He’s come a long way since beet-farming. Dwight Schrute himself, a.k.a. Rainn Wilson, has been busy since his days on The Office, guest-starring in TV shows like Star Trek: Discovery, writing a memoir The Bassoon King, and nabbing roles in several films.
It was one of those films that brought the star back to the Toronto International Film Festival this week, where he came to promote the premiere of the Susan Sarandon-led Blackbird. The family drama revolves around a matriarch who has been diagnosed with ALS, and chooses euthanasia instead of degenerating while surrounded by family.
At the TIFF press conference Sam Neill, who plays Sarandon’s husband, revealed plenty about Wilson’s character: “Love is something that is explored on many different levels, not least of which is Rainn Wilson shagging in a barn,” he said with a laugh.
“Oscar-winner Kate Winslet,” Wilson jumped in. “That’s what I have in common with Leonardo DiCaprio. So…”
Basically Wilson said what we were all thinking—he, along with the likes of Jack Black, Jim Carrey and Saoirse Ronan can all say that they’re just like Leo, having played Winslet’s love interest on-film. We’re not sure any on-screen couple could reach the heights of gossip like Kate and Leo did following their first turn together in Titanic, but man… what an epic couple Kate and Rainn will never actually be. You know, given the fact that they’re both married and all.
Anyhow, despite Winslet not being at the conference, the rest of the cast had plenty to say about the film’s weighty subject matter, including how death is one of life’s great unifiers.
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“Yes, death is at the centre of the film but really it’s a film about life. It’s the life of a family. They’re eccentric, they’ve got skeletons in the closet, they bump up against each other in various tense, difficult and funny ways,” Wilson explained. “Death is the mirror that really kind of illuminates what being alive is all about. So when faced with that, life kind of springs forth and that’s… that sounded incredibly profound, just then.”
Sarandon joked that she wanted to put Wilson’s sentiments on a t-shirt before opening up about the subject herself. As a mother, she had a hard time putting herself in her character’s shoes, noting that she could probably never go ahead with a planned suicide the way her character does. But she also noted it’s a subject she’s thought a lot about, having also tackled it in HBO’s 2010 film You Don’t Know Jack, which starred Al Pacino as the doctor-assisted suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
“When you get to a certain age it feels like all the things you’re offered are either dying or helping someone die,” she said. “Everyone has the right to make a decision about that without your family members or anyone being charged with homicide. You should be able to be surrounded by those people . . . . Taking on this process of letting go of your body takes a lot of thought, and the medical profession has been way, way behind. It’s not just ending your life but being able to end your life with dignity and without pain. Anybody that has had a family member that has really suffered is very, very much interested in pro having that choice.”
“Sam, if you ever decide to take your own life, I would like to be there to help in that process,” Wilson jumped in. “However you’d like some help.
“God bless you Rainn Wilson,” Neill said.
Like we said, a long way from beet-farming.
Blackbird debuts in theatres this January. The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5-15, 2019.