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Tom Wilkinson: 'Marigold Hotel' Star On Learning By Making Mistakes

Posted: 05/04/2012 2:30 pm

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," which opens May 4, aims at a very different demographic than the typical teenage-targeted Hollywood fare. It's a welcoming change to see an accomplished ensemble of post 50s; the seven lead roles are taken by some of the finest British actors ever, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson.

The plot revolves around daring and resilient British retirees who decide to "outsource" their twilight years to less expensive and exotic India, only to find the glamorous destination isn't quite what was promised in the brochure. Huff/Post 50 contributing editor Nina Kotick caught up with actor Tom Wilkinson, who is a industry oxymoron: The star who doesn't enjoy talking about himself.

Born into a family of farmers in 1948, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, Wilkinson is a model of British modesty and evasiveness. He graduated from University of Kent at Canterbury and first appeared in film and television in the 1970s. He gained attention as one of the reluctant strippers in "The Full Monty" in 1997 and as Hugh Fennyman in "Shakespeare in Love" a year later. Wilkinson received Oscar nominations for best supporting actor for his roles in "In the Bedroom" and "Michael Clayton." He scored a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Awards for best supporting actor in a miniseries or film for "John Adams" in 2009. He is married to actress Diana Hardcastle and has two daughters.

Q: What about the Marigold script inspired you to take on the role?

I thought the idea of a guy trying to reclaim his life, having already lived a rather successful life, was intriguing. You see, my character walked away from his own truth as a young man and spent his entire life avoiding that confrontation. And then, at one moment in his life, he decided he was going to do something about it. That he was not going to live a lie anymore. That he could reclaim himself. I liked the idea of wrestling with that one -- the idea that some people, at a certain stage in their lives, start looking for something new, something sustaining or truthful or something to make sense of their lives.

Q: Do you wrestle at all with this stage of your life and making sense of it all?

That's a complicated and difficult question and I don't really have an answer to it. Basically, I continue doing what I do without really thinking too much about it. Maybe I do have my head in the sand and will have some great moment, some "road to Damascus" moment where I realize I must make sense of my life in some way but as for now, I don't really know.

Q: Is there anything that you know now that you wish you knew growing up?

No. I was thinking about that the other day. I was actually reading a book about the '70s and how people view that time as being a more dynamic one, where people were more politically aware than they are now and more involved. But I think that's a false perception and not actually the case. What they are actually saying is more personal and more of a self-reflection. They are revealing that "I was really much more this or that when I was younger." And I think there is nothing that can replace the entire process of learning and making mistakes. Learning by making mistakes is what makes us who we are. To think that somehow we'd be better people by avoiding our mistakes or taking some magic shortcut is just not the case.

Q: What is the riskiest thing you've done at this stage in your career?

I don't take risks. That's not part of who I am. No, I've never been a risk taker. It's just not a part of my personality. Deciding to get married and have kids is perhaps the riskiest thing I've ever done. But it was a calculated risk of course. And perhaps my raison d'être.

Q: Never a role that was a risk -- outside your comfort zone?

No. But I wish I was offered more like that. I wouldn't mind. Be happy to take on that role...

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I don't think I've ever been given any advice and if it was given, I haven't taken it. I wish I could remember words of wisdom from my mother's knee but I can't.

Q: Well, if you could give advice to your kids that they would remember and maybe heed, what would it be?

That's hard. I think I would say "just do the best you can, kids, and don't worry too much."

Q: Have you come to terms with yourself? A legacy of which you're most proud?

That I was a very good father and husband. I'm proud of that.

(Check out the trailer of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" below.)

 
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