Tom McCarthy wrestles his latest passion project, “Win Win,” to the big screen

Tom McCarthy's idea for “Win Win” was to create a family drama set in the world of high school wrestling, and when it came to casting his unlikely champion, McCarthy faced an unusual question: hire an actor and teach him to wrestle, or hire a wrestler and teach him to act?
BY GEORGE LANG glang@opubco.com Published: April 15, 2011
Advertisement
;

“When we put the movie together for first assembly and we just showed it to seven strangers we invited into the editing room, their immediate reaction early on was, ‘Who's that kid?'” he said. “I was like, all right — we've done something right. People are getting it.”

As a writer, McCarthy tends to favor stories that center on improvised families — both “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor” centered on groups of people brought together by circumstance who become close and essential to each other's lives. “Win Win” follows small-time lawyer Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who is struggling to keep his practice afloat and working after hours as a wrestling coach. After agreeing to handle the estate of an elderly client (Burt Young) suffering from dementia, the man's grandson (Shaffer) shows up in need of a place to live.

McCarthy said that “Win Win” appealed to him as a project simply because it had a different pace and tone than his previous films. Plus, there simply are not that many movies made about high school wrestling.

“I just thought, ‘I haven't seen this — or, at least, in a long time,'” he said. “Maybe ‘Vision Quest' back in '85 or whatever year that was. That was kind of the last time anybody attempted to do it, and it missed the mark a little bit.”

McCarthy lives a kind of double life in movies and television. He is a recognizable character actor in big-budget, mass-market movies. In the past few years, McCarthy appeared in “Little Fockers,” “2012,” “Baby Mama” and “Duplicity,” and he had a showcase role as shady journalist Scott Templeton in the final season of HBO's “The Wire.” When he is working in supporting roles, McCarthy spends a lot of time observing technique and, during his downtime, working on his next directing project.

“There's so much take-away,” he said. “Honestly, with a movie like ‘2012'... movies like that are made slow. I was in Vancouver for four months. So, outside of taking some incredible walks and eating some great meals, I had a lot of time to write and focus on my work.

“So that, to me, is a ‘Win Win' situation,” McCarthy said.