Benjamin Walker on the Presidential Fandom, and the Sexypants New Nicholas Sparks Movie
You probably know Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, or sexypants Andrew Jackson. His latest bodacious role is as Travis in the new Nicholas Sparks movie, The Choice, which has all the beach-side make-outs and fraught love triangles you expect, with a heaping side of cute dogs and heartbreaking reality. Yes, phoenix tears were shed during the screening. Rainstorms aside, I was lucky enough to score an interview with Ben, and this of course took place on a beach with our shirts off(^).
Okay it was a phone interview. But Ben is a Georgian native with a lush Southern accent, so it felt exceedingly Nicholas Sparks-y, even though it was below-freezing in New York and I was dressed in thermal underwear. His character in the film is the kind of charmin', Southern cad that says things like, "You' bothren may" while looking at his foil, Gabby (Teresa Palmer) and leaves you no choice but to dream up elaborate presidential fanfics where the two of you star as (sexy) Abigail and John Adams.
Want to see what I mean by charmin'? Get all the juicy tidbits from my long-distance interview (HE HAS READ THE FEDERALIST PAPERS), and make sure that every time you see him say "love" you pronounce it "lurve" with an extra-luscious lilt...
On what the film is about, beyond epic make-outs against a sunset and a traditional "love story."
"[It's about] the kind of messy, fun, sexy chemistry that Travis and Gabby share together. They start from a place of friction—the first time they meet they have a fight in the backyard. They meet as neighbors, so they're thrown into each other's world, and something blossoms from that. Sometimes things happen in your life and you make a decision about how you want to deal with it, and that can change the course of the rest of your life."
On how important it was to have grown up in the South and understand the Southern mysticism portrayed in the film.
"Growing up in the South, it is a romantic place, it's a place of storytelling, it's a romantic place where family is important, and it's easy to fall in love, and the movie embodies that."
On whether he is ruled more by his gut or his head when it comes to big decisions.
"That's tough, I think it's a case-by-case basis. Especially if it's love, you have no choice but to go by your gut. For other decisions, I think I'm a pretty rational guy, I take my time, but with falling in love, I don't think it's ever really an intellectual decision—if you make a list of pros and cons, you're doing it wrong."
*Wherein I inform him that there is an episode of Friends where we learn that's a bad idea.*
"There's an episode of Friends where they make a list of pros and cons?"
*Wherein I tell him "Oh yes... I watch too much Friends" and he says the most gentlemanly thing I have ever heard*
"No! There's no such thing as too much Friends! How dare you.* Secondly, falling in love is a physical experience more than it is an intellectual one. You can bond on an intellectual level, but with love, I mean, there's a reason they call it 'falling in love.'"
On acting alongside Tom Wilkinson, who plays Travis's dad, Shep (they run the vet practice together in the movie), and who gave the world the best Ben Franklin impersonation it has ever seen.
"The man is brilliant, he's the kind of actor that elevates all the other actors, he almost coaxes a great performance of of you whether you want to or not. As soon as they call 'action,' he looks in your eyes, and you're Travis and he's your dad. He's a true professional and a kind man."
*I admit that I would trust Tom Wilkinson with my dog even though he's not a real vet.*
"hahaha yeah, 'Whatever you want to do, Tom!'"
On playing two presidents, and explaining the popularity of Hamilton and the presidential fandom at *this* moment in history.
"That's our history—the stories of our history are some of our best stories, I'm not sure why it's big now, but whether it's politically or socially motivated, I'm excited—maybe people are smarter, I don't know, maybe they read more, maybe it's Twitter."*
On presidents being superheroes of a kind (Ben turned down a role in X-Men to do Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).
"They are larger than life, you know, we look at them through the lens of history, but there is also something to do with the fact that they're elected—we put them in a position of responsibility. With Superman, no one chose him, he just happens to be able to do his thing, but we as people decide who will be in a certain position to represent us.
"So everyone had better vote!"
"Everyone should vote! Yeah, it's like if you don't vote, don't complain, if you're not going to contribute, then don't whine about it!"
On whether he has read the Federalist papers.
"I'm afraid so.* I love American history."
Ben recently starred in Heart of the Sea with Chelsea's part-time husband and full-time trombone accompanist Chris Hemsworth, but has admitted he didn't read Moby Dick in high school, only the Cliffs Notes (maybe he even read our notes!). He talked about learning to love the artistic process (the man studied acting at Julliard), and returning to Moby Dick.
"I feel like when you are creating a character, any research you can do, you should do as much as possible, because there are there opportunities to learn and make the performance that much richer. And also I enjoy it! I regret that I didn't read Moby Dick in high school, it would have taught me things I needed to know at that point in my life. It was also a very long read and would have kept me out of trouble at that time."*
*Pretty sure he winked when he said that.
Are you ass over Wayfarers for Benjamin Walker? Are you a sucker for Nicholas Spark books/films or musicals about dead presidents?