"People think I'm the guy who never gets the girl," James Marsden says, and he has a point. Over the course of two decades, he has established an on-screen reputation as the amiable, boy next door who's sweet enough to take home, but just square enough to leave behind.
In "The Notebook," "Enchanted" and even "X-Men," Marsden ends up getting passed up for someone else. That's one reason his performance in "Straw Dogs," director Rod Lurie's remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah classic, stood out: Marsden may start out as the passive, infuriatingly polite husband of Kate Bosworth, but by the end [SPOILER ALERT] he has undergone a savage transition from milquetoast to murderer.
Marsden also mixed things up in 2011 by returning to television -- where he got his start way back in the 90's on "The Nanny" -- with a cameo role in "Modern Family." And on Jan. 12, he begins a six-episode run on "30 Rock," playing Liz Lemon's latest love interest. (Apparently, being a nice guy has its perks.)
In "Straw Dogs," it's frustrating to watch Kate Bosworth's character get raped by her ex-flame [played by Alexander Skarsgard], but choose not tell David, your character. Why do you think that is?
It's a great question. And we've talked about it a lot, I had several conversations with Rod about that. The answer is this -- I don't believe she thinks that David will do anything. So that right there speaks volumes as to what the holes are in their relationship.
What was the film's reception?
I know this movie's not for everybody, and it's in its DNA to polarize and to stir people up and to create a bit of controversy, yet that's not its only purpose. I wasn't that surprised that there were a good chunk of people that didn't want to see it. But the people that did see it, I was really happy with how they responded to the movie. Roger Ebert comes out and gives it two thumbs up, and top-notch critics are loving this movie. And it's in their DNA to hate it because when you set out to remake a beloved classic -- not everybody think its a classic, but some people do -- it's like you're just asking to be completely destroyed in the reviews. But I don't think Rod wanted this to be a sell-out horror movie. I think he wanted it to be an intelligent, psychological thriller that makes people want to go have a drink afterwards.
And stoke the dialogue.
Exactly. God forbid, create something that might stir people up and ruffle their feathers a bit and make them think.
Part of the movie is about peaking in high school and returning back to your hometown after having moved away. Having grown up in Oklahoma, how is it for you returning home?
Well, for me I certainly did not peak in high school. Those weren't my glory days. I wasn't really from a small town. I grew up in Oklahoma City, a pretty big city. So when I'm home, I see my family, I see all my friends I grew up with. I'm really happy because my family and all my friends and all the people I knew that I grew up with are proud of me and they're proud of where my career's gone, so I'm never met with conflict when I come back.
So no Alexander Skarsgard character waiting in town for you with a rifle.
No, not really. I tend to get along with pretty much everybody, so it's tough to rattle me. You've got to be careful going out to local podunk bars where you get too many drinks -- occasionally you'll get a person who thinks just because you're an actor, you have a big ego and a big head and you need to be brought down the ladder a few notches. But no, I'm not the guy, I'm never really in danger of those scenarios.
You've been in a lot of romantic comedies, can sing, and are in a lot of family-friendly fare. Are you afraid of being typecast?
I'm not worried about it at all. I just go from job to job and I base it on the material, and whether I feel that I can creatively contribute to the movie -- I never want to do something if I don't think I'l be good at it, I don't care who's directing or who's in it. If I don't feel like I'm right for it, I don't want to be part of it.
Can you tell us who you're playing on this season's "30 Rock"?
I'm having a blast on the show. It's a lot of fun. I'm in the middle of them and I'm off and on in New York shooting it, come back in a few weeks. But it's a great opportuntity to work with great people and with Tina and it's a fun character. I wouldn't do it if it weren't a fun character. Same with "Modern Family." It was just a great, really defined, specific and fun character who's just got enough off about him. So it's been great working with the people and the caliber of that cast and the people who have been a part of it. It's a fun job to have, and you're in really good company, so I couldn't pass it up.