Frame Grab: Who is that guy who plays Hemingway in 'Midnight in Paris'?
Editor's note: A-list actors may draw us into theaters, but often what's most delightful about seeing a movie is an unexpected performance from someone who's unfamiliar or only registers with faint recognition. So you leave the multiplex wondering something like, who was that gal who played the sweet shop clerk? Or where have I seen that guy who played the doorman and stole the scene? 24 Frames aims to shine a spotlight on these performers with our new feature, Frame Grab.
There are many perks that come with starring in a Broadway play opposite Scarlett Johansson. But for Corey Stoll, one of the biggest benefits of appearing in “A View From the Bridge” with the actress last year was getting to meet one of her A-list friends.
“I remember telling Scarlett before we started the run, ‘I know all of these famous people are going to come backstage. But I don’t care about meeting anybody other than Woody Allen,’” the actor, 35, recalled. “And then one day she came up to me and said, ‘Oh, he came yesterday, but he was too shy to come back and meet everyone.’”
Stoll was disappointed — after all, as a boy, he had plastered pictures of Allen on his wall — but as fate would have it, he’d hadn’t missed out on his chance to meet the filmmaker. A few weeks later, as Stoll was bowing during the curtain call, he noticed the legendary director in the audience. The following day, he received a call from his manager that Allen wanted to meet him.
The filmmaker was interested in Stoll for a part in his new film, “Midnight in Paris,” which stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a struggling novelist on a trip to Paris. Gil, a nostalgic, longs for 1920s Paris, when writers and artists flocked to the City of Light. Gil begins wandering the cobblestone streets late at night, and is transported back to the era he has romanticized, where he meets icons such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
Stoll got the role of Hemingway, and his performance has caught the attention of many who’ve seen the film since its recent opening. If you’re wondering about him too …
Where you’ve seen him: Opposite Angelina Jolie in “Salt”; as a detective on the television show “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” which was recently canceled.
How he got the part: “I showed up, and I didn’t know if it was an audition or a meeting. Woody handed me a couple of pages of dialogue and gave me a few minutes to take a look at it, and I read for him. It was really fast and easy. He came very close to offering me the role right there. He was like, ‘So, we’ll be in Paris this summer,’ and then I sort of skipped out of the room. Now, seeing Owen Wilson’s character in the movie, the way he reacts to meeting his literary heroes — I sort of felt I had a parallel experience. It was a pinch-me moment.”
How he prepared: “I read a couple biographies about Hemingway. The one book Woody told me to read was the ‘Green Hills of Africa,’ which is this sort of ostensibly nonfiction thing about him hunting big game in Africa. It’s the one where I think Hemingway comes the closest to self-parody in his writing, because it’s just so ridiculously macho and egotistical and tough. But I read pretty much everything he wrote, and it was such a treat. I actually started taking some boxing classes. I just figured this was my chance to be in a Woody Allen movie, and I actually had some time to prepare, so I wanted to fully go for it.”
How he changed his look: “I’m bald, but I had a custom wig made for this role. It was fun for somebody who hasn’t been able to grow a full head of hair for years. I’m already having discussions about different types of roles, because people have seen me with a different image in this film.”
His favorite on-set moment: “Just working with Woody Allen was something I’ll never forget. He presents himself in a lot of his movies as a sort of loser. That’s the self-image he’s cultivated, but you don’t make 41 feature films with some of the biggest actors and egos out there without having an incredibly strong sense of what you want. He was always in control.”
Where he might pop up next: “This is really the first time in a couple years where I haven’t had a job lined up, since ‘Law & Order: Los Angeles’ was canceled. I knew the numbers on the show weren’t great. It could have gone either way, and I don’t really know what all the factors were in deciding whether it should stay or not. My goal is to be in those handful of movies made for adults every year. Although, yes, I would love to do a superhero movie.”
Movie Review: 'Midnight in Paris'
— Amy Kaufman
Photos: Top, Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in the Woody Allen movie "Midnight in Paris." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics. Bottom: Stoll, left, as Det. Tomas "TJ" Jaruszalski and Skeet Ulrich as Det. Rex Winters on "Law & Order: Los Angeles" Credit: Dean Hendler/NBC.