Patrick Wilson, a consummate New York actor, stars in a consummate New York movie in “The Commuter,” a Liam Neeson thriller set aboard a commuter rail traveling from the city to Westchester County.
Wilson, 44 and a Virginia native, has transitioned from stardom on stage (he’s a two-time Tony nominee for productions of “The Full Monty” and “Oklahoma”) to acclaimed big- and small-screen dramatic actor and horror movie leading man, with his roles in the “Insidious” and “Conjuring” series.
amNewYork spoke with Wilson about playing ex-cop Neeson’s good buddy, Det. Alex Murphy, in “The Commuter,” now in theaters, and more.
This is your second film with Liam Neeson (after “The A-Team”). As a fellow actor, what do you think of him and his unique career?
I have such huge respect for him as an actor, as a man. He is, to me, what movie stars should be. I use that term very sparingly in my own life because I kind of detest it but, to me, somebody that is incredibly skilled as an actor across all genres and is so respectful to not only the work but his crew, his fellow actors, and incredibly giving, that’s what every movie star should be. . . . That’s certainly what I strive to be.
What makes this fundamentally a New York film?
Liam’s lived here for 20-something years, in New York or outside New York, and I’ve been here since ’95. So while I’m not a commuter, I certainly know my way around the subway system. I’ve lived more in New York than I have anywhere in my life. I do think audiences, and certainly New York audiences, can really relate to . . . the congestion and the space, all these different types of people, because we all sit on a train and wonder. Everybody on that train is such different races, creeds, social classes, genders. That is New York. One carriage on a train is New York City to me.
Have you consciously moved away from long-term theater commitments these days?
The thing is, it’s hard to go back and forth and back and forth. It’s such different scheduling, to be quite honest with you, even with films and TV shows. When I took a gamble on my CBS show (“A Gifted Man,” which ran for a season from 2011-12) as my kids were starting in school, a large majority of that was, “I’m tired of traveling around everywhere, let’s try the closest thing I can get to a steady job in New York.” That’s a large part of it, of course. . . . I am looking more than I ever have, really, to do something on stage, because I miss it.
From your perspective, how did you become so closely associated with horror?
The horror movie opportunities, they presented themselves with “Insidious” at a time where I was fascinated by the genre, because if they worked, a lot of people saw the films. I always thought, if there was a great one I would love to do it. And I just really fell in with [director] James Wan and hit it off and I guess the rest is history. It wasn’t some, “Now I’m going to do horror movies.” You’re constantly trying to juggle what you can get and what you want.