Eluding classification is `Win Win’ for McCarthy (AP)
Tom McCarthy was shooting his third film, "Win Win," his star and longtime friend Paul Giamatti would occasionally turn to him and shake his head in befuddlement: "It's a weird movie, and I can't explain why."NEW YORK - While writer-director-actor
McCarthy's career is no easier to describe than his shape-shifting movies. He seems to run on parallel, never intersecting lines: An actor in films and TV shows like "The Wire" and "Boston Public"; a writer on the Oscar-winning Pixar film "Up"; an acclaimed independent filmmaker, lauded now three times for writing and directing "The Station Agent," "The Visitor" and "Win Win," which already earned glowing reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.
"I'm a big believer in careers as something you look back on," says the 45-year-old McCarthy over lunch in at a SoHo café near his New York apartment. "It's gotten me this far."
"Win Win," which Fox Searchlight will release March 18, stars Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, an elder-law attorney in a small New Jersey town who unwittingly sets off a chain reaction of events when he, in a weak moment of financial anxiety, takes guardianship of an aged client so that he can earn some extra cash. His family (Amy Ryan plays Mike's wife) ends up taking in the client's wayward, teenage grandson (Alex Shaffer), who proves an excellent wrestler — much to the delight of Mike, a high school wrestling coach (with Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor as assistant coaches).
It's perhaps McCarthy's most crowd-pleasing movie, but it's also very much in line with "The Visitor" and "The Station Agent." All three are, above all else, humanistic films based on characters brought together in unlikely kinship.
McCarthy acknowledges the theme comes from living in New York, where his girlfriend calls him "the mayor" for his widespread acquaintances. (True to form, McCarthy greeted another patron at the café during the interview.)
"I've revisited it in every one of my movies," says McCarthy. "You can certainly link the two, and certainly find a lot of inspiration in terms of people and characters and lifestyles. ... Come on, that's why I love New York."
McCarthy grew up in the town "Win Win" is set: New Providence, N.J. The middle of five children, McCarthy's father was in the textile industry. He didn't have any designs on moviemaking or even acting, except for an early love of Broadway theater, which he'd beg his parents to take him to.
To help him get closer to suburban family life in New Providence, McCarthy developed the story of "Win Win" with a friend since childhood, Joe Tiboni, an elder law attorney.
"I've kind of seen the evolution of Tom over the years, from my friend who got cut from the basketball team with me to the writer-director," says Tiboni. "He had a good imagination and he was funny, but as far as envisioning him doing anything like this, I think everyone — including his family — would resoundingly say `No.'"
As an undergrad at Boston College, McCarthy fell in with a sketch comedy troupe, which he says was his "entry into it all": writing and performing, the two of which would henceforth always be mixed, intertwining disciplines for McCarthy. After graduating and doing a few plays in Chicago, he attended Yale School of Drama, where he first met Giamatti.