John C. Reilly is back in the limelight for his turn as Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss on “Winning Time,” the HBO series from longtime collaborator Adam McKay. The show marks his first TV drama role, one of the few things Reilly had yet to accomplish in his long Hollywood career that includes collaborations with many of film’s top directors.
“Well, those directors all discovered me one at a time,” Reilly said. “Brian De Palma literally did discover me (for ‘Casualties of War’), and after that, the others were like, ‘Oh my God, I found the perfect person for this role. I don’t know where this kid came from, but he’s perfect.'”
However, Reilly gives Paul Thomas Anderson the most credit for figuring out how to maximize his talent and giving him roles that allowed him to succeed.
“Paul Thomas Anderson was the first one who put it all together, who was like, ‘I know you from this movie, and this movie, and this movie. And I know you can do more than you’ve been doing, so I wrote this part for you,'” he said.
“I can tell you what it’s like to work with Paul. He’s someone who’s so excited to see what you’re going to do next. That sounds like an obvious thing, but having one person’s complete attention while you’re acting is important,” he continued.
“You would be amazed at the number of film sets where the director is looking at the monitor or worried about what the lighting or camera is doing,” he said. “Where there’s no one emotionally connected with you to come up after the take and say, like Paul does, all sweating and excited, ‘Oh yeah, that was so cool. I saw that time you got a little more pissed off when you said that thing. Let’s keep going that way. That’s so great. Yes, yes, yes.'”
Anderson is not the only elite director who benefits from this approach. “Martin Scorsese is the same way: He hires great people, and he lets them surprise him,” Reilly said. “I haven’t worked with many mediocre directors, but if I were to describe someone that way, it would be because they weren’t paying attention.”
The Season 1 finale of “Winning Time” airs Sunday, May 8 on HBO.