We wondered how Oswalt had initially gotten involved in the project, since it definitely seems somewhat outside of his comfort zone. “This is so pathetic,” Oswalt began, letting out an infectiously self-deprecating giggle, “I was presenting an award at the editing awards a few years ago. So Jason and I started gabbing about movies and we both had pictures of our French bulldogs on our phone. So we bonded over that.” Oswalt started attending movie nights at Reitman’s house, and later when Reitman got the script he contacted Oswalt.
But landing the role was the beginning of a long and arduous process of shaping the character, since Oswalt has to walk with a severe limp and internalize what that kind of pain will do to a person. “I worked with an acting coach and I worked with a physical therapist,” Oswalt explained. “The physical therapist went over exactly what the wounds were, what the damage was, how I would have recovered from it, how exactly my leg would work and not work.” Just portraying the character could have been damaging to his health. Oswalt said, “It was also nerve-wracking because she said, 'You've got to do these stretching exercises at the end of the day because if you don't, you could permanently mess up the way that you walk.' So that was like 'Oh shit.' ”
In order to come up with that character background, Oswalt went out. “I came up with a very long and complicated story,” Oswalt said. “I wrote out the whole accident report, I wrote out a remembrance of the incident. I figured out that I don't remember everything that had happened because it's so traumatic. When I was doing research, your brain will often shut out massive traumas when they happen. So I decided that I couldn't quite remember anything.”
And although this seems like a huge leap in the acting style of Oswalt (because, well, it is), he says that he couldn’t have pulled it off without a couple of previous jobs, including a pair of performances on a short-lived but tremendous science fiction series. Oswalt said he would have felt ill prepared, “if I hadn't done 'Big Fan' and I hadn't done the stuff on [Joss Whedon's] 'Dollhouse.' That gave me a little more confidence. But even with that confidence I felt that this script was so good and so nuanced – that's why I went to the acting coach. I wanted to do service to Diablo's script.” (By the way, we now have to pause to emphatically recommend you check out both seasons of “Dollhouse” -- Patton is in both -- because they are totally fucking brilliant.)
We also wondered if he had kept up with his “Ratatouille” director Brad Bird, especially since Bird is about to make the leap to live action with next week’s “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.” “We had dinner together a few months ago,” Oswalt said. “I genuinely like hanging out with them. And he was talking about ‘Mission: Impossible 4.’” This gave way to Oswalt riffing on why he’s so jazzed about the upcoming sequel: “I was talking to someone from Paramount and it was this really reserved, calm person talking about all these movies like 'Yeah, they're pretty good.' And then his 'Mission: Impossible' came up and this person said, 'Man, the stuff he shot in Abu Dhabi is FUCKING SICK.' So yeah I could not be more excited, for this person to react the way they did.”
What’s crystal clear after seeing “Young Adult,” is that all sorts of doors are going to open to Oswalt once people get a look at his performance. He's become very philosophical at this point, saying that he doesn’t know where the next big role will come from, “Of course I just haven't seen it yet. I won't know until I see it. That's what's fun about making movies is that there are so many creative people. The next thing could come from anywhere. It could come from some big established writer or it could come from someone who randomly sends me their script and I'm like 'Holy shit!' ”
"Young Adult” is now in limited release and opens wider this Friday. Here's a new clip from the film.