John Carroll Lynch is one of those classic character actors who can slip seamlessly into everything from “Fargo” to “The Drew Carey Show” and “American Horror Story,” playing everything from the kindhearted husband of a policewoman to a psychotic clown.
Lynch stars alongside Nick Offerman as McDonald’s co-founder Maurice McDonald in “The Founder,” a movie about the struggle for the company between the McDonald brothers (Offerman plays Richard) and Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton).
amNewYork spoke with Lynch, 53, last week.
In the context of Donald Trump assuming the presidency, what does this movie say that might speak to our times?
The growth of McDonald’s, the franchising of the concept and the growth of this massive multinational corporation, service corporation, is really a story of how American business has changed. You create a circumstance that somebody has a really good idea for a restaurant and you put it on steroids with an amazing business model. Like most things, I think the business model can take over what you’re doing to the point where you stop being what you are. ... When it comes to American values, the American dream was a house and a car and you could have a better life for your kid. And now the American dream sometimes feels like something from “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” that you’re not really successful unless your jet is bigger than the other guy.
There are some clear parallels between the Ray Kroc and Donald Trump stories.
I hope that the movie provides us all a little bit of a pause to ask ourselves what a success really means to us. I think there’s a real question in that. [Then] President-elect Trump’s business success has always been based on a certain kind of image that he’s projected and the myth he’s told us. And in that way he’s been very successful as a pitchman, as a reality television star and as a brand, as a licensing brand, he’s done very, very well. Ray Kroc creates the myth of his founding of McDonald’s and then he defends it even beyond the time it could be defended as something that’s reasonably true.
What does McDonald’s mean to you?
It was a very big presence in my life. I went to McDonald’s. It was always a treat to go, when I was a kid. When I was a teenager, there was a McDonald’s at the end of my paper route. ... I didn’t eat there every single day. As a kid who’d just ridden his bicycle probably about 10 miles to do his paper route, a Coke looked pretty good at that point. So I probably was there quite a bit.
You made your film debut in “Grumpy Old Men.” What are your memories of the experience?
To sit on a porch at like 11 o clock at night with Walter Matthau, and to listen to his stories and his hangdog face, it was extraordinary. I sat at lunch with Buck Henry and Kevin Pollak. And I was an idiot, you know. But I was so grateful to be in the movie. I’m in it for like half a second, but it was great to have parts that were so small so I could figure out how the apparatus worked.