It's an old story,
as old as the Beatles. A rock combo starts out playing the clubs,
building the band's repertoire and following, and then, on the verge of
signing the big deal, fires the most expendable member—the drummer.
It may not be as
classic a scenario as the on-going bathos of The Office, but
that's essentially the kick-off point for the The Rocker. A rock
and roll parable, the comedy stars media magnet/TV-star/ace eccentric
Rainn Wilson as that drummer bounced from his burgeoning metal band,
Vesuvius, because a record company executive wanted to his own guy in
the band. Absurd, though not always funny, the movie in far too many
ways imitates life.
After twenty years
of life's indignities, batterist Fish finds himself as the last-minute
replacement, as the percussive bottom so to speak, to play the prom in
his nephew's band. Though that gig is a disaster, it inspires him and he
proposes that they work together to launch a tour. Lo and behold, the
band takes off—thanks to a vid of him drumming in the nude, virally
broadcast throughout the internet. The spread of his cheeks get the band
spread all over the country.
Certainly not all
bands share this history, but the 32-year-old one-time founder of a
teen rock band grasps this classic rock tale. Wilson's career has since
diverged from rock roots as he went on to sing in musicals, do theater,
and get discovered as a television star by becoming the abrasive Dwight
Schrute in the comedy The Office. That role garnered him his own
fans and a few accolades including a nom as Best Supporting Actor in a
Comedy for this year's Emmys. Though he didn't win, a touch of the
rocker style rubbed off on Wilson as strutted around at the Primetime
Emmy Awards in cool sunglasses and tux.
So what is your
I would say rock.
How did you get
this gig? Do you know if you were the first choice for this role?
I doubt it. Any
comedy script in Hollywood, guaranteed, goes to any three of these
people: Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn and Owen
Wilson. So I'm sure it went to those people, I have no idea who. But
then it trickles down to, "Okay, now what the fuck do we do with this
thing?" Then I was on the next list of the B-talent and somehow I rose
to the top of that. I was supposed to host [a VH1 rock show] last year
that was a tribute to a bunch of different bands. I have a good
relationship with them, and may do it in the future. They know that I'm
a big rock music fan and they try and get funny people mixed in. I'm
thought of for real people that are odd and kind of misfits and funny in
their own way. We see so many doors opening. Audiences are much more
allowing of the fact that you don't have to have chiseled cheekbones—not
that I don't have them—to star in a movie. People like Seth Rogen and
Michael Cera and all these great new comedy stars are much more
interesting and real. I think studios have discovered that audiences
was your first step to getting into this role?
The first thing I
started to do was take drum lessons, and that opened my eyes to who this
guy was. I was in orchestras growing up,
you drum, you're just loud and pounding away. There’s
like, "Yeah!" This drum coach I was working with was all about putting
on the big
the kit. When you get in that mindset of the drummer—the
the pounding and the ugly face—Fish just became totally
clear to me. This
is not a thoughtful guy. Dwight [his character from The Office]
is tight and controlled and maybe in his head too much, but Fish is
"Let it loose."
How does Dwight's
love of metal music compare to Fish's?
He would listen
purely as a motivational tool to increase the
and the flow in his brain stem. He would have his reasoning
whereas Fish just wants to rock and have a good time. They
both have a love
of metal, unflattering haircuts, and not the best
but beyond that, they're pretty different characters.
What was the most
interesting thing you learned about drumming?
It's an incredible
workout. It's a workout not even of your body,
concentration. It's like playing golf. You can't get fuzzy on
seventeen and check out. It's the same thing. You're in these
songs and they're
kind of repetitive. It requires an amazing amount of
inspired this character?
The iconic drummer
of all time is [The Who's] Keith Moon so I
lot of Keith Moon, but he's impossible to emulate. He's too
too crazy and too specific. I watched a lot of heavy metal
videos back in the
day of Tommy Lee [Mötley Crüe], Lars Ulrich [Metallica], and the
one-armed guy [Rick Allen] from Def Leppard. Rock drummers before metal
were so faceless, except for maybe [the
Moon and John Bonham [Led Zeppelin]. You have all these
great bands and
you have no idea who the drummer is, but metal was the
flowering of the rock drummer.
What bands would
you like to sit in with as a drummer?
My two favorite
bands have the most awesome drummers ever from
[Phil Selway] and Wilco [Glenn Kotche]. They are the best
rock n' roll. I think it would be really cool to go with
They have a great drummer, but Meg White—I don't know
happened to her, she had a nervous breakdown or something—so I
to play with Jack White. It would be pretty cool.
did you develop your drum face?
It comes natural
to anyone. You try playing the drums and try
normal serious, serene face. You can't do it. You just look
you're drumming and you're intense. We started rehearsals
and they thought
it was hysterical what I was doing [with my face] but
even think about my face.
Since your ousted
drummer is loosely based on him, what role did
Beatle Pete Best play in the film?
He had a tiny
cameo. If you blink, you miss him at the bus stop,
Rolling Stone magazine. We had a little scene that will be on
the DVD. I
find it highly ironic that Pete's scene from the movie got cut.
freaked me out. He's a great guy. I got to interview and hang
out with him. The movie is not based on him in any way, shape or form,
but he's kind
poster child for this kind of story. There have been plenty of
members kicked out of the band before they got big during the
course of rock n'
roll, but he's the most famous. He's such a sweet
couldn't be nicer or more low-key. He's not bitter. He said, "You just
don't know how things are going to work out. I've got six
and get to tour the world with my band." He's doing great,
Did you have rock
star dreams of your own?
I got to,
thankfully, live through a little bit of a rocker
which was probably the shortest-lived high school band
ever. I did
two gigs with my band Collective Moss; I wish I still had
that flyer [we
printed]. We played two gigs, one for a bunch of eleven-year-olds who
stole our patch cords in a church basement.
Our second gig was an audition for the Battle of the Bands which we
into. That's how bad we were; we were not even in the top
at New Trier High School [in Winnetka, Illinois]. I was the
What was it like
playing yourself twenty years apart?
It was kind of
ridiculous. They put on a little more makeup. Here
I am, this
40-year-old guy trying to play a twenty year-old. I don't know how
successful it was. I think the audience buys it because it says
You're like, "Okay, whatever."
How did you relate
to this character, who is a 40-year-old and playing in
a rock band with teenagers?
The main obstacle
is this guy getting over what happened in the
didn't have that, but I certainly can relate to finding
late in life, which is pretty cool and also pretty weird too.
you ever regret that your youth didn't include having groupies?
I'm happy the way
it worked out. I couldn't be more thrilled. I
for a long time, the first ten years of my career, and now
taking off. I have no regrets that I wish this or that had
happened. I'm a
much better actor now than I was then. I needed to
people like Leonardo DiCaprio were immediately
at nineteen. I wasn't that way. I was learning and in the
What would you do
if the music of this fictitious band A.D.D. took off?
Don't worry; we're
hitting the road, opening for The Jonas
Not really! It would be a little bit of a stretch and take a
of rehearsing, but we could pull it off. I could learn those
songs. Emma Stone
[Amelia] totally learned the bass; she learned every note. She got
really good at it. Josh Gad [Matt] is a total fraud, so we
Vanilli a keyboard behind him somewhere. Teddy [Geiger, who plays band
leader/siger/songwriter Curtis] is the real deal. That was something
that should feel
music sucks in movies nine times out of ten. We
catchy pop songs that would be accessible to a large
but at the same time, had an indie rock feel that felt like
written by a seventeen-year-old writing songs in his garage. He has an
amazing voice and he's a completely self taught suburban kid
did my own drumming. You won't hear me on those tracks but
that was me
playing over the tracks. That was something that was
important to this
film, that the music should be authentic. We would shoot into the night
through morning rush hour, so a lot of times
driving home at 10:30 in the morning wanting to go to bed. It
ridiculous. They would just be drinking their Red Bulls and
chattering away. I
called them The Squirrels.
What was it like
working with Christina Applegate?
amazing. We were so lucky to get her to be in
I was such a big fan of hers, especially in Anchorman. I
really anchored that movie, Hahaha! She's
effortless. She's so deft at comedy, with a light
she's hot, smart and really cool. We had a blast. I’m
and now we're both Emmy nominees.
mind being characterized as a MILF?
This was her first
MILF role, and I'm sure there will be many
think she knew, she was like, "You know what, I'm late 30s now,
for me to tip-toe into the MILF world."
band becomes famous when your character drums naked and gets posted on
YouTube—what was it like to film the scene?
You can see the
naked drummer footage up on YouTube. Put in "naked drummer"
and you can see my ass crack all over the airwaves. It felt
sticky. I'll take my clothes off right now; I have no shame. It’s
just a human body
that passes away at the end of our lives. It's a
thing. The body is your temple.
What do you think
of rock n' roll movies?
needs to be a period metal movie. There's that Rock Star movie
with Mark Wahlberg that sucked but that took itself
There's a nod in the film to the famous Robert Plant story [in
Almost Famous] where he said, "I am a golden God," and
jumps into the
swimming pool on top of the roof. I rode a tricycle [in this film]
into a swimming pool, which was my little stunt. There’s
another heavy metal or hair metal comedy to be made. It has to
be more than
dancing around like peacocks with guy liner [black
What is your
favorite concert memory?
I never caught a
drum stick or been sweated or urinated on. But I
got to see
Nirvana in their last U.S. concert, and that was a thrill for me as a
Pacific Northwest Nirvana freak.
Did you get to go
backstage and meet Nirvana lead singer/songwriter Kurt
No, I wasn't a
huge international superstar like I am now, [able] to throw
around with my posse. My favorite concert memories are about the music.
I saw Radiohead last year and that was pretty
Doing this VH-1 Rock Honors The Who concert was just tremendous.
I got to meet The Who and they were idols of mine growing
up. I just
thought Pete Townshend was the best. I got to interview
Flaming Lips and
Dave Grohl and Pearl Jam. That was really awesome, to be part of the
What was your
first encounter with a fan?
My first fan was
when I did Casey Keegan, the homicidal stand-up
One Life to Live. I was on three episodes, that is when I
my first fan. People really watch the soaps, and when you’re
subway people see you. I was the bad guy so I got a lot of "Oh man,
you're him. You tried to kill my man Antonio! That's the guy! That's the
guy!" That was pretty cool for me, who had mostly done
until that point, and you never really get recognized as a
Now it's passé?
Yeah, you're like
"Who cares? The little people, the little ants,
they may be, by the millions. Where's my car?"
Are you in
No. They would
never break up a formula that's already
fear that it would fall apart. They cast Amy Poehler and
it’s not really
going to be a spin-off per se. It's going be another
kind of a mockumentary of some kind.
Would you consider
doing a naked drummer routine live?
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