Peter Sarsgaard has starred in critically acclaimed films such as An Education, Garden State, and Shattered Glass, and he played a pivotal role in season three of AMC’s The Killing. He’s currently starring in the new film by Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves.
Sarsgaard’s passion for movies was evident when chatting about his Five Favorite Films, something he found both exciting and overwhelming. He admitted to just recently seeing Sunset Boulevard and was simply taken by it, saying, “The end of that movie when she comes [down the stairs]… It’s a classic. You know when you watch an older movie like that and it’s still so riveting?” In the end, it didn’t make his final cut, but read on to see what did.
A total favorite from when I was a kid was My Bodyguard. When they’re riding together on the motorcycle it’s like one of my favorite images in a movie. I think I also like the story. That type of story has always really appealed to me, two outsiders coming together like that, basically united as a cause who are from opposite sides of the tracks. That movie is just so awesome. The two of them on the motorcycle in that one really… It’s just that image, that feeling. I watched it at the perfect time in my life. I watched it when it came out in the theater. It was very meaningful to me growing up.
The next one I was going to say, which is Lawrence of Arabia, I actually just saw for the first time last year. I saw it projected at a theater with the intermission and everything. It was just so awesome, and I loved that it’s “introducing” Peter O’Toole. The character’s so complex and interesting and perverse and heroic and everything in a huge movie and it’s never going to happen again to have a character in front of a movie that’s that big, that’s that complicated. The scene where he’s getting, like, whatever is happening to him… It’s wild. I love that movie.
I love the trailer for that movie too. When they did the re-release of it several years ago, the only trailer that they had for it was just a shot of the desert and him walking towards the camera. That’s the whole trailer.
There’s a million shots they could have shown, of course. Well that one’s got a motorcycle as well. Maybe there’s a theme developing?
I’m going to throw down a Kelly Reichardt next. It’s this movie Wendy and Lucy. I really love that film. It’s a movie about a woman who lives with her dog, and it’s so spellbinding, and Michelle (Williams), I just love her in that movie. I love that character; I’m so interested in that person. Who would ever dare to think that you could make a movie that was that intimate and small and about something so apparently inconsequential? Of course, she’s also looking for a place to live; she’s homeless.
Here’s another one I really like. I really like the relationship and the acting in a movie called The Dresser with Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney. Albert Finney is an aging Shakespearean actor who’s falling to pieces in his mind, and Tom Courtenay’s whole career depends on dressing this guy and he’s the only one who can get him through the show. You see all the people who depend on this guy to be able to do it, you know, in order for them to have their lives, and how important the theater is to them. I’ve always really been into the theater, even before I was an actor. And I love Tom Courtenay.
The Hunt. It’s a Danish movie about a guy (Mads Mikkelsen) and he’s been accused of molesting a kid. The other thing that’s great in that movie is he’s got a very noble quality as a man who believes in himself. He’s the kind of guy that if it were to happen to him, the self-righteous indignation, at first, completely f***s him. He rejects it so hard and then he looks guilty. The self-preservation is… He’s not trying to explain himself at all because it’s so insulting: a great quality to act.
And that’s like what’s great is that the actor in that film helps solve the puzzle of the movie. If an actor played it differently… What’s great is his flaw; his character flaw is what makes the whole storyline happen. If he could just be a little more direct and not so disdainful, more kind of humble and understanding, it wouldn’t have all gone down. It’s just because he circles the wagons way too quickly; he gets angry too quickly and just makes himself look guilty. So, yeah. I love films like that where you find yourself yelling back at the screen.
What was that film, by the way, that came out? It was nominated for an Academy Award. It was an Iranian film.
Yeah. That has to be on my list. I’m going to give you six. That film, I would say, is a perfect movie. It is perfectly made. It’s like, every element in it sings.
When did you see A Separation, and did you see it with anyone?
Yeah, I saw A Separation with my wife and it’s just so well plotted. It’s like the distance that that movie travels, the journey that it takes you on, is so massive. Incredible.
Night Moves opens in limited release this week.