The 'Florence Foster Jenkins' star says he has a new way to make dinner reservations

By Jessica Derschowitz
December 28, 2016 at 04:20 AM EST
Everett Collection

When the Golden Globe nominations were announced Monday morning, one of the biggest (and most pleasant) surprises on the roll call was Simon Helberg, who got nominated not for The Big Bang Theory but for his supporting role in Florence Foster Jenkins.

Helberg nabbed one of the film’s four nominations for his turn as a pianist accompanying Meryl Streep’s aspiring (but atrocious) opera singer. Costars Streep and Hugh Grant both received acting nods in the leading actress and actor, comedy or musical, categories, and the film is among the contenders for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.

After getting the good news, Helberg hopped on the phone with EW to talk about the new way he can now introduce himself, how his toilet factored into learning of his nomination, and the poignancy of the film’s message.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations, Golden Globe nominee!

SIMON HELBERG: Thank you! I’m going to request – in fact, I’m going to demand – that precede me at dinner reservations and hotels and if I’m ever stopped by a police officer, I’m going to request to be announced and addressed as “Golden Globe nominee Simon Helberg.” I think it’s a good prefix.

“Hi, I’m Golden Globe nominee Simon Helberg. Nice to meet you.”

Well, they always do that in previews! I mean, why can’t I call and make a reservation as “Golden Globe nominee Simon Helberg, party of four?” Wouldn’t that be embarrassing if you were at a restaurant and they yelled that out? That would be horrible. Remind me never to do that.

How did you hear about your nomination?

I got a text, in a very sort of unglamorous moment. I was in the bathroom because it was very early, and I woke up right before, I checked my phone and it was almost 5:15 and I went, “Oh gosh, are they announcing the awards,” and “Oh, no,” and I got really nervous, and I ran to the bathroom and I tried to just forget about everything and then I got a text and I hit this button on our weird, Japanese toilet and the bidet starting shooting up and it was like a nightmare. So I was filled with many things, joy being one of them, but it was absurd. [Laughs]

And this morning, has it just been surreal, or what? How are you feeling?

I feel embarrassed for having told you that [story], and then I feel really elated, very flattered — just being in the movie was a real bucket list moment and a dream come true in many ways, and I am very proud of it and my performance. I guess there are many steps along the way and you kind of take it a moment at a time, so we made the movie and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and then you see it and I was proud the moment I saw it, and each moment was sort of enough for me, and this is a bit of a bonus. I feel great, to know that people connected [to it], I guess is the ultimate feeling that I walk away with. The more people that are moved or affected by it, the happier it makes me feel. So I guess this is the symbol of that.

This movie is so much fun, I really enjoyed it. And I feel like, especially now, a movie that makes you smile is really just such a wonderful thing.

Yeah, it’s important. These are good times to — just to escape, but also to be reminded of the joy in this world. It’s a bleak moment, I think, and these characters mined the joy out of every nook and cranny. The movie took place during wartime, and [director] Stephen Frears is a master of really showing humanity — it’s tragic moments that are usually preceded by something slapstick — and he takes you on a ride. It’s very human, and I think it’s a great moment to have a laugh and a cry all in the same movie.

You said making the movie was a bucket list moment for you in a lot of ways. Can you say what some of those are?

The first person that I met was Stephen Frears, and he’s somebody whose work I’ve always admired… it’s so rare to watch a movie and run the gamut of emotions, to actually buckle over laughing and to be moved to tears, sometimes in the same scene. It’s something I’ve always loved about his movies. And then, of course, there’s Meryl Streep. That was somebody I’ve always wanted to just meet, let alone work with, and one of the first things I found out was I’d be recording an album with her at Abbey Road! So it was almost actually too many bucket list moments. I actually almost had to die in order to truly make it a bucket list and I thought I really was gonna die. I had quite an experience on this and I came away having worked with my heroes. …  the effect and the relationships I developed with them during the movie and what I learned from working with them and watching them — Meryl, Hugh, Stephen, and I got to get very close with everybody doing this. It was just a true joy.

And you, Meryl, and Hugh were all nominated!

Yeah! It’s really rewarding to have everybody get their due. It’s such a good movie and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s a personal, eccentric kind of story and you never know if that’s going to resonate or not because it’s a unique little film and I think a lot of people have really connected with it in much broader terms.

Have you called anybody, or heard from your Big Bang Theory costars?

Yeah, I’ve gotten a few texts from people on the show to say very nice things — what if they were just immediately ripping me to pieces? [Laughs] We are very supportive of each other. So, yes — a lot of emojis. I don’t even know how to access all those emojis! So from them, and also talked to a few people, but really I was just getting up with my kids and hanging out and that was a great thing. To hang out with people who don’t give a s— about any of your accomplishments and just want to eat. That’s always a good grounding moment. 

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  • PG-13
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  • 110 minutes
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