By Emily Feimster
With several films on the way, two Tony nominations ("The Full Monty" and "Oklahoma!") and an Emmy nod ("Angels in America") under his belt, and increasing recognition from movies including "The Phantom of the Opera," Broadway leading man cum film actor Patrick Wilson is the walking definition of a rising star. Small wonder the Boston Herald recently heralded the fact that Wilson is "on the verge of becoming a household name."
Moviegoers recently saw Wilson in the horror flick "Hard Candy," in which he memorably, for better or worse, spent much of the movie tied spread-eagle on a table with his pants down as a man terrorized by a teen (Ellen Page) who suspects him of being a pedophile. He has a small role in the October release "Running With Scissors" with Gwyneth Paltrow and Annette Bening. He appears in the upcoming "Purple Violets" with Selma Blair, Edward Burns and Debra Messing. And he recently completed "Little Children" with Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly.
The latter feature has to do with a group of young married-with-children types whose lives intersect - and clash -- in a small community.
"Not since 'Angels in Americas' have I had a role that's as meaty," he says. "I play a stay-at-home dad. He's a guy that kind of always wanted to do more with his life than he did. I am married to Jennifer but you find out that I have an affair with Kate."
Hey, not a bad way to make a living. "Yeah, it's not too bad," he says with a laugh.
The 6'1" actor with the piercing blue eyes and clean-cut good looks is not driven by a desire for fame, he makes clear.
"I like making different movies but I'd actually like to remain kind of anonymous because people actually believe you're the character," he explains.
Growing up with a father who worked as a TV anchor and a mother who was a voice teacher, it's no wonder Virginia-born, Florida-raised Patrick had the natural ability to communicate. It took going to summer camp to bring his skills to life.
"I did some plays and commercials as a kid but then I kind of grew up with a normal existence. I got back into theater in high school and when I was 15 I went away to a pre-college program at Boston University," notes Patrick. "It was a pretty rigorous six week course - everything that had to do with theater, acting, singing, movement, dance, speech, and all that kind of stuff. It was the first time I'd been around a group of people who all had the same interests."
Before long, Patrick was saying, "Goodbye football cleats. Hello tap shoes!"
"I decided that this was what I wanted to do," he continues. "I went to the football coach and told him I wasn't going to play because I had to focus on Shakespeare. I told the baseball coach I had to quit because I wanted to concentrate on the Spring musical. Somehow soccer worked out because it didn't conflict."
Though many high school grads flock to the musical theater Mecca of New York, Patrick says he wasn't ready for the big time. "I didn't want to go to New York right out of high school. I was a little intimidated because I spent most of my childhood in Florida so I went to Carnegie Mellon, which is a conservatory," he says. "I didn't know if I wanted to do stage, film, TV, musicals, or whatever first, I just knew I wanted to do it all. It just so happened when I got there the musical program was really strong and I didn't feel like I was sacrificing any of the acting so I studied musical theaete and just started working."
Boy, did he start working. "One of my first jobs out of school was the lead in the national tour of 'Carousel,' which is a great role in musical theater," he notes. But it was small potatoes compared to what was to come. Patrick went on to star in the Off-Broadway musical adaptation "Bright Lights, Big City." His role earned him a Drama Desk Nomination and a Drama League Award.
Soon after, he starred in the Broadway musical "Fascinating Rhythm," a revue of George and Ira Gershwin songs. Pretty soon Patrick hit the big time with the lead roles in "The Full Monty" and "Oklahoma!". He picked up Tony nominations for both performances. By then, he'd gained an avid fan following among theater devotees.
However, it would take his portrayal of a gay Mormon in the controversial, yet highly-acclaimed TV movie "Angels in America" to jump start his film career. He went on to star in "The Alamo" and the movie version of "The Phantom of the Opera."
Though life is good for this 32-year-old, who's expecting his first child with gorgeous wife Dagmara Dominczyk this summer, he certainly doesn't disregard his good fortune. "Had it not been for Mike Nichols, who saw me in 'The Full Monty' on Broadway and called me in to audition for 'Angels in America,' we wouldn't be having this conversation, I really do believe that," he says. "It's just the way the business works. I get a lot more opportunities now and a lot of it is strictly from one show."
Asked if he's surprised by his fame, he says, "It's not that I ever thought, 'I'm going to be a huge star,' which I don't think anyway, but I never didn't think that I would be successful. It's been a ladder with a nice steady climb." As for what he hopes to accomplish throughout his career, besides not getting too famous? "I'd like to go back and forth between film and stage," he responds. "If I can keep choosing roles that stretch my acting ability and just keep focused on that - that's the goal, getting and going after great roles."
Well, he's certainly got a good head start.