Interview with Wes Bentley from "The Time Being"
Wes Bentley is most well known for his role as the artistic neighbor, Ricky Fitts, in the 1999 award winning film “American Beauty". You also probably saw him as Seneca Crane in the biggest film of 2012, “The Hunger Games". His latest film called “The Time Being" has been playing in festivals all over the world and was released on VOD on July 23rd. Wes was nice enough to sit down with us and tell us all about the film and what is future in movies looks like.
Wes Bentley: Hey, Nick, how are you doing?
Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: Good, how are you doing?
Wes: I'm doing good.
MRR: Yeah? What are you up to today?
Wes: I'm just doing these phone calls with you guys. I've got actual time in my life right now, so I've been spending a lot of time with my two-year-old son and my wife.
MRR: Good for you.
Wes: We'll see what happens in the day.
MRR: Yeah. It's kind of like the movie you just put out, with your wife and son in that movie. [laughs]
Wes: That's right. Yeah. [laughs]
MRR: First of all, thanks so much for talking to us at Movie Room Reviews. We appreciate your time.
Wes: Thanks for talking to me, too.
MRR: I think most people obviously recognize you from a lot of big movies you've done, including "The Hunger Games" and "American Beauty." But you have so much on your resume. [laughs] Congratulations on such a great career, first of all.
Wes: Thank you very much.
MRR: Today, we're going to talk about this new film. It's called "The Time Being." I watched the film a few days ago. I enjoyed the film and I thought it was well done. I was moved by the character you play, Daniel, who is a struggling artist trying to keep his family together. I was wondering if you would be so nice to give us a rundown of the film for the audience.
Wes: Sure. It's all about Daniel, who is a struggling artist. He has a family -- a wife and a boy. He's had a bit of success in the past and he's looking forward to his next show. He's been working hard on it. The show doesn't go so well. He sells one painting, which is very disappointing. He feels maybe the painting he sold will turn into something more or maybe some commissions, because of a wealthy benefactor, who is played by Frank Langella. He goes to his mansion, only to find out that the benefactor wants him to do favors for him, paid favors, but it's not making art. It's more like surveillance. Daniel can't tell if this benefactor is messing with his mind or only trying to incite feelings in him that make him decide between basically his family and his art.
MRR: I’ve always liked watching Frank in films.
Wes: Oh yeah, he's amazing.
MRR: I've got a few questions here. To me...I don't do this with a lot of people I ask, but, in your opinion, what does the movie title mean to you in terms of the movie itself?
Wes: I struggled with that for a while myself.
MRR: It's an interesting title and I was just wondering what you thought it meant for the film.
Wes: I guess that plays into the theme of the time being in between doing what you want to be doing, what you are spending your time on. It's kind of like an idle hands thing. [laughs] Also, I guess in a sense, without giving away too much, it's a transcendence of time and what happens in people's lives basically. It's what's happening in between your birth and your death. Sometimes that's what I think of it. But I never really knew exactly what they meant by that. Nenad (Cicin-Sain) never said and Richard (Gladstein) never said.
MRR: It's a cool title.
Wes: I like it, too. I just never knew quite what it meant.
MRR: In this film, you are an artist. I don't know if you did any of the artwork or not. Did you do any other or was it painted by someone else?
Wes: Oh, no. No. I'm not that talented. [laughs] There is a scene, where I'm painting on a large canvas. I start the background on a piece that was actually already finished by Eric Zener, who is an amazing artist. He lives up in the Bay Area. He's a friend of Nenad's. He did a lot of the paintings. He and another artist were the two real painters. I just did touches on stuff. I am the worst drawer in the world.
I've never really painted, although I understand you don't have to be a good drawer.
You don't have to be a good drawer to be a painter. So, later in life, I think I might try painting.
MRR: Yeah. You never know. It's like anything. Once you learn a few things, you can do a lot I feel like.
Wes: Yeah, that's what I understand. You've just got to get your palette and all that. I was really getting into it, but it would consume me I think a bit. I'm not quite there yet. I'm not quite ready for that.
MRR: Speaking of that, one line that stuck out for me in the film was spoken by Warner, who is played by Frank. It hit me. He said something about artists not being able to have families, because it gets in the way of their work. Is there any dialogue in this movie that you found prophetic or truthful or anything like that?
Wes: No, although I was really interested in the film, because of that subject. I have my own family and my own struggles with choosing. Sometimes you've got to make choices that support your family. I understood the sentiment of that. Like Daniel does, I understand. It strikes a chord, of course, because everybody wants to be this perfect artist, who only makes great choices and only does the things that are quality. Just from that point, life's not all about that. There is much more to life, when you have a family. Daniel is finding that out in the film. I had already gone through that earlier in my life, before even deciding to have a child. I hear what he's saying, but I had already worked through that myself. [laughs] It was a prophetic note. For me, I would say it was more of a choice to be a family man.
MRR: For a film like this, what's great about it is obviously it doesn't rely on computer graphics or post-editing magic, that kind of stuff. One of the most important things I think about, and tell me if I'm wrong, but I think the cinematography might be the most important part of a film like this.
MRR: Is that where most of the time is spent while filming, is getting all that worked out?
Wes: Yeah, we spend a lot of time. We had an amazing cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. . He is very talented. He worked on "The Master" as well. I think Nenad's focus was mostly on the cinematography. He wanted it to look like every frame needed to be a painting, and he did that well. Had some great frames, great colors, they were very focused on that. It was probably what was attractive about the film, and it turned out great.
MRR: I particularly like the scenes where they were shooting...I don't know how they did it, but they were basically shooting behind the canvas and shooting and painting the canvas.
Wes: Oh yeah. That was a very, very thin canvas that you can't really paint on. There was nothing...We were struggling with making any paint stick on it.
MRR: Yeah, that was pretty impressive, I thought. It was pretty unique because I never had seen it before done in a film.
Wes: Yeah, I like that idea as well. There were a lot of visuals, too, that we just spent a day on, just these slow or high speed visuals. It was a very cool addition to the film as well. A lot of the pupil dilating and stuff like that. We'd always spend a day on that.
MRR: Oh yeah, you're right, especially in the beginning of the film, right?
Wes: Yeah. I think at the beginning and the end of the film there's are scenes like that. I saw the cut that went to Toronto. I don't know if it's a different cut now or not but there's a lot of that in the beginning and end of the film.
MRR: I think that's a more organic way to make movies, when you're not spending 90 percent of the time afterwards, right?
Wes: Right. [laughs]
MRR: That's cool, though. Also with this film, how did you like working with just basically one other actor? There are probably three or four other characters in the film, but you're basically with yourself or with Warner.
Wes: Oh yeah. It was great. We shot all of his stuff up in one location, and he had a house that was right across the street that he was staying at. I'd go over there every morning. I wouldn't go to my own area in that location. I'd go over to his place, he'd cook some breakfast -- some eggs, usually -- we'd run through some lines and we'd just talk. It was powerful spending a lot of time at his place, hanging out and getting some advice. We were close. It was enjoyable to work with him and spend that time with him.
MRR: It's a good film and I'm excited for our audience to see it. Do you know exactly when it comes out? I don't have it written down.
Wes: It's July 26th, New York and LA, and it's on VOD the 23rd of July.
MRR: I know that besides this you've got a few films coming, "Lovelace" coming out with Amanda Seyfried. That's out in festivals right now. What else can we look forward to see from you in the future, Wes?
Wes: I've got a couple more movies to look to. There's a film called "Chavez" which is about César Chavez, the immigration activist. That's coming out in the not too distant future. Then a movie called "Pioneer" that I think they're going to show at Toronto. It's a Norwegian film by the director who did the original "Insomnia." It's a thriller about when Norway discovered oil in the deep, and the saturation divers who had to bring up the oil. Very cool '70s style, American style, Chinatown kind of film. They did a great job with.
I've got a couple more that I'm very excited about. They're further away in the future, and they'll probably also be festival films.
MRR: Thanks so much for talking with us. I really appreciate it. Your new film “The Time Being” is a great film. Our audience will be lucky to check it out.
Wes: Thanks, Nick. I appreciate you calling.
MRR: No problem. Take it easy today.
Wes: Take care, you, too.