12 Things We Learned With Jon Hamm
"I think that the world and the time has moved past [Don Draper]."
Although it’s entirely coincidental, Wild Mountain Thyme is perfectly primed for this moment in time. The new film starring Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, and Christopher Walken, from director John Patrick Shanley, is a patch of sunlight in a storm. It’s an absolute escape from reality, with its beautiful scenery, modern-day fairytale, and, um, an ending that makes the word "twist" look mild. “Right now it’s needed,” says Jon Hamm over the phone. “We all need a little wide-eyed wonder.”
The only reality check in the movie is Hamm’s character, Adam. Without giving too much away, Adam comes in between Blunt and Dornan’s love story and grounds the film with a touch of cynicism — and his unfamiliarity with rural living. He’s no Don Draper. (By the way, Hamm is totally aware that he will be known as his Mad Men character forever.)
Here, Hamm chats about the surreality of filming Wild Mountain Thyme, whether he’d ever be down for suiting up as Don Draper once again, and the lesson he thinks we all need to learn. “I’m certain that we’ll find some sense of normalcy soon,” he says, “but in the meantime, you can virtually go to Ireland via Wild Mountain Thyme.”
1. How did you prepare mentally for the role of playing Adam?
It was fairly easy to play a fish out of water when you’ve never been to Ireland and you’re thrust into it and all that it brings to the table, and everywhere you look is a brand-new thing and a rainbow and a thunderstorm and a cow and a sheep. It’s really spectacular. We shot in the west region of Ireland, County Mayo, and it was fairly easy to get into the role of an American who’s very wide-eyed.
2. What was your favorite memory from being on location?
All of it [laughs]. The town we were in, Ballina, is coincidentally where Joe Biden’s family is from, so they’re having a good year. The people were so friendly. There was a pub we’d go to and the owner would keep it open for us. It was like [what] you read about. It was absolutely beautiful and the weather was appropriately blustery for the season. My favorite part was everything.
3. What was your favorite scene to film?
There were a couple. The scenes with Emily [Blunt] I really enjoyed because they were longer and we were talking about stuff, but I think my favorite scene was probably the scene with me and Jamie [Dornan] and all of the cows, because those cows were real and they were real big. They kind of moved as a group, and you thought, “I hope I’m not in between those cows and whatever those cows want, because I wouldn’t be much more than a speed bump to those guys.”
4. What kind of fun did you get into with Emily and Jamie behind the scenes?
John Krasinski, Emily’s husband who I’ve known for a long time, came and we all got to go out and have dinner and see the sights. That was really fun. Then there’s this beautiful tradition of going to pubs in Ireland and they have traditional music and you can kind of lose yourself in it. It’s so funny to think back — we shot that in 2019, and it feels like we shot it in 1945 the way you look back and you’re like, “Oh my god, I was in a pub with 900 strangers swaying along to sad Irish songs. I wonder if we’ll ever get to do that again.” I think we will, and I’m certain that we’ll find some sense of normalcy soon, but in the meantime, you can virtually go to Ireland via Wild Mountain Thyme.
5. Did you have much interaction with Christoper Walken on set?
Not on set, but we did have a couple dinners together and I got to meet him and get to know him and he’s an absolutely lovely, lovely man. He’s a unique individual. He’d never been to Ireland either, and you could tell he was absolutely enjoying himself and completely tickled by the experience. That was an experience that we all felt.
6. You called yourself a fish out of water in the countryside. Obviously, in Mad Men, Don Draper was really familiar with this rural farm life. Where does your own experience and familiarity with it fall on that spectrum?
Well, I have family from southern Missouri and my uncles and cousins and things had farms. That’s what you did. You raised livestock or you raised crops and that was part of my growing up. I definitely knew my way around livestock and cow shit and all the other stuff. For a little kid, it’s fun. There’s tools, tractors, big animals, and ducks and all the other stuff. I wouldn’t say I’m a farmer by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been on a farm or two in my life.
7. One of Adam's lines in the film — “the kind of dreams kids have make adults miserable” — really sticks with you. How much do you believe in that?
[SPOILER ALERT] It’s the classic conundrum. How much of your dream life are you allowed to maintain, and how much of it is practical? I think you have to have a sense of childlike wonder in your existence, and that’s ultimately what Rosemary chooses, when she chooses Anthony. She loves that about him — his childlike wonder, and it’s what makes him unique and it’s what makes her love him. Adam has less of that, and Americans in general have less of that. They’re a little more practical and bottom-line everything.
But I do think there’s something beautiful and magical in not just this project but everything John [Patrick Shanley]’s written — if you look at Moonstruck, Joe Versus the Volcano, you find these characters that are wild romantics. That sensibility is great, and especially right now it’s needed. We all need a little wide-eyed wonder.
8. Reflecting back on your own childhood, how closely does your life now resemble what you had dreamed for yourself when you were younger?
I’m alive, that’s a good thing [laughs]. When you lose your parents as young as I lost my parents…I don’t know. I’m sitting at my desk right now and looking at a picture of me and my dad from my graduation, and next to it is a picture of me and Jimmy Kimmel. It’s a very strange life, what I have. I’m very pleased with it and happy with where I am. Did I imagine I would be here? I don’t know. I imagined I’d be somewhere, but I’m happy with where I am.
9. Out of all the characters you’ve played in your career, which one do you identify with the most?
I don’t know if I “identify” in the sense that I think I am him or anything, but I think, obviously, because of the length and breadth and depth that I portrayed the character, I will certainly be identified as Don Draper as long as I live. That’s part of being on a television show as successful as it was, for as long as it was. It’s the better part of a decade that I played that character and, until something better comes along, it’s probably what people will keep pointing to. It’s better than the guy I played in Bridesmaids, so…
10. Do you feel like the book is closed on Mad Men? Or would you ever return as Don Draper in some kind of movie or reunion special?
I don’t necessarily see the point in continuing that story. It ended so beautifully and elegantly. I think that the world and the time has moved past that story. If anything, I’d watch a Joan series. I’d watch a Pete spinoff or something. I was so pleased with how Matthew [Weiner] ended the story, and I was so pleased with what we all did on that show. I think it’s nice to be able to put it to rest. I think part of the beauty of Mad Men is that it didn’t lend itself to spinoffs and it didn’t lend itself to prequels or sequels. It’s just a one-off story. It is what it is.
11. If you could live during any other time in history, which one would you pick?
The Paleolithic era, maybe. That sounds kind of fun. Sharpened sticks. Trying to figure out which berries are poisonous. I don’t know — as insane as it is now, I don’t think we’ve ever had it better. If I could go back in time and rejigger the world, I would probably go back to the Industrial Age and say, “We should be really careful about what we’re putting into the oceans and how much plastic we’re making, and we should rethink the nuclear situation.” But we have a pretty good life here on planet Earth. I think we need to understand that we’re all in it together a little more, and lean in towards cooperation and less towards tribalism. If we learn that lesson, maybe we can last another couple hundred years — fingers crossed anyway.
12. What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
The fact that it’s not 2020. I’ve had such positive thoughts for 2020 — “It’s 2020! Perfect vision! This one is going to be the best!” I remember thinking on New Year’s Eve, “This year is going to be the best.” And then it really turned out to not be the best. It turned out to be the worst. So all I can hope for, for 2021, is that it’s not 2020.