Actor Wes Bentley – whose film credits include “American Beauty,” “The Hunger Games” and “P2” – recently spoke with “Breakthrough Entertainment about his role in the new drama “The Time Being.”
In “The Time Being,” which opens Friday, Aug. 2 exclusively at Harkins Shea 14, Bentley plays a struggling young artist who is approached by a reclusive millionaire (Frank Langella) to complete a series of increasingly bizarre surveillance assignments. As he starts to unravel the secrets behind the requests, he must determine if the old man is out to further his career or ruin his life.
Question: What initially attracted you to this project?
Answer: I was attracted to the nature of the struggling artist. Being an actor myself, I was drawn to that because I have been there – especially with having a family and having to decide between whether you are going to do what you think is an artist with integrity by only picking the best things and having to choose to do things that provide for your family and put food on the table. I have had a much easier struggle with that then [my character] has in this movie. He has a much more profound one. But I was attracted to that. And I was attracted to telling the story of an artist in this way – someone who has neither totally failed nor totally been successful.
Q: Tell me more about the artist’s struggle. And how, specifically, were you able to identify with this character?
A: I struggled a bit after I got sober. I wanted to get my career back on track and I had to kind of start from zero. I had to make some decisions that I didn’t always want to make. They are not things that I regret by any means. I am very grateful for them. But I had to choose to do some films that I would not have necessarily done had I not needed to put food on the table for my family. [My character] has to do that in a much more amplified way, having to decide between sticking to the art that he wants to make or making some concessions to sell some art so that he can be a father and and a husband. He has a real struggle with that, which is only amplified when he meets Frank Langella’s character.
Q: So then what did this character teach you about yourself?
A: There was a real connection between he and I. I guess what I took away from him is that I am just so happy and grateful to have a family. I could not be a good actor without my family. I would just not have it in me without my wife and my son. We all think, “If I was alone, I could just do it all by myself.” But that is not how it works. I am lucky to have people in my life who inspire me and make me want to be a better actor. I got that from this film. I also got that I eventually want to paint. I am not a painter but I would love to just do some stuff for myself and not show to anybody – because that would probably be something that you would not want to see. But I would love to paint later in life.
Q: So then is that to say that you did not do any of the painting in the film?
A: I spent a couple of days with the artists who did the real painting for the film. A lot of what I did in the film was build the backgrounds, which is sort of the easiest part of the painting. They would build the front or the focus of the piece. I did not have time to learn how to do that nor would I have had anywhere near the talent that they had. But it was a bit of a trade-off. I would do a little bit of the painting and then they would do more of the detail.
Q: What did you learn from your co-star Frank Langella?
A: I learned a lot from Frank. We actually really clicked on this film. The house that he was staying at while we were shooting the film was right across the street from the set. So every morning before work, I would go in early and he and I had breakfast at his place. We would run through our lines but we would also talk a lot about acting and life. I learned a lot of great things from him. He was very good at sort of explaining, teaching and giving some good pointers. I would go hang out there with him whenever we had time. I love Frank and I loved spending that time with him.
Q: If moviegoers were to take away only one theme or idea from this film, what do you hope that would be?
A: How important people are in your life and how lucky we are to have people we love in our lives. They truly are more than just people who are there to make us feel good about ourselves. They are truly inspiring and already the real core of our being. I would say that that is what I took from it and I would hope that most people take that away, too. We cannot really do the things that we do without the people who we love in our lives.
Q: Finally, what one of your previous films would you want people to check out most? And what future film are you most excited about sharing with the world?
A: There is a role of mine that not many people have seen. It is a really silly comedy but I had the most fun doing it. It was a film called “Weirdsville” with Scott Speedman, who is also going to be doing this HBO show with me. It is this silly stoner comedy but I just had the best time on it. There is another film that I just recently shot that won’t be out for a while but it is called “Things People Do.” It is the most complete character that I have been allowed to play and I am really looking forward to that coming out because I had a great time doing that as well.
Q: My personal favorite film of yours is “P2.” Do you have any insights about that particular project?
A: I love “P2.” We actually shot “P2” right after “Weirdsville” and we had a lot of the same crew. I think that it is a very misunderstood film – or at least the character is. I was not trying to play a cackling madman. I was trying to play a real guy who snaps one night. I had a great time playing that character and doing that film. It is fun to do a film with just a few people, as well. That is a hard thing to do and we had a good time trying.