I recently got the chance to talk to Matthew Wolf about his role in ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins’. Here, Matthew talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and what a Matthew Wolf day usually consists of…
Hey Matthew. Thanks for taking the time out to speak to me – ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins’ is currently on DVD right now!
What is the general plotline surrounding the film?
Well, it’s basically about a guy who needs to reconnect with his family. For some reason his father sends Tom Popper six penguins! He’s desperately trying to get rid of them, but when his children and ex-wife show up to celebrate his son’s birthday, the kids bond with the penguins! The thing is, Matt, just as in life, it often takes extremes before we understand where we are going wrong, or to realize what needs attention in our lives. The film has a good heart.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Well in truth, the role I played doesn’t feature that heavily. It wasn’t the biggest job I’ve done for sure, but it was a fun one to do…I am basically the crazy guy in the Antarctic that is sending Jim Carrey penguins! There is a misunderstanding over the phone with him about the penguins and I send him even more.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Like many jobs in this business, it came through a recommendation, and ultimately an audition that I gave. They liked what I did…I got the job. Isn’t that nice!
The film stars the wonderful Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond and Clark Gregg – with Mark Waters at the directing helm – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I only really dealt with the director, the brilliant Mark Waters. But I’ll say this…when you know you’re up there with actors and a crew of that caliber, you better bring your A-game, otherwise you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
If you had six penguins delivered to you – what would you do with them?
First try to make friends with them, shake hands maybe…? I don’t know, I suppose I’d first wonder if there wasn’t a hidden camera and Ashton Kutcher around the corner…”Dude, you just got totally Penguin Punk’d”!! I’d call a zoo I guess…
Let’s talk a bit about you Matthew. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
It’s always been a fun thing to do, as a young boy….then, as I’ve grown up the fun has become something more… I’m always so fascinated by the sensation of being someone else, with a completely different set of circumstances to myself, whether it’s playing someone with massive status and money, or just an average Joe. I think so much of wanting to do that is tied in with insecurity and a person’s sense of identity. Things get hidden, blocked out in playing someone else. I think the longer you do it and the older you get, the less you hide of yourself and the better actor you become. I’ve got a way to go!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting?
Stay on Fountain! No, that’s a quote from someone else asked the same question years ago, but it’s a good answer for LA. Although maybe it’d be “Stay on Lexington” now, coz too many people know to stay on Fountain these days! I was once given a small but significant piece of advice by Michael Caine…he said: “Go into theatre first, or you won’t know timing from a live audience”. It’s simple but sound advice and I’m happy to pass it on here. And it can’t be stressed enough how vital it is to have great head shots…or put it this way, if you have bad head shots you’ll get no shots! And always be open to learn from those who have gone before you.
You’ve had a number of different roles on a range of different mainstream projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?
I’ve worked a lot with British actor Martin Jarvis, who is really my mentor. He is a wonderful actor and an undisputed master radio performer and director. He has directed me in many radio productions, and when Martin makes a suggestion, it is always better. That’s a gift in a director and should be respected by an actor. I also spent four months in a theatre production working with a director called Simon Cox, and I always remember that one of the things he would say was “Come on stage, say your line, then fuck off!”…which is funny of course, but it’s also a really important lesson for an actor…not to make a meal of anything, keep it simple, truthful, never ‘over guild the lily’ as they say, and get on with it (especially in television!).
What does a Matthew Wolf day usually consist of?
I always tend to have a lot going on, even if I have nothing going on, if you know what I mean! I must enjoy that speed of life for whatever reason. I have auditions, I do voice over jobs, I read the news online, and spend a lot of time sending emails about projects I’m producing through a production company I set up a year or so ago called Screenarts Entertainment. Every day brings new information, so there’s never a dull moment!
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
In fact, I just read an article in a magazine called Popular Science (I love that kind of thing) about a woman who seems to have discovered that there are certain life forms that can use Arsenic to survive in place of Phosphorus which all life forms need. It has been a controversial discovery that many dispute, but she and her team continue to gather the evidence. I just like the significance of it in terms of extra-terrestrial life in environments previously thought of as uninhabitable…I think complacency and arrogance are fatal to progress in any walk of life, so it appeals to me because if she’s right, it shows that we have so much more to discover and understand.
We should mention that you’re not only an actor, but a voice-over artist as well – which has been your favourite character to do a voice for and why?
Yeah, I do a fair amount of voice-overs. Well, one of my favourites has to be ‘Thor’, which isn’t a game, but an animated feature I did for Marvel. We did two in fact. There was a lot of pressure playing the God of Thunder, to get it right and keep the fans happy, as the character is really theres. You can’t please everyone, but I think it didn’t do too badly. It was fun playing the younger Thor in the second film, getting inside the mind of a teenager from a wealthy and powerful family, arrogant and adventurous.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12? I hear you’re currently in post production a few projects, and you’re also in ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ – which looks fantastic.
Yes, working with v on that for the short time that I did, was a lot of fun. The trailer looks good and I have no doubt it’ll hit the mark…Fincher is a master. I’m doing a film shooting in Cincinnati in January with Sir Ben Kingsley that I’m excited about. It’s a great role for me and he’s just phenomenal. There are always a few things in the pipeline… it’s just a question of how good a plumber you are!
Thanks for the interview!