Roundtable Interview with Tom McCarthy
Director of “Win Win”
Dallas , Texas , March 11, 2011
Presbyterian Outlook: Not many movies include high school wrestling. Was this based on any personal experience?
Tom McCarthy: As a matter of fact, yes. I did wrestle in high school: believe it or not, at 101 and 108.
PO : Really? How tall were you then?
TM: 5’ 4”. I grew six inches in college. It was painful. People didn’t recognize me.
But that’s how this whole thing was hatched with me and my friend (and co-writer) Joe, laughing about our painful experiences. But we met Alex, and he started talking about his regimen, and what he does is a whole ‘nother sport, right? Like there’s country club golfers and pro golfers, and it’s two different games. This kid we cast won the state championship two weeks after we cast him. 119 pounds. 36-0. Demolished everybody. A ridiculously gifted athlete. But his personal regimen is also incredible.
PO : How did you develop the script?
TM: I come from improv., so I just start talking, and develop the character out loud. But I think that goes back to my family, who are a bunch of good story-tellers, and make almost anything interesting and funny. I had to cherry-pick from Joe’s life because I never really did suburbia as an adult. But the pieces came together over a period of time.
PO : What about the slap in the face before the match?
TM: That was actually the brother of my own high school coach who initiated that, but we thought it would be better in the script coming from Alex. Pumped everyone up, you know?
PO : Why do we like Paul Giamatti, even though he embezzled?
TM: I think because he’s vulnerable. Because we see in him what we see in ourselves. We like to think we’re decent people, you know, but human nature is such that every day we wrestle, and you think, “I wish I hadn’t done that,” or “I wish I hadn’t said that.” And I think Paul sets that up in a really believable way. He’s a pretty decent guy—family man, churchgoer, has a job that he actually cares about, he’s not just making money, he’s doing something that actually serves people, meets a need----but he makes a bad call. I don’t think we need to justify it by saying he’s trying to take care of his family. It’s not noble. It’s wrong. And what he does affects everyone else around him. And despite the “R” rating, because of the bad language, there’s a great message here about the strength and power of family, and the mistakes we make, in the name of family, and how we live with that.
PO : What kind of perspective were you thinking about when Paul’s wife finds out what he’s doing, and her reaction to that?
TM: Disappointment. She was angry, obviously, about having the rug pulled out from under her. She expected better from the man she loved. And his seeing that from her was so painful. The person you love most in the world is looking at you like “Who are you?” And the next morning is indicative of that, when he kind of creeps back into his own house, and now, maybe for the first time, feeling that he doesn’t belong there.
PO : So you don’t think of her considering other options, like leaving, or cutting him off, or not speaking…..
TM: Amy’s character is in the kitchen the next morning, thinking about this, as she probably has all night, and it’s “OK. The damage is done. Now we have to protect ourselves.” And she’s right. Her logic is very sound. I hope this movie is funny, but I also hope people see this important point about loyalty. And how sins get passed down in families.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas