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A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In this rapid-round Q&A, the 44-year-old old star of The Experimenter opens about about what it’s like working with Woody Allen, his perception of Experimenter co-star Winona Ryder and why he’s happy working outside of the Hollywood system.
In Experimenter (in theaters Oct. 16), you play Stanley Milgram, who did research studies on obedience and authority. Of the directors you’ve worked with, who gave the most orders?
Martin Campbell [2011’s Green Lantern]. I enjoyed it. In a big movie like that, you kind of need a general.
And the fewest?
It’s a tie between Kelly Reichardt [2013’s Night Moves] and Woody Allen [2013’s Blue Jasmine]. Woody Allen is binary; it’s either yes or no. There’s no great or bad — just yes or no.
Describe your Experimenter co-star Winona Ryder in three words.
Obsessive, eccentric, kind.
And your Black Mass co-star Johnny Depp?
Impossible. Johnny is one of the most artistic people I’ve acted with. I feel like he created his own form of acting. I greatly admire him.
You’ve built a career in indies. Do you have a dream big-studio assignment?
No. Life is really nice. Why would I make it more complicated?
Your favorite thing about living in Brooklyn?
The drum circle in Prospect Park. I’m a runner. I’ll hit the drum circle on my second lap around the park. And I’ll just take a minute and shake my sweaty ass all over the place.
The thing you hate most about Hollywood?
The ranking system. It’s like high school. You’re like, “F— those guys! I don’t care who’s most popular!” But it gets talked about so constantly that part of you gets drawn into [it].
The best thing about being married to another actor (Maggie Gyllenhaal)?
And the worst?
You and Maggie have two daughters. Do you like living in such a female household?
I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t really hang out with guys.
What do you hate most about seeing yourself onscreen?
When my intention with the role has been muddied by the way it was edited. I mean, I’m not especially attracted to my own acting, and I’m not especially repulsed by [it]. I like it pretty well.
Sarsgaard is controversial social psychologist Stanley Milgram and Ryder is his wife in Michael Almereyda’s ‘Experimenter.’
Your favorite of your screen roles?
[2005’s] The Dying Gaul.
And of your stage roles?
Your dream film role?
I have always wanted to play English soccer player David Icke, who dropped out of soccer suddenly and said he had found something called the “truth vibrations.” I love the idea of somebody dropping out of something successful to do something so ethereal and esoteric.
What would you do if you dropped out of acting?
I loved this course paleoethnobotany [study of people’s use of plants in ancient times] when I was in school. So [I’d do] something investigative and academic.
Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?
Bernie Sanders. I went and met him and saw him speak at a town hall yesterday.
Your take on Donald Trump?
I don’t know. He’s, I guess, mildly entertaining in the way that checkers is or something.
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