It's almost become a cliché when an actor says he or she decided to do a movie because they liked the script. But when Seann William Scott talks about the screenplay for The Promotion, the quirky, awkward comedy that comes out this weekend, you're pretty sure he means it.
“I just loved the characters and Steve's writing,” he said. “That was the selling point. I thought it was really quirky, and I thought he nailed the everyday everyman struggle.”
And, more importantly, Scott said, writer/director Steve Conrad More took a chance on him. This is a guy who has made his living playing obnoxious blowhards like Stifler in the American Pie films, dudes like the dudes in Dude, Where's My Car, and, well, Bo Duke in the recent Dukes of Hazard remake, plus another dozen or so other big, broad, and often dumb, comedies.
“I've always wanted to do films that have more substance,” Scott said. “I ended up doing the Dude, Where's My Cars and other movies like that, which were great opportunities, but not exactly what I wanted to do. This movie falls into a completely different category.”
He's right about that. In fact, even though it's marketed like another big comedy, The Promotion is actually far more tragic and awkward, and audiences who see the poster (which Scott isn't fond of, by the way)—which shows Scott facing off against his rival, John C. Reilly—will find that the film delivers something different. Sure, it's funny, but it's also sad and personal, and by far Scott's most challenging role to date. He's Doug, the assistant manager of a Chicago-area supermarket, desperate to run the chain's new location. The only thing standing in his way is John C.
Reilly's Richard, newly arrived from Quebec and aiming for the same gig. It's easy to think that the stakes are low, but both have everything to lose—Doug is dying to get himself and his wife (The Office's Jenna Fischer) out of their shitty apartment, and Richard wants a better life for his wife (Lili Taylor) and daughter. Conrad, a veteran screenwriter, stepped behind the camera for the first time, and Scott, playing a tightly written sensitive guy for the first time in his career, couldn't be happier.
“It sounds like a generic movie, two guys working at a grocery store, trying to get a job,” he said. “But it's more than that. It's about the struggle these guys are going through, the moral challenges they're up against, lying to their wives and trying to get past and screw over the other guy. And it's about a guy working at a job he never thought he'd still be working at in his mid-30s, just trying to make the best of a mediocre situation. You don't really know who's the protagonist or the antagonist.”
For a guy who's made his living playing, let's face it, a succession of jerks, Scott is, it turns out, a good guy, one humble enough to appreciate the fact that someone was willing to give him a shot.
“It's been hard to convince a filmmaker to take a chance with me,” he said. “I was so lucky that Steve didn't feel like I was bringing too much comedic baggage to the project. He believed in me and saw some potential for me to play more of a real character. He created an environment where I felt comfortable to take risks, which was really important for me, because it's a different tone and character than I've played before. And thank God he did. Look, there have been movies where I've had to say nice things about them, and I felt bad doing it because they were dumb. But I really like this movie.”