(Magnolia Pictures) One day, he was a tense teenager caught in the middle of War Games. A little while later, he was Ferris Bueller taking a day off. Before Matthew Broderick knew it, he was leading a colored brigade in Glory and a rag-tag team of misfits against a freakishly giant lizard in Godzilla.
When he finally found suburban life in Stepford Wives, Matthew Broderick tried to get a grip on a neighborhood full of compliant robotic wives.
In 2010, Broderick finds his way back suburban life, this time as a struggling father and ex-husband hoping to spend some quality time with his daughter. Too bad the daughter finds Broderick’s character, Ben Singer, too strange to want to be seen with in public.
Worse yet, Ben also finds a way to lose his job and piss off his SUV-driving neighbor whilst getting into an argument with a city tow-driver as he is trying to get his roommate, who is suffering from the early stages of a diabetic coma, to the hospital.
This chain of events leads to Ben having an affair with his roommate’s sister, coincidentally visiting the United States on a two-week visa from Senegal after she found out her brother was in the hospital.
Ah, what a Wonderful World Ben finds himself living in.
A talented guitarist who found himself on the losing end of just about everything in life, Ben has become quite the cynic – and quite the opposite character of what we have come to expect from Broderick, who himself defined cool to a whole generation of moviegoers in films such as War Games, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Biloxi Blues, among other popular films.
Yet Broderick frankly said that, while Ben is not exactly the type of character people expect to see him playing, the man formerly known as Ferris Bueller says the role was actually up his alley.
“I have my cynical side,” Broderick said just as he was finding his comfort zone in a third-floor hotel room at West Hollywood’s The Standard. “It was fun to be allowed to be that way. I liked the part. It was a good part. I was a pretty good fit for it.”
If anything, Broderick felt playing Ben in Wonderful World was a refreshing change from his previous roles, as the struggling and cynical out-of-work musician who loves to smoke weed had a fair share of flair.
“I hope (my character) is different (from other roles I’ve played),” he told Buzzine as sunbathers were heard giggling while enjoying the pool area just outside the open window of the converted third-floor interview room.
“He’s not soft. He has an edge to him, I think, which is nice. I often get parts that are softer.”
Broderick added that, in taking on Ben’s character, he had to be cognizant – as he is for all of his parts – whether it was too much of a stretch for him. Basically, he didn't want to take on a character that was so detached from his persona that moviegoers would not believe what they were seeing on screen.
“I don’t want to take a part that is too far in to me, because I want to serve the script,” he humbly said. “I don’t want to be doing some exercise for my own enjoyment. I always wanted to play parts that suit me. It’s tricky to know what those are, but I don’t think I should break too far from what I am or how I am thought of.”
To that end, Broderick said playing Ben was a natural step in his acting career -- something he spent a lot of time nurturing and guiding, ensuring he always accepted roles that were as diverse as they were up his alley.
It was a nurturing process that started with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While a pivotal role that has its place in American pop culture, Broderick was concerned playing the iconic and ultra-hip character would potentially limit his range and prevent him from taking on other roles.
“It wasn't that I didn’t want to be typecast, but instead that my career could withstand it,” Broderick said of his concerns surrounding the Ferris Bueller character. “Sometimes it’s hard for the audience to see you as anything else. I was just trying to make sure I had a career, and I did.”
Indeed, he went on to have quite the career, which also included successful stints on stage, including gigs with The Producers, Biloxi Blues and Brighton Beach Memoirs.
In developing his career, Broderick added that he is not sure how much he would change. While he has been self-critical of past roles, he told Buzzine he was just happy to be in the position he was in when he first started in the early 1980s.
“There are always moments I think are not very good and I can do better now,” he said in retrospect. “It’s very nice when you start out and you don’t know too much -- you’re just more trusting. There’s an ease about it that’s good because you can’t lose. You’re just happy to be there, and people are, hopefully, just happy to see this new guy – and after a while, that goes away. They are saying, 'Hmmm, is this different from the other thing you did?' They start to have opinions about you and preconceive things. You never get that fresh thing again, so that was an exciting time (during War Games).”
All of his experience set him off for playing Ben in Wonderful World -- a role which was made all the easier by working with his good friend Joshua Goldin, who directed the film.
“It’s been a pleasure,” Broderick humbly said about his on-set relationship with Goldin while filming Wonderful World, which took place over 21 days. “I can see how it could not be. If you are friends, you might be too careful with each other, or it might be too strange to be bossed or directed around by somebody who is a friend. But that’s never really happened to me.”
Of course, the friendship always prevailed, with camaraderie and openness always being the theme of the day.
“He was not afraid to be honest with me, and vice-versa,” Broderick noted. “We always ended up having a drink after we’d shoot.”
A lot of that candor and honesty transferred onto the screen and in the development of Ben Singer, who was quite the cynic throughout most of the film – a phenomenon which Broderick will add perspective to when moviegoers watch Wonderful World.
“The character really brings up whether you see things as positive or negative, how much are circumstances versus how much is it how you are looking at things,” the 47-year-old actor said. “Ben kind of sees everything in a negative light, and he’s doing it to a degree that he’s almost bringing it on himself. He keeps thinking things are worse than they are.”
True as that may be for Ben Singer, things are looking pretty bright for Matthew Broderick, who continues to take on solid roles and bring his career up another notch.
To see Matthew Broderick the cynic, be sure to catch Wonderful World, which is now playing after it opened in limited release in Los Angeles and New York. The film will be in wider release within a few weeks.