With his idiosyncratic screen presence, at once shambolic and focused, longtime character actor Kevin Corrigan makes an impression no matter the size of his role.
In the business for more than 25 years — a key early role was a small part in "Goodfellas" — Corrigan has appeared in studio movies, series television and countless independent films, including "Walking and Talking," "Slums of Beverly Hills," "Grounded for Life" and "Superbad." It is notable that in one of his most high-profile roles, in scenes opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Departed," he played the lead character's cousin as if someone you might kind of recognize or maybe might know.
Now in "Results," currently playing in Los Angeles and available on video-on-demand, Corrigan takes a rare leading role opposite Australian actor Guy Pearce and "How I Met Your Mother" and "Avengers" star Cobie Smulders. The film, written and directed by the likewise iconoclastic Andrew Bujalski, takes its time in revealing itself to be an unconventional rom-com with finances and fitness on its mind alongside romance.
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Though Corrigan has had lead roles before — "they just haven't escaped the festival circuit," he joked — he doesn't pay much attention to the size of a part. Rather, he sees every role as a chance to do something new.
"I still dig it, I'm still being allowed to do it, I still have my passions," Corrigan said during a recent interview in Los Angeles. "I've never been that specifically goal oriented. I get asked sometimes — and I'm lucky to be asked anything. Who wants to hear what I have to say? — but what part would you like to play that you haven't played, and I never have an answer. I very rarely say no."
In Bujalski's film, Corrigan plays Danny, a New Yorker transplanted to Austin, Texas, who is recently divorced and the more recent recipient of a large, unexpected inheritance. He has ensconced himself in a cookie-cutter mansion with no real idea of how to furnish it or go about being a rich person.
Wandering into a gym one day — he says he wants to learn how to take a punch — Danny soon finds himself involved in the lives of a personal trainer, Kat (Smulders), and her boss, Trevor (Pearce). Things accelerate when Danny invests in Trevor's plans to expand the gym, as the three find themselves entangled in a series of romantic and financial complications.
Corrigan's additional screen time in "Results," and what he was able to do with it, has not gone unnoticed. In the New York Times, A.O. Scott declared that "Mr. Corrigan is something of a comic genius, wielding his flabby frame and doughy face with remarkable grace and precision." Writing about the film following its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, Grantland writer Wesley Morris said Corrigan "has never been stronger. With his thinning hair, Bronx accent, and creepy air, he typically plays losers. This is one of the very few that culminates in a win."
Bujalski's previous films include "Computer Chess" and "Beeswax," likewise movies of modest means but thematic and formal ambitions, and he wrote the role of Danny with Corrigan in mind. Bujalski knew Corrigan's distinctive screen presence would give the character just the enigmatic spin it needed, as Danny's motives often remain hard to read.
"I've been a fan of his since at least 'Walking and Talking,'" recalled Bujalski, referencing Corrigan's role as a lovelorn video store clerk in the 1996 feature debut from writer-director Nicole Holofcener. "I remember sitting in the theater watching that movie and waiting for the credits to roll, thinking I've got to find out who that guy was."
Corrigan, 46, is a native New Yorker who has been acting since his teens. He lives there with his wife, actress Elizabeth Berridge, and their daughter. (Berridge plays his character's ex-wife in "Results.") Bujalski and Corrigan first met in person when they were both cast to appear in Austin-based filmmaker Bob Byington's 2008 comedy, "R.S.O. (Registered Sex Offender)," and the two had kept in touch since then. Corrigan also appeared in Byington's subsequent films "Harmony and Me" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me."
"Kevin just has this way of talking you haven't quite seen before. He really is a one-of-a-kind actor," Byington said. "It's not 'listen to how funny I'm going to make this line'; that's not where he's coming from. There's something else, very subconscious, going on."
But it wasn't just Corrigan that Bujalski was writing for, as he was also trying to figure out a way to write a character for Guy Pearce, the Australian actor known for "L.A Confidential," "Memento" and "The Hurt Locker."
"As different as he and Guy are, one of the things they have in common is that both are very internal actors, they're very inscrutable," Bujalski said. "You never quite know what each of them are thinking, and so they're the kind of actors I always lean forward in my seat to watch. And I think that's what led me down a path of trying to write a movie that would absorb both of their energies."
What he landed on is an unusual structure in which the film reveals itself to be a rom-com almost like a magic trick, handing off its focus from Corrigan's Danny to Pearce's Trevor somewhere along the way, with Smulders' headstrong, hotheaded Kat barreling between them.
"And that's been tricky for some people," Bujalski said. "That's the biggest violation of Hollywood rom-com screenwriting 101. In a romantic comedy movie, you've got to know who the protagonist is, and I violate that rule."
Or as Smulders put it in an interview at Sundance, "It was a romantic comedy like I'd never seen."
Following this rare lead role in "Results," Corrigan remains busy. He has a role in the upcoming Terrence Malick film, "Knight of Cups," and another film in which he appears, "Meadowland," directed by Reed Morano and starring Olivia Wilde, recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. He has a part as a bookie in the TNT period cop drama "Public Morals," created by Edward Burns, premiering later this summer.
He also has been occasionally hosting a live-event talk show in New York, "The Corrigan Show," with guests that have included musicians David Johansen and Kim Gordon, actress Natasha Lyonne and "Broad City's" Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
As for his notoriously eccentric line readings, Corrigan might also have been speaking of his entire career when he noted, "It's all a roll of the dice. I don't do the same thing twice."