The teen-psycho-next-door is the hardest pigeonhole to escape, but between playing an apologetic home-wrecker in The Descendants, moonlighting as a Vancouver Film School prof, and taking to the theatrical stage, Matthew Lillard’s proven he’s more than She’s All That. In anticipation of the SXSW premiere of his directorial debut — an adaptation of the young-adult novel Fat Kid Rules The World — he (and his three children) graciously chatted with us about everything from an upcoming role alongside Eastwood to the time he saw Angelina’s hoo-hoos.
Besides Fat Kid, are you a big reader of young-adult lit? Yes, because it doesn’t have big words and I very rarely have to use a dictionary. Also, most of the time it’s about sex.
How’d you get involved in that project? I got an offer to record the book on tape, and 20 minutes into recording I went outside and called my agent to option the rights to the movie.
You’ve said that you were a chubby kid yourself. Did you ever feel the urge to join a homeless punk band like the movie’s 296-lb protagonist? I never had the urge to do anything other than eat Doritos.
How did your own experiences as a young actor inform the way you directed teenagers? I knew when to ride them and let them be. I also understood when they were hungover, because I was pretty hungover several times in my youth.
What do you think’s going to surprise people most about this movie? That Mike McCready of Pearl Jam did the music — he’s as kick ass a guy as he is a musician.
Between SLC Punk and Fat Kid, you seem to be drawn to stories of young people finding their identity through…blowing up amplifiers? Some people are drawn to really dark, foreboding independent films, with lots of sexual ambiguity, drug use, murder of trannies, that type of stuff. I like guys with funny haircuts and loud music.
If you had a band, what would you name it, and how much of a crap would you give about what people thought of your music? I would never be in a band because I’m musically handicapped. But if I was in a band, I’d play something that makes me look awesome and really cool to mothers with children. My whole goal would be to inspire my wife to think that I’m hot again.
Has that been a problem lately? After 13 years of marriage, I’m not as cute as I used to be.
For your recent role in Spooner, you played a guy who was pretty socially awkward. Was it difficult not to unleash your inner pool-boy pimp? No, it wasn’t hard, I’m pretty versatile. I can go to social ineptness to pimp in seconds.
Which of the characters you’ve played has reminded you the most of yourself? Probably Bryan Speer in The Descendants, because every time I look at George Clooney’s ladies they fall in love with me. Please add that that’s the dumbest answer I’ve ever given in any interview ever.
Done. How did the Descendants role come about? Luck. It was the single luckiest role of my life. I walked into the audition and said there’s no way I’m ever gonna play this guy. The director asked why, and I said because look at my face. I’m not the guy that sleeps with George Clooney’s wife. Obviously, Alexander Payne likes a challenge. It was the best role of my life.
In Hackers, how did it feel to be in the same movie as Angelina Jolie’s breasts? Pretty amazing. I’ll never forget meeting them the first time. They’re both very kind, and round. The scene where she takes off her top, she did it in a closed set. They shot our reverse of it, so we fake acted seeing her boobs. Then we did the master shot, and unbeknownst to anyone she actually took her top off, and it was the single greatest moment of my acting career. (unintelligible noise) Sorry, I’m playing basketball with my 3yr old and he wants to jump up on the table to dunk.
Are you training him to be any type of prodigy? He’s been doing steroids for six months. He’s pretty yolked.
Are your kids coming with you to Austin? No, I have every intention of being drunk most of the time. If you see me, just pat me on the ass and send me home.
You brought a certain giddy menace to many of your earlier characters. Was that method acting, or just an extension of a giddily menacing personality? It was just Bad Acting 101. It was the mistakes of youth.
Do you have an all-time least favorite role? No, they’re all my children, all ugly and fat. (son Liam in the background) I’m not ugly and fat. No, you’re cute and skinny. (daughter Addison in the background) Are you ugly and fat? No, Daddy’s not ugly and fat either. I’m doing an interview, you’re interrupting me, don’t you know I’m a star.
They don’t know you’re a star. No, they could care less, bro. That’s the truth.
In hindsight, do you wish your Scream character wasn’t killed off so early in the series? Yes, I’d be rich! Yes!
On the Scooby Doo front… No comment.
So, you won’t answer whether Shaggy’s really a stoner. No comment. Let’s just call that the blue period of Matthew Lillard’s life. You’re trying to ruin my indie cred! How am I gonna look Zooey Deschanel in the eye when I’m in Austin.
You’ve done a ton of theater in addition to film. How does on-stage compare to on-camera? It’s the single greatest experience an actor can have. It’s like being a rock star and playing on a stage in front of people, or being a studio musician. Both are good jobs, but one fills you with energy. In all seriousness, it’s the best.
Do you have any theater roles lined up for the future? No, but if I don’t get a movie role soon that pays money, I’ll be doing kids’ birthday parties as Shaggy. Actually that’s not true, I’m doing Trouble with the Curve, the new Clint Eastwood movie. I play Clint Eastwood’s nemesis.
Are you doing any intense preparation for that? I’ve got pictures of him strewn all over the house, and anytime I make eye contact with him I scowl until he blinks.
Is it a dream of yours to do a remake of Grumpy Old Men with Freddie Prinze Jr in the year 2050? I’m gonna surprise you — no. I don’t think that’s anyone’s dream, his, mine, or anyone in between.
There was a tweet recently about you playing Mafia against Tim Tebow. What’s up with that? Is that when I got humblebragged? The douchiest moment of my entire celebrity career? Yes. All-time low? Yes. I will honestly say, I was just excited. He was incredibly competitive, but the nicest guy around.
Did he thank God after the game? No, but maybe he should have earlier, because I won.
unless you work in social media, that is.