Interview – Tom McCarthy – Win Win

BN: I think that is what I found most interesting about the character Mike, is that while he does make that decision or decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with, he is put in a position that is very real and becoming more common considering America’s current economic situation. I feel a lot of Americans are being put into similar situations where they may have to make similar choices.

TM: In that case, this is less a movie about what has happened, or happening, but what is going to happen. Things aren’t going to easier. People are going to be struggling for the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years now. How do we make these decisions gracefully, responsibly? Because, look, as adults we can get away with a lot, honestly. And I think, again, that is what’s so compelling about Mike. He saw an opportunity, and in some weird way he rationalized it. Now if he sat his wife down as a partner and said, “Here’s what I’m thinking about.” She might say, “No, don’t do that. Think about this.” And he would say, “Yeah, you’re right. Okay, I see.” But, in his mind, in the pressure and fog of war, a little bit, he made a decision. He knew the state was going to take him [Leo Poplar] and get it. So he thought, why not take it off the table? A Shopping Network, spur of the moment decision; I can make this work. I think when he sees it in the cold light of day down the road, he’s got to answer to that. And again, to me, that’s interesting.

BN: It is interesting. I think it’s also interesting that you’ve created a story where earning money is just as important to the character as everything else that’s going on. It’s the most important. There are so many films, especially in the independent drama realm, where the monetary aspect of providing for a family is typically left out.

TM: That’s really interesting. I didn’t think of that. You’re right. I think that just keeps coming back around. We’ve had some people come to us and say, “I don’t think he’d do that for fifteen hundred dollars a month.”

BN: That aspect is something that crossed my mind as well.

TM: Some people who I read the script to, that were, to be honest, wealthier people, they were like, “c’mon, you’ve got up the stakes a little.” It’s got to be more money. And then some people would be like, uh, I’d do it. That’s probably his mortgage, or his health insurance, or a part thereof. And really, that number alone is enough. I have a lot of friends, I say to them, “How are you doing?” and they respond, “Nothing that fifty thousand dollars wouldn’t take care of.” People are just trying to get themselves out, and they’re feeling that weight saying, “God, if I could just ease that credit card debt that would help ease all my pressures.” Money is not the answer, but it sure can cause a lot of problems. That’s something that Joe and I kept talking about, was that enough? What’s the right amount? Let’s figure out mortgage. What did he buy the house at? Then, what did he ever hope to sell it for? What happened to the property taxes? We were kind of figuring out what was going to ease his strain just enough. What would make him go, “okay”? If it’s a huge number he might not have done because then it would start to feel different. It’s got to be just the right number where it’s just tempting enough for him to grab. It’s the apple, right? That was something we played a lot with, and it ties back into the reality of it.

BN: One of the things I enjoyed most about this movie was, it started off like a typical sports movie and then it does not move in that direction at all. It almost abandons the sports movie motif at a certain point. Was that something you always intended to do with this film, or was that something that developed along the way?

TM: I maybe would’ve guessed that would happen. I knew I was sort of playing with the sports genre in the storyline in the movie. But, I also knew that through my lens, through my filter, that would become something different and I was excited to see what that would be. Sometimes you don’t even know. As a writer you’re not even conscious of what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s like, well, this is going to be interesting to see what my version is. And I think it is my version of that. Is there a part of me that wished it would’ve ended up in happy climactic sports moment? Sure, absolutely. But emotionally and intellectually that’s not where the heart of the movie lies.

BN: I think the movie is better served that way.

TM: I think so, too. What the wrestling provides in this movie, which I’m really proud of, is it’s like a nice little adrenaline jolt. It just has that primal sports thing. A friend of mine is an author in New York, and she wrote me this email and basically said “I didn’t even know wrestling still existed. I thought it was gone with the Romans.” But she said she was so into it by the end. And that’s what we want to do, provide energy and humor throughout the movie. It’s almost addictive to audiences. They really start to like those scenes. I know when I’m watching it I can feel that, and that’s in a house. So to abandon that was sort of like, okay, now we’re going to let it go, we’re not going to go where they think it is. There’s always that point. You don’t want to tease an audience too much. I agree with you. I feel that’s where the movie had to go. Sometimes as a writer you have to disciplined, in that sense. As a filmmaker I have to be true to this world and these characters.

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Benjamin Nason is a writer, film-maker and critic from the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his cat Lulu.

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