Award-winning actor Patrick Wilson, who has tackled lead roles in major Broadway musicals, as well as starring in big-budget blockbusters, currently stars in the new movie Moonfall, also starring Halle Berry and John Bradley, out February 4 through Lionsgate. He recently wrapped Aquaman 2, opposite Jason Momoa, and will star and make his directorial debut in the fifth film in the Insidious horror franchise. He previously starred in The Conjuring franchise and his other film credits include Aquaman, The Founder, Prometheus, Young Adult, Watchmen, Little Children. Hard Candy and The Phantom of the Opera. He starred in the TV series Fargo, opposite Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Ted Danson, and received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his performance in the HBO miniseries Angels in America, based on Tony Kushner’s play. Wilson earned two consecutive Tony Award nominations for Best Actor in a Musical, the most recent coming for his performance as Curly in the 2002 Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, starred in the revival of the Neil Simon comedy Barefoot in the Park, opposite Amanda Peet, and acted in the 2008/2009 revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, with John Lithgow, Dianne West and Katie Holmes.
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the February 4 release in theaters of Roland Emmerich’s new blockbuster spectacle Moonfall, starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson and John Bradley, Wilson shared some of the things that are most important in his life. — N.D.
I grew up having dogs and we’ve got three now. When I was a kid, we always had German Shepherds; at one point, we had three. I had an Australian cattle dog for a long time, too. I’ve had a lot of highs and lows with dogs in my life. One died on Christmas Eve when I was a kid, and one time recently, one of our dogs got out on Christmas Eve – I was stressed to the core. I remember saying to my wife, “You don’t understand. When I was seven, my German Shepherd puppy ran away and then was found dead. So losing a dog at Christmas is not good with me!” About 12 years ago, as soon as my wife and I got out to the suburbs with our two boys, we said, “We’ve got to get a dog.”
My wife and I then got our first family dog, but she died of cancer when she was four and a half. She was just the best dog we ever had and it was terrible to lose her. I remember the day she died: I was in L.A. shooting the Elvis scene in The Conjuring 2 and my wife was home. We were trying to wait till the end of the week to put her to sleep, but it just wasn’t in the cards and she passed away that day. After that, we got a new puppy, who is now seven years old; we also have two other dogs, and all three are so completely different. The middle one has got high anxiety and is on medication. I feel terrible for her, because she gets so stressed. Our youngest is a puppy we got a little over a year ago, a Cavapoo who sleeps with us on our bed every night. He’s named Eddie Van Wilson, because we got him right after Eddie Van Halen passed away and I love Van Halen.
Now, the majority of my time when I’m at home – especially when my kids are in school – is about my relationship with my dogs. Most of my day seems like it’s spent either cleaning up their crap, literally and figuratively, or feeding them. My dogs bring me so much enjoyment, but every time there’s a worker in our house – which is frequently, as there’s major construction going on at the moment – there’s a lot of barking and then I need to call them to me and give them treats. By the end of the day, I’m just comatose!
I have been a diehard fan of Van Halen for as long as I can remember. My two brothers and I are in a band, and about half of what we play is Van Halen songs. My oldest brother has always been the singer and the show-off – the David Lee Roth of the family – and my other brother is the guitarist. I first heard Van Halen through my brothers and when I realized that it was Eddie and Alex who were playing, that the drummer was playing with his brother – as adults, as professionals – I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
My brothers are four-and-a-half and six years older than me, so as a teenager, the only way we could really find common ground was specifically when we played Van Halen. I knew that if I got behind the drums, my middle brother, Mark, would pick up his guitar and play, and then we could make music together. That was really the common bond between us. When Mark turned 40, we got together again to play. We never practiced, we just rolled through a bunch of Van Halen songs, because we just know all of them.
Through the course of my career, I’ve met all the various band members and even met Eddie’s son Wolfie, and I’m excited to see Mammoth WVH, Wolfie’s band. When I met Valerie Bertinelli, she introduced me to Eddie and then they came to my dressing room when I was doing a show. Van Halen has been a constant throughout my life, so when Eddie passed away last year, all of a sudden I had this feeling, “I’m never going to see these brothers play again.” Music speaks to all of us in some fashion; for me, it was always classic rock, so saying goodbye to Van Halen was a hard pill to swallow. Even as a 40-something man, I thought, “Oh shit, that chapter’s done,” and that was a weird thing. You never want to let go of that. I saw the band play a ton of times and I saw their last show at the Hollywood Bowl, but I would have gone to see them when they were 80, because I still felt, “That’s my band. Those are my guys.”
Everything that I do revolves around my family. Everything. We used to have this rule of never being apart for more than two weeks, and it worked for a good 10 years. There was one time we stretched it to 17 days, and it was terrible! But it’s not been possible so much recently, because for Aquaman I was in Australia and my wife and kids were in Jersey, and then the pandemic hit. Even when I was shooting in Montreal, which is only five hours’ drive, I couldn’t come home because of COVID restrictions and government guidelines. The same thing happened with Aquaman 2, which we shot in London, so it’s been very difficult recently.
My wife and I knew very early on that family was going to be our focus. She’s one of three girls and I’m one of three boys, so family was always central to our lives. For us, our children are our most important legacy. She and I met at college and then were reunited 10 years later at an alumni event; after that, it didn’t take long for us to get married and have kids, because we both were approaching our late twenties and felt, “The most important thing in my life is to meet someone like you and have a family.” And so that’s what we’ve done for the past 16 years.
The older the boys get, every single move that I make – in my career or some other area – always goes through the lens of how it will affect them. Right now, I’m preparing to direct a movie that we’ll shooting in New Jersey, but whatever I do, I have to be home in the fall because I need to be there to watch my older son play football. I have missed so many games in the past year because I was away shooting, and for a football player in high school, those moments fly by so quickly. For me, the most important thing is balancing priorities, and luckily my wife supports me in that and feels the same way.