TORONTO -- It’s an overnight success story 11 years in the making. Scoot McNairy, 32, the Dallas-born actor who has been working in indie films and commercials for more than a decade, is having a moment. And it’s one on grand display at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he has come with the cast of "Argo," to promote the Ben Affleck-directed film that took him from Los Angeles to Istanbul, Turkey and back.
The film marks one of five the actor has shot this year with directors he truly admires: Affleck, Andrew Dominik in “Killing Them Softly,” Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land,” and Lynn Shelton’s “Touchy Feely.”
Wearing eyeglasses and a button-down, McNairy talks work before he is to be whisked off to a press conference to promote “Argo,” though he’s already been told by his friend, producer Dede Gardner, that he doesn’t have to worry, “They won’t ask you anything, Scoot,” he relays.
Yet it’s Gardner and Dominik that McNairy credits for his success. Yes, the actor had already received some acclaim for his role in the Gareth Edwards indie “Monsters,” but Dominik, he says, was willing to take a flyer on the actor who honed his skills in L.A. acting classes and through a slew of commercials.
“Andrew Dominik once said, ‘Where have you been?’ I didn’t want to tell him that I auditioned for [his] 'Jesse James,'” he says with a laugh. Though Dominik made it up to McNairy by calling Affleck and urging him to hire him to play one of the diplomats who needs rescuing. “I literally owe him everything.”
As part of the preparation for the role as one of six house-bound diplomats evading Iranian militants during the 1979 hostage crisis, McNairy and the other actors, including Tate Donovan and Victor Garber, spent six days in a house in Hancock Park, pretending to be captive guests. “They took our cellphones, we weren’t allowed to leave the house. We ate dinners together, lunch, watched movies, stayed up till 6 a.m. drinking,” said McNairy. By the time they started shooting, the group had gotten close. “Working on the set with them was like brothers and sisters, like family.”
McNairy is writing his own movie now, which he hopes to direct in the swamps of Texas with Lynn Shelton’s frequent cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke. But what he really needs is another job, something he hopes won’t be too difficult now that all these movies are set to come out in the next few months.
“People keep asking me if I’m getting all these offers and making all this money,” said McNairy. “I’m not getting offers and I’m making less money than I’ve ever made in my life. But the parts are priceless.”