While people often tend to drift from their friends as they settle into marriage and raising their own families, often times there’s a certain connection that will always keep them bonded together, no matter what happens to their relationships. In the new dark comedy, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ actor and producer Patrick Wilson’s character intriguingly and amusingly thrives on the fact that the murder of the title character’s spouse not only has his friends working together to cover up the crime, but it also makes all of their lives better. The movie, which marks the feature film directorial, writing and producing debuts of Wilson’s brother-in-law, Scott Foley, who also stars in the comedy, both intriguingly and amusingly plays on the sympathies of the characters as they contend with the emotional abuse Ward’s wife gives them. That captivating mix powerfully emphasizes Wilson’s thoughts that since the film’s story is absurd and isn’t based in any reality, audiences will love to hate Ward’s wife.
Now playing on VOD and iTunes, as well as in select theaters, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife’ follows the tile character (Donald Faison) as he tries to contend with the emotional abuse he regularly endures from his wife, Stacy (Dagmara Dominczyk), which has only become worse since the birth of their son. While she doesn’t find anything wrong with belittling her husband, even in front of his friends, including Tom (Foley), David (Wilson) and Ronnie (James Carpinello), he becomes increasingly more determined to find a way to stop her abuse and enjoy his life again.
After Ward’s friends joke around about how much all of their lives would be if they killed Stacy and never dealt with her spiteful attacks again as a result, David determinedly sets out to find ways on how to get away with murder. While Tom and Ronnie later rebuff David’s further suggestions they go through with their impromptu plan, Tom accidentally does end up killing Ward’s wife during a party, after she harrasingly questioned him about his own marriage. While Tom and even Ward then contentedly follow some of the suggestions David found online to hide Stacy’s body, Ronnie is the only one who expressions serious doubts about their cover-up of the crime. Despite his constant concerns, the friends genuinely seem happier now without Stacy in their lives, even though their participation in her death will now forever threaten their futures.
Wilson generously took the time recently to discuss starring in, and producing, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the film and theater actor and producer discussed how he was drawn to be involved in the comedy because it showcases Foley’s intriguing dark and dry sense of humor, which is a side he hasn’t truly shown yet in his career; how they worked to emphasize that David at one one point had a potentially successful acting career, but now that he’s shown that he’s not a good family man or actor, coming up with a way to conceal Stacy’s murder gave him something to be passionate about; and how the dark comedy’s tone helps showcase the fact that David is almost sociopathic in his obsession in finding ways to get rid of the body.
ShockYa (SY): You play David in the new comedy, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ which marks the feature film writing and directorial debuts of your brother-in-law, Scott Foley. Was the chance to work with Scott on a family and friends-driven film about how they bond during a time of crisis what initially attracted you to the character? What was it about the character in general appealed to you overall?
Patrick Wilson (PW): When I first read the script, I felt like i was so different from anything I’ve seen Scott do. He’s my brother-in-law, and I’ve known him for about 10 years. I feel like unless you know Scott, you don’t know his dark and dry sense of humor. This is something he’s so passionate about. I know he was the man to direct it. Actually, there was a time he didn’t even want to act in, and I was like, “You have to be in it.”
So my main goal is to do whatever I could to help make the film. If that meant me just being in it, or just producing it, great. I wanted to do whatever I could to help him see it through. When I first read the script, I didn’t even care which part I would play. I felt that if I could help out, I would do it.
SY: What was the process of working with Scott as not only the film’s writer and director, but also one of your co-stars? Were you able to discuss your characters’ history and backstories together before you began filming?
PW: As far as my role goes, Scott and I did work on my character, David, quite a bit. There’s a stereotype of the L.A. actor that we used for David. He may currently be out of work, but may have used to be on a hit TV show. Now he doesn’t feel as though he has a purpose. He’s not a great father or husband, and he hasn’t been much of an actor.
What the death of Ward’s wife does is give him a purpose, and becomes something he’s passionate about. So we had to build a character from a guy who doesn’t have a purpose, to someone who thinks, I’m not just going to come up with one plan, but I’m going to come up with nine plans. So that was the goal with David.
Once everyone else was on board, I knew we would all understand each other’s sense of humor, because we’re all friends and family. We were all also able to help Scott see his vision through.
SY: David is the main character who’s extremely interested in going through with the plan to kill Ward’s wife, Stacy, and even humorously researches ways to dispose of bodies online. With the film’s subject being so serious, why did you feel it was important to incorporate dark comedy into not only your character, but also the story overall?
PW: Well, audiences have to know the whole time that this is a dark comedy, otherwise we’re dead in the water. The whole story is absurd, and a lot of that is shown through the way my real-life wife plays Stacy. You have to love to hate her. If you feel bad about what happens to her because she’s a mother, then we failed at our goal. (laughs) You have to see this isn’t based in any reality, as they’re absurd characters. Within that, they can have their own reality. All these characters become better people because of Stacy’s death.
But the trick of dark comedy is understanding its tone the entire time. That’s why David is almost sociopathic in his obsession in finding ways to get rid of the body. Ronnie, meanwhile, is upset about their plans. So everyone has their own journey, and the characters come out better a the end.
SY: Speaking of Ronnie, he appears to be the only friend in the group who harbors any remorse or guilt over their involvement in their cover-up of Stacy’s murder. Why did you feel it was important to have at least one character have doubts about their actions?
PW: Well, I always felt like Ronnie was the emotional voice of the movie. I think you need to have one person who calls everyone out, and see the situation for what it really is-the seriousness of murdering someone. From the beginning of the film, Ronnie’s very confident. So of course, the death has to hit him the hardest. You can’t have him only be kind of sad; you have to to have him be weeping and out of control, in order for it to be funny.
The trick with dark comedies is that you have to make the characters’ personalities be big, or otherwise they feel flat. I feel like Brits can do it very well, but Americans have more difficulty with it, as our movies tend to be more earnest. So we strove to go big with this film. (laughs)
SY: The movie was shot independently on a short shooting schedule. Did filming the comedy independently influence the way you approached your job as not only a producer, but also as one of the main actors?
PW: Not really-you don’t’ really approach playing your characters any differently, just based on the film’s size. If anything, when you’re making a movie in such a short amount of time, it focuses you, as you know you’re only going to have one or two takes before you move on. So everyone had that same spirit, which was to go in prepared. We didn’t have much room for improvising, because we had to move through the scenes quickly and efficiently.
My usual experiences on the smaller and independent movies is that the work environment can often bring out the best in people. In those circumstances, you’re forced to make decisions quickly, and you have to stick with them. The first time I remember doing that was on (the 2005 crime drama thriller,) ‘Hard Candy.’ We shot that movie in three weeks, and I had never filmed a project in such a short amount of time. I feel like those performances are made better because of that schedule, which forces you to move quickly. That’s probably the only difference from having the luxury of time. But truthfully, big budget films never feel as though they have enough time, either.
SY: Besides starring in ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife’ you also produced the comedy through your production company, Rhino Films, with James. How did you and James decide to not only star in the film together, but also produce it? How did serving as a producer and an actor on the set influence each other?
PW: The way that I became a producer on the film was that James and I, along with our other producing partner, Jake, run the production company together. We option projects, and try to get films off the ground. But sometimes projects don’t work out, as we all have lives and a million other things going on. Since it’s difficult to see every project all the way through, we co-produced the film with Scott. It was also something I felt we could manage, and shoot very quickly and efficiently. That’s the production reasoning behind the decision. I also wanted to do it because Scott’s my brother-in-law, and it’s something we wanted to work on together.
The producing didn’t affect the acting at all. I can look at my work pretty objectively. (laughs) So when we were editing, if I didn’t think I was funny, or if my cues didn’t work, we’d cut them. (laughs) That has nothing to do with my role as a producer, but as an actor. I’m not precious about anybody. I don’t think you can be, because you have a story to tell. You have to be removed.
SY: Your wife, Dagmara Dominczyk, as well as her sister, Marika, who’s married to Scott, and James’ wife, Amy Acker, all act in the film, as well. How did having real-life families and friends in a movie about the importance of familial bonding add to the genuine tensions that arise amongst relatives?
PW: Well, it certainly helped with the characters’ history together. I think one of the more exciting things of filmmaking is being with people who really know each other. My wife and I have been in other films together, but we’ve never had the chance to really act together. (laughs) Most of us on this film are friends and family, but have never gotten to work together.
But Dagmara, my wife, and Scott had worked together on a play. James, who has been a dear friend of mine for 20 years, and I haven’t acted together since we performed in ‘Cabaret’ in college, during the beginning of our friendship. (laughs) So I think it was a thrill to be able to work with our friends, spouses or even brother-in-law, as with Scott and I. We were also fortunate that we not only had talent, but the means to work together.
SY: The film is now playing in select theaters in New York and LA, and is also available on iTunes and VOD. Why do you think the VOD platform is beneficial for independent movies like this one?
PW: Not only is it beneficial, but to be honest, it’s the goal. It’s a different marketplace now than it was even several years ago. I had a similar conversation about a movie I did, (the 2010 romantic comedy), ‘Barry Munday.’ The VOD market was extremely different five years ago. If a producer was given a choice of having their film released on VOD or five screens nationwide, they’d go with the five screens, as they wanted to get their film in a theater.
But that’s changed now, for good and bad reasons. It’s much harder to get movies into theaters, and then get them to stay there. With the rise of VOD and really good TV, people are now watching movies on their tablets and TVs. So VOD has become a more viable marketplace for movies.
With ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ VOD was always the goal. We didn’t think, let’s go on 100 screens; we instead wanted to get the best VOD release that we could, with a company that believed in us, and we found that with Tribeca and Well Go USA. There’s no longer a felling of regret over being released on VOD. Movies are now doing really well On Demand, as the platform reaches a wider audience.
I remember watching ‘Little Children,’ and thinking it was a wonderful movie to be a part of making. But it never hit more than 140 theatrical screens. That’s not a lot of people who saw it in theaters. But when a film’s released on VOD, it can reach millions of people. Ultimately, the most important thing is getting your movie out there.
SY: In addition to starring in films, you have also starred on television. What is it about television that you enjoy working on it so much? Are you interested in acting in more TV series in the future?
PW: It’s timely that you ask, as I have a new project coming up that I unfortunately can’t talk about just yet. (It was officially announced two days after Shockya spoke with Wilson that he has been cast as the younger version of Lou Solverson in the anticipated second season of FX’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning crime drama thriller series, ‘Fargo.’)
If it’s the right role, I would absolutely love to do more television roles. What’s funny is that the format of TV shows now, and within the past few years, including ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Fargo’ and ‘True Detective,’ is that they have 10-12 episode seasons. That’s really like what shooting a studio film is like, as you spend about three or four months on both.
The time it takes to film a show appeals to me, as I’m a father and husband first. I have no aspirations to get locked into a long series, and be away from my family; that’s not why I’m in the business. But if the right show came along, and it was going to be shot in a short amount of time and had a great role that I could play, then I’m in.
SY: Besides acting in movies and TV series throughout your career, you have also starred in several theater productions, like you mentioned. If you found the right role, would you be interested in starring in another play in the future?
PW: You said it right there. (laughs) It’s all about finding the right role. Our love of theater is one of the reasons why my wife and I wanted to stay on the East Coast. The hard part of theater is that Broadway is a big time commitment, and takes a lot of planning.
Unfortunately, for me, it hasn’t been that much of a priority right now, as I have ‘The Conjuring (2: The Enfield Poltergeist)’ at the end of the year. So I can’t be in a Broadway show in 2015, because I would have to leave by July or August to shoot the film.
So it’s about finding the right role, and being able to fit it into my schedule. It’s about finding a role in musical theater for a guy who’s 41, and isn’t just a leading man who’s going to only sing one or two songs. (laughs) That doesn’t appeal to me anymore-I want to take on a role that will really push me. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to play some really great roles in the theater. I know I’m too precious about it-I get that from my wife, agent and everybody. (laughs) I know sooner or later I have to dive back in, but it has to be worth it for me.
SY: Speaking of the upcoming ‘Conjuring’ sequel, you have also starred in another recent horror franchise, the first two ‘Insidious’ films. What is it about the genre that you enjoy so much?
PW: Well, it’s funny-if you look at the scope of the 35 or so films I’ve done, only three of them (‘The Conjuring,’ ‘Insidious’ and ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’) have been horror movies so far, or four if you throw in ‘Hard Candy.’ But the main three have all been with James Wan.
‘Insidious’ is the first horror movie that I made, and I just loved it. I loved that when I was only about half-way through reading the script, I hadn’t even gotten to the good part yet. I knew if they did it well, it was going to be a hit, and it was. I had never done a sequel before, but there were prior movies I was in that I did have sequel options for, but we never exercised them. (laughs) But with ‘Insidious 2,’ I thought it would be fun as an actor to revisit the story. My character was possessed and in a different dimension, and I was trying to get back. I thought it was great!
With ‘The Conjuring,’ I thought it was great to explore that character again, as well. I also knew my co-star, Vera Farmiga, before. We love these characters, and they feel very real. They feel different from ‘Insidious,’ and not being the one who’s possessed is a great thing. (laughs)
I feel like we can do several of them, while still being able to do smaller, independent movies that I can take a real risk on. I love being able to do that-going from a Western to a ’60s crime thriller in the same year-that’s fun.
SY: Having seen Scott make his feature film directorial debut with ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ is directing something you’d also be interested in pursuing in the future?
PW: Yes, absolutely. That’s something that my manager and I have looked at for several years. Before ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ it was about figuring out how much of a time commitment it is, and how it occupies you for a year. So it’s always been about finding the right film, and honestly, I have.
I’ve got a script that I co-wrote with Aaron Cooley and my brother that we’re going to shoot in Florida. I’m going to direct and be in it. I won’t be the lead in it, but I will be in it. (laughs) So it’s always been about finding the right project.
I might also direct some theater next year. I’ve always been connected to my alma mater (Carnegie-Mellon University). I also love teaching master classes and helping younger actors. So I’ve always had the directing bug, but I just haven’t exercised it yet.
SY: Besides ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ ‘The Conjuring 2’ and the film you just mentioned that you’re going to direct, do you have any upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss?
PW: Well, I have a film coming out at Sundance, called ‘Zipper,’ and I’m really proud of it. Darren Aronofsky produced it, and Mora Stephens co-wrote and directed it. It’s one of the toughest roles I’ve ever played. It’s about a sex-addicted politician who’s running for office, and it’s pretty intense.
Written by: Karen Benardello