Matthew Lillard has one of those faces you don’t forget. Fourteen years after “Scream,” he still has the same hip guy-next-door charm and contagious energy. And he’s poised for a major resurgence. Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Matthew on “Spooner” (to be released soon), a romantic comedy about a guy who meets the girl of his dreams while being kicked out of his parents house at age 30. Matt starred in and produced the movie, while I wrote the screenplay. But that’s not all Matt’s got going on. He recently shot “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne’s new flick in which he plays a guy sleeping with George Clooney’s wife. He also has a new TV show in the works called “The Hard Life.” He recently helped a group of lady friends get their play off the ground and helmed the project as director. All while selling a house and making sure his three kids get to and from school on time.
I jumped at the chance to pick Matt’s brain for The Frisky and, earlier this week, joined him at his kitchen table as he finished a comedy podcast. Did I mention he’s also hysterically funny and performs improv around the country? After the jump, Matt talks about his Pinkberry obsession and how he feels about working with women.You recently directed the play “The Maids” at the Moth Theater in Los Angeles. How did that come about?
It all started because I do this thing every Tuesday night called Actor Actions. It’s where actors and writers can get together and just be artists. It’s a space in this crazy world of moms, dads and kids—it’s a moment to stop and share the fellowship of other artists. My friend Cheryl Nichols had the vision for like 10 years to do “The Maids.” So at Actor Actions, she decided to just do it.
A month later she came to me and said she needed a director. She said, “Why don’t you read it?” I hadn’t done a play in six or seven years, but I read it. It’s way over my head—so I read it again and thought, “I can’t do this.” But she convinced me. I tried to quit after the third rehearsal, and she wouldn’t let me.
We did it at a small theater in L.A. and it’s the highlight of the last year of my life. The process of working with three super talented women, and the thought that we’re gonna do this and there’s nothing that’s gonna stop us—it was very powerful. It was very cool to watch these women take over the space and make it their own. The whole crew was also female. They put together a great piece of theater in very little time.
Were you intimidated or excited to work with all those women?
I’m a very in-touch man. I was raised by a strong woman. My sister is a strong woman. I am married to a woman who is bright and strong. So I am inspired by that more than intimated. There was an emotional reality that I wasn’t always prepared to deal with—how I approached the problem and they approached the problem. When you have kids and you see how they run around, little boys versus little girls, there is no denying that men and women are built differently. As soon as you have the humility to admit it, there should be nothing that stands between you and a having a fantastic relationship with the women in your life. If you respect the differences, it is great.
You have a new pilot you’re working on, and you’re playing a family man. That’s not a new role for you in life, but it is kind of a new role for you on screen. Can you tell us about it?
It’s called “The Hard Life,” and it’s about the difference between how I have to raise my kids versus how my dad had to raise his kids. It’s like “The Wonder Years” meets “Modern Family.” The show is for Country Music Television. It’s a little outside the box in terms of what I thought I would be doing. The network is shooting four shows, and will choose two to go to air. Someone sent it to me and I passed, and they said, “You have to read it before you pass!” I read it and I loved it. But I thought, “How does it work? I mean this is the first scripted show for CMT.” So I go sit with [the] creator, and we got along like gangbusters, and then I don’t think the money is gonna work out. They made me an offer and I had a choice. I could do it for half the money of a show on ABC or CBS. But I’d be working on a show where I loved the material and I was the lead. I thought I’d rather bet on myself and the show. I mean, the way that Michael Chiklis and Denis Leary have done it. Right now there is a move to do comedies off the grid, so to speak, so if the show can find success, that would be great. Steve Hytner plays my dad and Gillian Vigman plays my wife. I am blessed to be working with funny people and good material. Hopefully, people will find it.
How you feeling about playing a family man?
Well, it’s an interesting time in my life—I’m 40. I’m not the kid in “Scream” and “Hackers.” It’s been a growing curve in how Hollywood sees me in jobs and opportunities. And hopefully, between this and the Alexander Payne movie “The Descendants,” I will find a rebirth.
That’s right. You just worked with Clooney. How was that?
I play his wife’s lover, which is bananas. I threaten my wife with it every single night. I said to Alexander Payne, “What are the chances of me being the guy that is screwing Clooney’s wife?” I go to the audition and there were five traditionally studly-looking guys in the waiting room with the chins, and the abs, and the pecks—and I am sure that is how women feel all the time in this business. I just thought, “The only chance I have is to be me.” I mean, what are you going to go for—someone better-looking than Clooney? Not possible. She goes for my character because he is charming and funny.
Anything else major on your immediate horizon? I mean, besides stealing away George Clooney’s wife.
I am teaching a lot for the first time in my life. I’m trying to direct a movie, and put together a movie. In this mayhem that is our industry, I try to maintain my sanity by staying busy.
I also lost 15 pounds after pilot season this year. In this world of acting, whatever is going on, it can either finish you, or you can double up and focus your efforts. I was drinking wine and eating like crap, and I realized I was addicted to Pinkberry. So my wife Heather and I went on this full-out work-out regime, and spent eight weeks changing our physical well-being and diets. We have been married 10 years, and this year we decided to recommit to our state of well-being. We’re downsizing our life. We sold our house, and we’re super excited about what our future holds. Also, I believe in lots of foreplay, and I cook every meal in our house. I’m pretty much a perfect man. And I drive the kids to school.
But seriously, I am also involved in MadisonsFoundation.org. It’s an organization that’s committed to helping parents whose children are diagnosed with rare pediatric diseases. It connects people who are dealing with the same kinds of issues. It’s a small grass roots charity, so I really love spreading the word about. It’s a really amazing organization.
There’s a re-boot of “Scream” going on. What do you think?
I think it’s cool that they got everyone back. I’m happy for them! I will probably eventually see it.