Far From Gone Guy

By Natalie Kurz
In Culture, Interviews

With a Tony Award, new autobiography and smash hit “Gone Girl” to his credit, Neil Patrick Harris is having a banner year. But it certainly wont be his lastthis star has some serious staying power.

 

Find our Gone Girl feature here.

To say that 2014 has been good to Neil Patrick Harris might be the understatement of the year. He finished his critically acclaimed nine-season run starring as the “legend…wait for it…ary,” lovable lothario Barney Stinson in TV’s “How I Met Your Mother.” He won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his mesmerizing turn as an East German transgender singer in Broadway’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” this summer. 

In September, he married his long-time partner David Burtka, with whom he has twins, in a surprise wedding in Italy. And in October, he published his autobiography “Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography,” which cleverly lets the reader stand in Harris’ shoes and make decisions about where his life is taken next. “You will be presented with a series of choices,” one excerpt reads. 

“Choose wisely and you will end up happy, successful and blessed with two wonderful children. Choose poorly and you will end up being physically threatened outside a Hollywood nightclub by Scott Caan.” 

But perhaps the biggest reason why St. Louisans are looking Harris’ way this year is for the rave reviews he’s garnering for his role in “Gone Girl,” directed by David Fincher and starring Harris, Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Tyler Perry. (Filmed, in part, in nearby Cape Girardeau, it was adapted from the bestselling novel by Kansas City-area author Gillian Flynn). 

And the year’s not quite over yet: He was recently tapped to helm the 2015 Academy Awards, allowing him to check “Hosting the Oscars” off his bucket list. And just before we went to press, we received word that Harris landed his own variety show on NBC, to air on a yet-to-be-released date in 2015. (He also announced he’ll be joining the cast of “American Horror Story,” alongside husband Burtka, for the final two episodes of the current season.) 

Whether it’s hosting the Tony Awards (four times!), performing magic (he’s also the president of the Board of Directors of Hollywood’s Magic Castle) or doing a self-parodying cameo in the “Harold & Kumar” films, Harris has made a name for himself as a consummate entertainer. He’s like today’s version of Tom Hanks—a charming, multitalented everyman who makes you want to root for him, regardless of what he’s doing. 

That’s why the affable 41-year-old was a surprising choice to play Desi Collings in “Gone Girl,” a dark psychological thriller about an envied wife living in rural Missouri who goes missing on her fifth anniversary, leaving a trail of mystery, suspicion and deceit in her wake. Harris plays the obsessive ex-boyfriend with calculated precision, leveling a piercing, emotionless stare that’s very different from the likeable characters Harris has played in the past. As the mirthless Collings, he proves that his dramatic chops are just as juicy as his comedic ones—and confirms, once again, that there’s nothing he can’t do. 

We caught up with the versatile Harris about his banner year, filming in Cape, how he approached the role of Desi and if, in fact, there is anything he can’t do. 

ALIVE: Had you ever been to Missouri before filming “Gone Girl” in Cape Girardeau? 

Neil Patrick Harris: I’d been to St. Louis before, but never to Cape. I really enjoyed myself—the people were incredibly nice. I got to know a few of them over the time that I was there, and everyone was friendly and respectful. I’m always a fan of people just behaving normally, with no agenda. I felt that in Cape Girardeau. 

ALIVE: What are your thoughts on the novel and your character, Desi Collings, who is often described as “creepy”? 

NPH: Like most of the world, I was a big fan of the novel. It’s a great piece of literature; I really love the structure. So when I was chosen to play Desi, I was understandably stoked. Creepy is always rewarding to play, especially when things aren’t as they seem. 

ALIVE: Tell us about how you were cast in the role. Did you ever see yourself playing this character? 

NPH: I had a lunch meeting with David Fincher, who is also one of my idols. That was probably the most surreal two hours of my entire “Gone Girl” chapter. Just getting to sit across from him and pick his brain—to soar verbally—was perfect. 

ALIVE: There’s a lot of casting against type in the movie: you as Desi, Tyler Perry as a high-priced attorney. How did you prepare for playing this kind of guy? Was your process any different playing a villain? 

NPH: We were asked to be as real and as pure as possible, not to be “villainous.” So that made things easier. I didn’t have to do much pretending. My main motivation was to be smitten with Rosamund Pike, which is quite an easy directive. 

ALIVE: What was the atmosphere like on set? 

NPH: It was very quiet. Eerily so. Everyone was focused on a.) working hard and b.) listening to Boss Fincher. Very focused days and nights. 

ALIVE: How long were you in Cape filming? What kinds of things did you do in your downtime? 

NPH: I was there off and on for a few weeks. I mostly slept in, worked out at a local gym, wrote stories for my autobiography (which is super-rad fantastic, not that I’m overtly promoting it or anything—I’m just excited and really think that everyone who is reading this should stop everything right now and order it online)…and studied my lines. 

ALIVE: So you just finished 140 shows of “Hedwig” on Broadway and filmed “Gone Girl” with director David Fincher, who is notorious for having actors repeat the same scene again and again. That’s a lot of repetition for one person in a short amount of time! If you had to live one perfect day again and again, a? la “Groundhog Day,” what would you want that day to be? 

NPH: Probably a full day of entertainment bliss at Disney World in Orlando with my husband and our two kids—riding rides, seeing shows, gasping at fireworks. I’m a big Disney nut, but way more now that I’m a father. 

ALIVE: You and your husband have been together for over 10 years, which is like 127 years by Hollywood standards. What are three things you can attribute to why you’ve stayed together so long? 

NPH: Laughter, adventure and a full stomach. 

ALIVE: So you’ve done movies, TV, web series, Broadway, award show hosting, written a book…you’ve already won a Tony Award and several Emmys. Is there anything you can’t do? No, seriously. Please name three things you can’t actually do. We can wait… 

NPH: I can’t juggle five things. I can’t slowly press up into a handstand. I can’t fluently speak another language. Thanks for reminding me. 

 

5669_1791.jpgPhoto by Aaron Fallon/CPi Syndication.

 

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