Going to New York Comic Con, located in the Jacob K. Javits Center on the West Side of Manhattan, requires a certain time commitment. The closest subway is four avenues away, there's limited-to-no cell service throughout the hall, it's packed with cosplayers; there is no getting "in and out" of New York Comic Con. Which is why doing a lone interview for the event might have seem like a foolish waste of manpower.
I couldn't turn down the chance to talk to Ron Livingston, however, who's best known for his roles in "Office Space" and "Swingers" (and, perhaps "Sex and the City"). Whenever Livingston turns up in a movie, I'm always significantly more pleased. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed a movie like "The Time Traveler's Wife," but the fact that Ron Livingston played a supporting role, made it more enjoyable. Livingston just seems like such a likable fellow, and he's remarkably underused in movies. This is something I will never understand.
Livingston was at New York Comic Con to promote next summer's horror offering "The Conjuring," from "Saw" director James Wan. The film -- a fact-based story -- focuses on a couple (Lili Taylor and Livingston) who live in a possessed farmhouse. Here, Livingston discusses why he doesn't believe in the term genre, even for horror films, why he wasn't funny in "Office Space," and shares pride for his sister, newscaster Jennifer Livingston, who famously went on the air to respond to Internet remarks about her weight.
I wish you were in more movies.
Well, I wish I was in more stuff, too. But, yeah, I like the stuff I've done. So, "more stuff" always runs you into, "Well, I'd hate to do twice as much stuff and half of it was bad."
So, I haven't seen "The Conjuring," obviously. But is the horror genre something you've been wanting to do?
You know, I feel like "genre" -- I don't really think about it in terms of genre. I feel like that's the marketing people's job. Do you know what I mean?
No. Really? I mean, "comedy" isn't a genre?
Yeah, no, honestly.
I don't think I've heard that before.
Honestly, anytime you do a movie -- especially these days -- you know, you try to reinvent the formula at least a little bit. Even if you're making just a classic formula thing, you're also going, "What are we going to do different?" You know, "Office Space," which is probably the most successful comedy I've ever done, I played a guy who was miserable.
Was it the most successful? I mean, it gained a lot of steam later, after it was out of theaters.
Right. Well, yeah, I mean overall, in the overall life cycle. But, you know, if you think about it, when people quote funny lines, there are a lot of other people playing that for comedy. But, my job on that was a little bit to play it straight. And then on the flip side, when I did "Band of Brothers," I felt like a little bit of my job was to come in and do one-liners every now and then. I wanted to do a little comic relief. So, it's always a little bit different. You know, I do kind of have a bucket list of stuff I want to do. I, a little bit, want to do one of everything [laughs].
What's on your bucket list?
Well, I wanted to play an astronaut -- I checked that off. I haven't done a Western yet.
Those happen every now and then.
Yeah, every now and then. I figure that's a good one because the older -- I can be the land grant guy [laughs], or the bartender. You know what I mean? Or some old, crazy prospector or something. I can do that well into my 60s and 70s. I think that will work -- I still have that one to do, we'll see. A fight movie; I haven't done a fight movie yet. The clock's ticking on that one, I think -- I want to actually fight.
And now horror.
Well, I think what really drew me to this was the other cast.
I will admit that I'm more open to seeing a horror movie if it has a good cast.
Well, when I grew up, they didn't call it a genre -- it hadn't been invented yet. Like, when you saw "The Shining" or something, you know, it had Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson in it.
It was the genre of "Kubrick."
Yeah, exactly. You know, "Alien" is another one. No one had ever done that before. It was like, "Oh, we're going to take science-fiction and horror and mash them up." So, I've been a huge fan of Lili Taylor since I saw her do theater in Chicago when I was coming up. And Vera Farmiga, been a huge fan of her ever since "Down to the Bone." Then I saw "Insidious" -- with Patrick Wilson and James Wan -- and just thought it was terrific. They made it on, you know, next to nothing and it really tries to revive the slow, psychological, creeping, Hitchcock thriller -- with practical effects. I was amazed at how scary a reaction he could get out of, basically, just a guy painted red. And I was really excited about that.
You mentioned "Band of Brothers."
I agree Nixon was there for the one-liners, at least until the episode that focuses on him, "Why We Fight." The contrast from how we knew him before and that episode was jarring. That was my favorite episode of the series.
I like seven and ten. Ten ["Points"] I love because I'd never seen that before in a war movie. Where the whole episode is what happens after the war is over.
It is fascinating.
And everyone is just waiting to go home.
And German and American soldiers are getting along.
You always sort of imagine that, "Oh, the war is over, then everyone kisses girls on the dock and teleports back home." But the idea that, "No, we're stuck here and we don't know if we're going to Japan, but it's going to take a while to get a boat and we lose people to car crashes." There is something amazing about having to stick to historically recorded events. You can't go to the formula too hard. And "The Conjuring," I think, keeps you honest a little bit because this story happened to some people -- whether or not I believe it or whether it fits into the belief system that I carry around with me. I met Roger Perron and his daughters and it's a little strange and alarming ... not alarming. I guess, jarring, to meet people and try to decide whether they are telling the truth. And ... they're telling the truth. They're not making this up. They were very seriously affected by this whether or not ... do you know what I mean?
And these are real people who aren't famous. I assume you don't want to make them look foolish.
No, no. And this movie really plays it straight. We're so used to, as an audience, we see a sorority or horny teenagers. And ever since "Scream," there's a little bit of a wink. Like, "This is going to be awesome." James gets five little kids and a mother and a father and then you spend the first 20 minutes of the movie just really getting to know them. So, it really ups the stakes in a different way. It kind of breaks the rules -- you don't think, "Oh, it's going to be rad to see a 7-year-old butchered in some visually interesting way." So the audience starts asking, "Why am I here? This is uncomfortable." You know?
Your sister seems quite great, by the way. I know that's not a question.
Isn't she great?
I thought that was really brave.
My sister is amazing. She's absolutely amazing. And the funny thing is, I feel like I've known it her whole life. I feel like the people across Wisconsin, they've known it for 10 or 15 years now. But, it's a real unique kind of pleasure as an older brother to kind of see the whole country discover it in the course of a week -- just how cool your sister is. And she got a trip out to L.A. out of it, so I got to see her. So that was really cool. I think she was just so articulate on it; I won't risk being less articulate. She spoke so well for herself that I wouldn't speak for her, but I thought she hit the nail on the head. And I'm tremendously proud of her.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
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