Matthew Broderick, the Irish American star of “Wonderful World,” which opens next month, has been a famous face since he starting winning lead roles back in the early 1980s. Married to Sarah Jessica Parker the couple are tabloid staples but appear to carry it off with aplomb and remain real people.
Broderick is certainly grounded and opinionated on many issues. His new film “Wonderful World” has an immigration subplot that results, as it often does in reality, in heartache for all involved. I asked him what does Broderick feel about the undocumented himself?
“Generally speaking, I think there’s no way to lock everybody out or throw them out, and people should admit that and make many more people legal it seems to me. I like immigrants, I’m from immigrant stock, and I think we should be letting them in,” Broderick says.
“Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t live in Arizona and I’m not paranoid about people from other countries. I go to other countries when I can. I hate the idea of a wall being built in America. It reminds me of Germany or something. I really don’t think there should be a big wall in the continent of America, if there’s any way to avoid it.”
Married to Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker, one of the most iconic actresses in the world, the two stars live and mostly work in New York City, where between their acting gigs they’re raising a 7-year old-son and twin daughters (the girls were born through surrogacy earlier this year) and still finding time in their busy schedules to get away from it all.
One of the places they go is Donegal in Ireland each year for their annual vacation. It’s something he’s been doing since he was a child.
“I go there once or twice a year and I hike and walk around and visit. I used to fish, I don’t bother with that anymore but I do ride horses part of the time,” Broderick says.
“My parents when we were kids went there on a trip – my father’s Irish – but he never knew any of our relations. So they took a trip to Ireland once and just drove around, and for some reason they loved Donegal and they kept going back year after year.
“Then they bought a house and the next summer they brought all of our family over. Very few people ever bother us over there.”
Last week Broderick was holed up at the Crosby Hotel in downtown SoHo in New York promoting his latest film, the acidly funny “Wonderful World.” The Crosby Hotel itself is a well-known celebrity haunt, and sure enough Daniel Day-Lewis comes darting from the entrance toward a waiting limousine (he’s in town for the New York premiere of his musical film “Nine”). In this upscale neighborhood no one blinks an eye when they see a movie star, although one passerby stops Day-Lewis’s to hawk a quick autograph.
“Wonderful World,” which opens January 8, is a rueful comedy about learning to appreciate all the things you have instead of all the things you want, which in America is still an original message.
In the film Broderick plays Ben Singer, a failed children’s folk singer and a bi-weekly dad to his reluctant young daughter. Struggling in just about every aspect of his life, Ben’s only creature comforts are smoking joints and regular chess games with his opinionated Senegalese roommate.
If none of that sounds particularly gripping right off the bat, it might be wise to add that this small but thoroughly charming film about an ordinary Joe has real heart, and Broderick’s performance is flawless.
“When the movie opens I think we’re catching Ben at a moment of despair,” Broderick tells the Irish Voice. “His divorce is not that old. He has to go to his ex-wife’s house to pick his daughter up, and it’s still not pleasant for him to run her.
“Besides that he doesn’t have much money, his career has fizzled out. He has some real challenges, this character, and it’s not just that he’s grumpy or about his personality. There are some unhappy things in his life. And through what happens to him in the movie he sort of works his way out of the hole a little bit.”
It would be hard to justify spending an hour and a half with such a sad sack character if nothing good came of it. In fact Broderick gives a lovely, nuanced performance in part inspired by his writer and director friend, Josh Goldin.
“Somebody asked Josh if he had ever considered having my romantic interest in the film (played by Sanaa Lathan) come back to me, and he said, ‘Oh you mean those things that happen in movies that don’t happen in real life? Like the girl comes back to you? That wouldn’t happen.’ And Josh is every bit as bitter as Ben, the character he wrote,” Broderick says.
“So the ending can’t be too happy or it would strain belief. It’s happy enough, and that’s how you feel at the end, he’s better off than he started.”