feel lonely or disconnected from the world. Personally, I don’t like being overly positive about things. I don’t think that’s helpful. Ben’s view of the world is definitely skewed and his behavior becomes selfish. He interprets everything through his lens and there are no gray areas. But the fact that he has a daughter forces him to improve because his pessimism is affecting her.
Mirror: What effect does his roommate have on his life?
Broderick: Ibou really enjoys Ben and does push him along to some degree. When Ibou’s sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) arrives after Ibou gets sick, she helps Ben develop a different point of view. My character does not have huge transformations, but by changing his outlook slightly, he begins to develop hope.
Mirror: Did you do your own guitar playing?
Broderick: That was movie magic. I was never able to fake the guitar. I took some lessons, but was never very good at it.
Mirror: Are you most comfortable in theatre or film?
Broderick: Right from the beginning of my career I did both and like both, but if I had to pick, I would have to say I’m most comfortable in theatre.
Mirror: You have been a very successful star for a long time. What’s the biggest challenge you face as a husband and a father?
Broderick: Well, I don’t really know how you do the father thing. You just do it and make it up as you go along. I love being a father, but I don’t have any advice to give. It’s challenging and changes every day. I guess you can say the same with regard to marriage. I’m very lucky whom I ended up with. It’s getting to be a pretty long time.
Mirror: As parents we learn a lot from our children. Is that true for you?
Broderick: Well, the other day my son said, “Can I just say something?” I said, “No, I know what you’re going to say.” He then said, “Is it always possible to know what somebody’s going to say before they say it?” I said, “No, I guess it isn’t, so o.k.”
Mirror: How’s it going with the twins?
Broderick: They had colds over Christmas and woke up every two hours or so coughing. It was absolutely exhausting. But, we have help. Twins can be very difficult and you can’t handle them alone. I guess you can, but I can’t. It’s really hard because one hears the other cry and starts crying. They are now sleeping through the night and luckily they are very easy babies.
Mirror: What is the best advice your dad ever gave you?
Broderick: Gosh, he gave me so much. I remember once I didn’t get the job and he said, “You think you messed up, right? Why didn’t it occur to you that they might have messed up and you were the best one, but they didn’t recognize that.” That sounds obvious, but you forget and just think that the people on the other side of the desk made the right decision and you either failed or passed. But the truth is they don’t always cast the best person.
Mirror: What cheers you up?
Broderick: To connect to other people. I’ve done everything to help change my attitude including reading books, watching plays, listening to smart people, and seeing a psychiatrist.
Mirror: Are you into clothes like Sarah?
Broderick: I’m very interested in watching her create outfits and she loves it. But I’m old fashioned, in that I like to look nice as a frame for the woman. As a man, I don’t like to be too flashy.
Mirror: Is it difficult to buy gifts for Sarah?
Broderick: Yes, it’s hard to buy her stuff and I don’t think I would give her clothes (laughter). But, still, it’s different when you receive a gift from someone who loves you vs. receiving a gift from Prada.
Mirror: What are you hopes for 2010?
Broderick: I’m not a resolution-maker or anything like that. I hope the sky doesn’t fall down or something. Everything is so scary. I hope things go well for everybody.
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