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» Funny runs in the family for Haden Church

Role in Easy A is pure John Hughes, but Wings’ Lowell is his mom’s favourite
by Linda Barnard, published on Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church came close to playing Ellen Page’s dad in Juno, but turned down the part for what could be called family reasons.

“I was doing a movie with Ellen (Smart People) and playing her uncle, and (director) Jason Reitman called me and said, ‘Hey, would you think about playing this young actress’s dad?’ I said, ‘Who’s the actress?’ and he said, ‘Ellen Page.’ I said, ‘I’m playing her uncle right now.’ So it didn’t seem like such a good idea, but as a result, I certainly tracked the success of that project.”

J.K. Simmons ended up playing the part of dad Mac MacGuff in the 2007 teen comedy that helped launch the careers of Page, Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the movie.

Church said when he first read the script for the smart teen comedy Easy A, which had its premiere this week at TIFF and opens Friday, he saw the movie as “Junoesque.”

“But it has a different spin,” California native Church, 50, added as he talked to the Star in a Yorkville hotel room. “I love the way it was written. I think the characters speak a little more like high schoolers. So many teen comedies are this clever-a-thon — who can come up with the cleverest thing? It gets to be exhausting.”

Church, whose deep, booming voice is instantly recognizable, plays high school English teacher Mr. Griffith, who’s doing his best to muster some enthusiasm among his students as they tackle Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. One of his students, the good girl who’s quick with a quip, Olive (Zombieland’s Emma Stone), ends up wearing her own version of Hester Prynne’s accusatory A when she spins the school rumour mill to climb the social ladder and ends up being branded a tramp.

Easy A wears its cleverness well, playing clear homage to 1980s teen movie director John Hughes. There is nothing accidental about that, says Church.

“(Director) Will Gluck says Hughes is a major influence and he said to me, ‘Look, man, we’re making a John Hughes movie’ and then sadly, Hughes passed away last year, and so this is a nice little memorial to him, you know. Nobody shied away from it being Hughes.”

Church points to a line in Easy A where his character warns: “You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”

“That’s straight out of The Breakfast Club,” he says. “My character was probably in high school or college when that movie came out and he enjoyed that movie, so why not rip that off?”

Olive also has some amusing opinions about the 1995 Demi Moore movie version of The Scarlet Letter where the buff Moore “took a lot of baths” and spoke with an English accent.

“Man, I’m doing a movie right now with Demi Moore (Sam Levinson’s family wedding comedy The Reasonable Bunch) and she asked me if Easy A was sort of loosely based on The Scarlet Letter and I said, ‘Yes, Absolutely,’” Church says, laughing.

“She was one hot mama in that movie, no doubt about it,” he adds reflectively. “She’s looking pretty foxy today, too.”

Church says Toronto and this festival will always have as special place for him because Sideways had its “big unveiling” here. Church was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the horndog Jack, a groom-to-be who embarks on a trip to California wine country with his neurotic pal Miles (Paul Giamatti) where he drinks deep and cuts a wide swath through local women.

“That was a big privilege to come here,” he says. “Smart People was invited here too.”

Which of his varied characters has he enjoyed playing most?

“I really have to say each of them take a bit of my heart and I invest myself completely in the performances. I don’t mean that to sound like actory bulls--t but I really do. I’m not a character guy and I admire those guys who can completely transform themselves, but I’m not that guy. I go straight at the characters.”

He’s just signed on for Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon and plays Tal Hajus in the fantasy John Carter of Mars, based on the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. But longtime fans will always have a soft spot for Church’s portrayal of lovable lunkhead Lowell Mather, the aircraft mechanic on the 1990s TV sitcom Wings.

“Lowell is my mother’s favourite character,” he says. “She’s like, ‘He’s so innocent and boyish.’ She told me this yesterday, that he reminds her of when I was little and that’s what she loves about him.”

Source: www.thestar.com

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