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A Delightful Chat With Amy Ryan About Starring Alongside Steve Carell And Timothée Chalamet In ‘Beautiful Boy’

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There’s no other actor I have quite the interview relationship that I do with Amy Ryan. (It might be the last name thing, I’m not really sure.) I’ve been interviewing her regularly since 2010 and, well, we have fun with these situations that, by design, aren’t really that much fun. I bring all this up because what you’re about to read isn’t “normal” and will seem maybe too familiar if you don’t know the context. Amy Ryan and I have no professional relationship outside of these interviews, but when we get our time together, again, we try to make it fun.

Ryan is in Toronto in support of Beautiful Boy, in which she stars alongside her former The Office co-star Steve Carell. (Yes, Ryan is nervous that it might take people out of the movie seeing these two together again, but, honestly, I didn’t think about it once while watching.) Based on a true story, Ryan and Carell play the divorced parents of Nic (Timothée Chalamet), a young man addicted to crystal meth, and we watch as his parents are helpless to prevent the seemingly never-ending relapses.

(Also, there’s a moment ahead where, out of the blue, I started talking about something pretty weird that happened to me over the summer. It’s certainly not something I’ve really discussed publicly, but there I am answering Ryan’s questions about it and laughing. If this were to be brought up, well this seemed like the right venue.)

Amy Ryan: [Starts laughing] Oh no.

I’m trying to be on my best behavior and you start laughing when I walk in.

I know!

And then that’s when the nonsense happens.

I didn’t know it was you coming in and it made my day. And it was just when I hit a wall. Okay, make me behave.

I have no control over that. I reread some of our interviews…

Have we matured over time?

No. In one of the more recent ones you went on a riff about Monster Trucks.

[Laughs] Okay.

Beautiful Boy is a tough story to watch.

Isn’t it?

Being a true story and a book I’m familiar with, it’s nice knowing, going in, that it has a happy ending.

Well, Wall-E is a tough watch, too.

Yeah, that’s true.

Pixar movies can be a tough watch.

I’ll admit you took me by surprise with Wall-E.

My husband was taking the night shift with our newborn and he started reading these books then. I could hear him from the other room going, “Oh god! Oh no. Oh, this is awful.” And I’m like, “Why are you reading these books?”

That has to be a tough book to read with a new child.

Yeah. And he couldn’t put it down. But I didn’t pick the books up until we started production.

How did you break that news to him? “There’s now a movie and I’m going to be in it.”

“That book I was scolding you for reading.” No, he was excited. He has such deep admiration for the writing in the book.

So I’ve been rewatching The Office. I was aware both you and Steve Carell are in this movie. I didn’t even think about the connection until after the movie was over.

Oh, that’s so good. I’m really glad. So, back to my husband, who I love very much and is very supportive of me, but he’s like, “I think that’s weird casting. I think that’s a distraction.” And I’m like, “Who are you? What are you talking about?” But I guess for a minute that did plant in my head that I hope I don’t take people out of this film.

I don’t think it does.

Whew!

Your husband was wrong.

Okay, good.

Andre Royo plays Nic’s sponsor and someone was wondering if that was intentional because of The Wire.

Oh, right! Because of Bubbles. You know, I don’t know. I guess that would be the casting director’s question.

They didn’t consult you on that one?

[Laughs] No, I didn’t have casting approval.

Well maybe on the next one.

Yes, on Steve Carell’s next film I will get casting approval.

I remember when we spoke for Birdman that Bridge of Spies wasn’t titled yet, it was just Steven Spielberg’s Untitled Cold War Thriller. You wanted it changed to Amy Ryan’s Untitled Cold War Thriller.

No, I wanted Amy Ryan’s Untitled Cold War Thriller Directed By Steven Spielberg. I remember I told Steven once that one of my nicknames was “Saving Amy Ryan.”

We have the same last name and no one has ever given me that nickname.

Your last name is Dziewiontkowski? I didn’t know you were Polish.

Okay, stage name and last name that was your mom’s last name. Is there more to that nickname or is it just the movie?

No, there’s not that much imagination. It’s a lame nickname.

I’ve never had a nickname.

Not even Mikey?

A kid called me Billy for a while in high school but it didn’t stick.

Michael is one of my favorite names. And I love it for men and women.

Want to hear a funny “Michael Ryan” story?

I do.

So my dad died…

Oh…

That’s not the funny part, that made me sad. I grew up an only child but I found out he had a kid before I was born.

And his name is Mike Ryan too?!

Yes.

What’s your dad’s name?

Mike.

Oh, so he’s like George Foreman?

I don’t know! I can’t ask him.

So are you in touch with Mike Ryan?

I tracked him down.

Okay…

I found out when you call someone and tell them “Hello, my name is the same as yours and I think we are brothers,” they think they are being pranked.

That is really wild.

We texted for three weeks but then it stopped.

We all might be related.

That’s why I contacted him. I wanted to know if he was related to you.

Ryan is the Smith of the world.

Yeah. I have no relation to Paul Ryan.

I’m not related to Meg Ryan. But, yeah, with Paul Ryan you might want to clear that up.

What do you have coming up you’re excited about?

I’m excited about Mindy Kaling’s film that I shot this spring called Late Night with Emma Thompson. That was really fun. I had a great time.

I saw a chart the other day that said The Office is now the most popular show on television across all platforms. Right now more people watch that show more than any other show.

Especially now with younger and younger kids. When I walk my daughter to school, now the fourth and fifth graders and even the third graders are watching it. And little kids who have been at my house since kindergarten are looking at me differently.

Do they think you’re cool now?

I do feel a little bad because they want to pepper me with questions about the ins and outs and I’m like, “It was a long time ago. What can I tell you? Refresh my memory?”

And then one kid in the back, “Um, I have a Gone Baby Gone question.”

Oh, geez. “Who let you watch that?!” But it’s nice to know something has staying power. I think so, too, a lot of the humor in that is in pop culture reference and that’s obviously going to have staying power in any kind of comedy that’s about human existence and relationships.

Before we go, anything on Monster Trucks you want to add?

Where’s that on the chart you saw?

I don’t remember seeing it on the rankings.

Aw. There was another film that was out that looked like a Monster Trucks ripoff.

There’s a Monster Trucks ripoff?

I saw the preview. A girl plays a tape of an ‘80s hit and the thing eats the tape and throws it across the room.

I have no idea what this is. [Note: At the time I thought this was something that had already come out. This movie is Bumblebee.]

I’ll send it to you.

Are you in this movie?

Maybe. I don’t know. No, I’m not, but I remember thinking that looks like Monster Trucks.

You should write a strongly worded letter to that studio. “From the Desk of Amy Ryan.”

“Question one, what is this movie called?”

“Question two, I don’t know if you saw Monster Trucks but this is very similar.”

“This is very similar and I object.”

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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