Hamish Linklater was feeling talkative when I called him earlier this month, but I get the feeling he’s always feeling talkative. The 35-year-old actor was making the rounds to talk about his role in Miranda July’s The Future, in which he plays July’s very July-ian boyfriend Jason (they have matching haircuts). It was a role he says he “stalked” her for. After that, he segued directly into Peter Berg’s tiny movie about a battleship, and he’s currently starring in the Off-Broadway play School of Lies. Here are some entertaining and slightly off-beat tales from Linklater, who’d just returned from seeing a psychic when we spoke.
I heard you had a pretty emotional experience at the psychic. Yeah! It was such an actor morning because it was like, “Well, I’ll do therapy and then I’ll call the psychic and squish in a little voiceover audition in between.” That’s like your perfect morning. And then of course, I spend like two hours sobbing to the universe and the future, all those past lives. And then I’ve got to go say hi to magazines with my eyes all swollen up like I’ve been stung with bees.
Do you go to the psychic often? No! Certainly not, this was like my first time. I didn’t know how rewarding it would be. I’m turning 36 this year, so maybe that felt like I should find out if I’m going to die soon and get my affairs in order.
Well it seems like this is the perfect time for you to have been in The Future. Exactly! I texted Miranda before and was like, “I’m about to talk to the psychic in ten minutes,” and she’s like, “Where are you, can I come?!” and I was like, “No you can’t come, it’s mine!” and I was just like, “I’m just going to ask what The Future’s domestic box office will be and that’ll be it.” But that never came up, I totally forgot because it was more about me. She loves a good psychic, she’s an aficionado.
Did you take the cue from her to go? I think she was talking about it and it whetted my appetite.
What was your relationship with her prior to the film? Um, you know, sort of like avid rabid stalker fan to genius artist gorgeous lady. That was the relationship. When I heard about the script I told my agents I was going to fire them if they didn’t get it for me. It’s pretty bold, but I sent her a love letter, I sent her all this crazy material, I sent her chapters from my unfinished, unpublishable memoir, and then eventually wore her down, and she agreed to meet me for coffee, and then a month later an audition, and then years later she gave me the part. But it took a long time and all the effort I had in my body.
What did you like so much about her work? Because of the first movie and then her short stories, too. And also the script for The Future, it’s just really rare when you get a script with a voice that’s so clear, and you can, and it’s also very intimidating when the voice is so clear and you know how it’s supposed to sound and you can sort of see the scenes. You’re trying to figure out with a script like this how to be the silky glove that can fit on that kind of hand. It’s a very beautifully fingered hand. That’s a wonderful metaphor.
Was it difficult to be working with someone who’s the star of the film and also the director? Yeah, sometimes I would ask if she was off camera, I would be like, “You know what, can I just do the scene with the stand in instead,” because it’s a little hard looking at your director and writer, and boss ,and saying, “I love you so much,” We had this really long take where she was off to the side and it was like the very end of the movie, and she was like, “You just have to look at me with total openness and total giving of yourself and you just realized you really love me,” and I kept looking over and she’d be like, “Ugh, oh, ugh, no,” and you just see her face shrinking up.
What kind of things did you do together to bond? I took her to a Clippers game and made her eat a burrito, and we shouted at the players. It was so empty the players could really hear us. And she came to the playground once to hang out with me and my daughter, but I think that was a little sandier than she expected.
And you lost a bunch of weight to play the role? It was so funny, Miranda totally didn’t realize she kind of hired her male, but not more masculine, doppleganger. And then we were working on what we were going to do with my hair, and she was like, “Oh my god, I hired my twin all of a sudden! But I think that works, that works!” I went to a trainer and I tried to just get as close to twinning up with her as much as possible.
And you’re happy with how everything turned out, now that you’ve seen it? I’ve never been prouder, I can’t believe it; I can’t believe that she swooped down and picked me up and put me in this picture and it came out so beautifully.
How’s your experience with School for Lies been? Just great. It’s a really funny play, and it’s a really funny cast and we love each other a lot.
Tell me about your friendship with your costar Mamie Gummer. Awesome. I’ve basically been trying to get an invitation to her wedding, which she has been refusing to give me. So then I’ve been making her go out drinking every night to make her gain a lot of weight so she won’t fit into her wedding dress as my revenge. But now she’s finally relented and given me a ticket to the wedding, which I like to call a ticket instead of an invitation, and now I don’t know what to do. I’m going to have to change hats and turn into her personal trainer because she is not fitting into her dress in that condition. I need to cut her off from the booze, from the wings, from the pigs in a blanket.
How do you go from doing a film like The Future to doing a film like Battleship? Pete Berg, the director, is like one of the great directors of all time, so it was just awesome. It was three weeks of shooting a two hundred million dollar movie in Hawaii, which really doesn’t kill one’s soul as it turns out, it makes you feel kind of good. The way Pete works is so visceral. He came up as an actor and has worked in every department on a film set, and probably to be in the crew for Pete is not so awesome, because he’s always screaming, “You lazy bastards, faster, faster, these actors are in a zone you will never even approach,” which makes you feel like you should get in the zone too, as an actor. But then there’s like four cameras rolling and he’s screaming at you all the time, and it’s just like go, go, go, and it’s all just action.
How was working with Rihanna? I only had one day with her, and I think I made her laugh a couple of times. She’s pretty ferocious and gorgeous. I actually was so square that I had heard of Rihanna but I didn’t know her music or anything, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t terribly intimidated. Not knowing her or being a huge fan before, just sitting across from her, like just a stranger, like if she was on a subway and she was anonymous, she would be the person you would look at on the subway. She glows with some fierce mischievous beautifulness.
And did you have any other fun experiences on that set? I was the NASA guy, so I had huge amounts of exposition, so everyday it was like some new thing they had sort of Wikipedia’d the science of, and I would get this new mouthful of craziness each day. And Pete likes playing with the props, and the rain would come in and we’d be sitting in a jeep with the rain pounding down, and he’s playing with the shot gun and he’s like, “Let’s just run these new lines I just made up and every time you fuck up,” he would cock the shotgun.
So you liked the big budget? I’m just desperate for someone to hire me again.
And what do you do when you’re not working? Call your agent and say, “How is this happening? Isn’t there anything coming along?” And you pace and pace and you’re pretty much a miserable person to be around, but you spend time with your daughter and that’s pretty good.