The actor discusses his experience playing a father in ''The Tree of Life''

By Dave Karger
Updated May 27, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

The actor discusses his ”unique” experience playing a father of three in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

What drew you to this movie?
When I first read it, it came at a time when I had come to the conclusion that a lot of the roles I do, you could plug in any of my fellow actors and friends and you’d get basically the same [result] — and so maybe I needed to focus on things that I can bring something unique to. This movie came along, and a lot of the atmosphere was reminiscent of my childhood: playing in the cemetery, firecrackers late at night, breaking windows. It was very comfortable for me.

It’s amazing how much the kid who plays your middle child (Laramie Eppler) looks like you.
Well, that’s just good casting. I love all three boys in their own right. That’s the majority of my and Terry’s conversations now: ”How are the boys doing?” You have to understand, this was a very unique experience. Sets are normally very loud and chaotic. This was the exact opposite. Terry finds this town that’s been cut off from the interstate, and he rents the entire block. So a more intimate relationship formed [between me and the kids], I guess.

Do you think it will be strange for your children to see you as a father to other kids on screen?
I think it will. They just know that Mom and Dad go to work and make movies, but they haven’t seen our stuff. I’m conscious of the fact that they will, and it’s very important to me that they might be proud of Dad in the end.

There’s so much trippy imagery in the movie. I bet it would be wild to watch it stoned.
[Laughs] Fair enough. I’m done with those days now, as a dad. But yeah, I think this would be quite interesting — if not overwhelming.

The Tree of Life

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 138 minutes
  • Terrence Malick