Greg Kinnear has heard "the L-word" a lot during the course of his career. "Loser." It's always used describing characters he plays, mind you. But the label still stings.
"I get my share of those. What can I say?"
When you make your big-screen bow as a jerk who doesn't "get the girl" (Sabrina); when you play a sad-sack salesman who can't close the deal (The Matador); when Little Miss Sunshine gave him the chance to play, as Newsday's Gene Seymour described him, "the consummate loser," well, a fellow could get a reputation.
In his new film, Feast of Love, he's a glum, clueless guy whose wife abandons him for another woman, who stumbles and fails at love repeatedly. Some people might say "loser," even if his character, Bradley, is a lovable one. Kinnear shrugs it off.
"There's no escaping someone's interpretation of what you do. Once you realize that, it's kind of liberating. I let go and just choose movies that give me something to bounce off of."
Feast of Love offered Kinnear, 44, that chance with Morgan Freeman, Selma Blair and Radha Mitchell. A romance based on a Charles Baxter novel, which in turn was loosely based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's an ensemble piece also starring Jane Alexander, Toby Hemingway, Missi Pyle, Fred Ward and Alexa Davalos.
"Bradley is a guy whose innocence about love is an essentially nice quality for anybody to have," Kinnear says of his character, a Portland, Ore., coffee-shop owner who strikes out, time and again. "I love that he's not afraid to go through a disaster and then just get back up on the horse, no matter how bad a fall you've taken. That's romantic."
Kinnear has a quality, not unlike fellow actor Terrence Howard, of being so emotionally accessible that he often seems to be on the verge of tears. Check out those welled-up eyes in As Good As it Gets and Little Miss Sunshine and Feast of Love. Tell him he was "the perfect choice" to play weepy football coach Dick Vermeil in Invincible, and he simply owns it.
"I am emotional. I get it from my dad, what can I tell you? You can't manufacture that. That's a quality I think you're born with."
Protests notwithstanding, this one-time Oscar nominated actor is aware of how he's perceived, at the pigeonhole that perhaps Hollywood and certainly interviewers have shoved him into. Doggone it, let's change the subject.
"I'm doing this movie I'm really excited about right now, in Toronto."
Really? What's it called?
"Flash of Genius. It's about a guy named Robert Kearns who was an inventor who came up with things like the intermittent windshield wiper, which he brought to Ford, which stole it."
Uh-oh. You mean the guy wasn't a winner?
"Uhhh, well he went through some tough times, a great struggle. But in the end . . . "
Reach Roger Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5369.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times