The LRM Interview With Michelle Monaghan On Patriots Day & More

– by Edward Douglas

The subject matter of Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg’s new film Patriots Day might be even tougher to some as their last film, Deepwater Horizon, as it looks at the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 that left three dead and dozens injured.

In the movie, Wahlberg plays police officer Tommy Saunders, who is on duty at the marathon on the day of the bombing, so he’s on the forefront of the investigation to find those responsible. His wife Carol is played by Michelle Monaghan, who has given breakout performances in films like Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone, Duncan Jones’ Source Code, as well as the acclaimed first season of HBO’s True Detective, and she brings more humanity to the movie which ends up following the FBI and Boston PD as they go after the perps. 

What Berg may not have realized when he cast Monaghan was that he would get a really great spokesperson for the film, because Monaghan has always proven herself to be quite passionate and eloquent whenever speaking about her projects.

LRM got on the phone with Ms. Monaghan before the holidays to talk about Patriots Day, as well as a couple other things she has coming out this month. 

LRM: How did you find out about this movie? I know that a few different people had been trying to make a movie based on these events, so how did they reach out to you?

Michelle Monaghan: You know, Pete had reached out to me, probably about a few weeks after the production started. I’d known Pete just personally through a film that I had done a few years ago that he was a fan of , and he and I remained in contact, and we sort of wanted to work together at some stage, and then when this film came together, he called me up and sent it to me, and said, “I’d really like you toplay the role of Carol.” I got on the phone with Mark at that point as well and spoke to them both. After I’d read the script, of course, I thought it was incredibly compelling and emotional and essentially paid tribute to a lot of the people and the characters that I wasn’t necessarily privy to when the actual tragedy took place. For that reason, I really wanted to be involved, because I felt like there was a particular untold story there that I really felt like I really wanted to help convey. I felt most certainly that Pete and Mark were approaching the storytelling with the utmost sensitivity and I felt like it was something I really wanted to be a part of.

LRM: I know that Mark’s character Tommy was an amalgamation of a couple different Boston police officers they spoke to, so was Carol similar?

Monaghan:  Yeah. Carol was also a composite character and I think what the film does so well--which is essentially what Carol is--it’s really about people sort of getting up and doing very normal and mundane things, making coffee, sending somebody on their way to work. You’re going through your routine of life and then something absolutely just appalling and unthinkable happens, and then how people sort of mobilize or people sort of unite to get through that or how people process that. I just thought was a really common person. It’s a very normal person experiencing the utmost horrific thing and feeling that fear and vulnerability and then ultimately, you see the strength of people sort of coming together, and you see these amazing acts of compassion and certainly acts of bravery and stories of survival. I think that’s honestly what Pete does so well is being able to incorporate in the film this idea that all the procedural things that happened as a result of something like this, but at the same time, the balancing act with the actual emotional story of real people.  I sort of felt like that was Carol, and she was so representative of so many of us that would be experiencing that on that particular day. 

LRM:  That’s kind of what makes the movie so amazing. I was really close to 9/11 as I live about a mile from Ground Zero, so I remember what people in New York went through and when that happened in Boston, it was so obvious that everyone was ready and there was a faster turnaround in figuring things out, which is amazing to see.

Monaghan: That’s exactly right, and I think—I don’t want to speak for Pete or Mark—but I’ve heard them comment that unfortunately, these are acts that continue that continue to happen all over the world that unfortunately are not unique to New York or France or Boston. These are things that will continue to take place and really ultimately, the story is about triumph and how really people sort of unite and mobilize and come together. That’s really, as cliché as it sounds, love wins, and that’s something that I don’t think the perpetrators ever count on, you know?  

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LRM: Was the movie Pete saw you in “Fort Bliss”?

Monaghan: Yeah, it was Fort Bliss! Yeah, man. 

LRM: I figured as much because Pete’s one of these directors who really gets into the life of soldiers and police officers…

Monaghan: Yeah, we’re really big supporters and fans of veterans and what they do, and that film actually brought us together.  I’m always surprised that anyone even knows that movie. I’m always shocked.

LRM: I moderated your Q n A at the Apple Store. It was a movie I really enjoyed that I wish more people knew about.

Monaghan: Awww… thanks, man. Thank you. 

LRM: Is this the first time you filmed in Boston before?

Monaghan: No, I shot Gone Baby Gone there. 

LRM: Oh, wow. Of course.

Monaghan: Yeah, but I don’t think I’d been to Boston since, to be quite honest, so I was happy to go back to Boston. It really is such a small community. It didn’t feel like a city at all to me. Everybody is very tight-knit. Everybody knows each other, and it’s a great city. 

LRM: Most of your scenes are with Mark so was it a situation where you went in, did your scenes and that was it?

Monaghan: That’s exactly it. I shot over the course I guess probably three weeks, and I went in and out of Boston. I was sort of shooting something simultaneously on the East Coast, so I sort of went back and forth. I think that’s also why I was so proud ultimately when I saw the movie because I didn’t really have the opportunity to meet many of the other actors. When I got to see the film with many of the other actors at AFI, our closing night, I was so incredibly proud of anyone and the tone of the film and how beautifully and delicately handled (it was), and how it represented so many of the real life heroes and survivors. It’s a film that I’m very, very proud to be a part of.

LRM: Since you were in the scene with the aftermath of the explosions, what was it like shooting that? They must have been very sensitive, and I’m not sure if they shot in the actual area or how they handled it.

Monaghan: Well, it was. They rebuilt the finish line, that set, and it was shot over about three days there. It was incredible. I think there were about 800 extras there. Pete and Mark were incredibly forthcoming and candid and very sensitive with the crowd and made sure that they knew what we were doing and how we were doing it and make sure that everyone felt safe obviously, not only physically, but also emotionally everybody felt supported if it triggered any emotions or anything like that, that there was a tremendous amount of help and support teams standing by. That being said, it was incredible. My character was at the finish line, and so therefore, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people that were there as well. They were people who experienced it firsthand, on the actual day that it happened and in turn, decided to come back and be a part of it once again. I found that incredibly humbling and really felt like that is what exemplifies “Boston Strong,” truly, is that kind of support that community has. People were so united then and still to this day they still are. 

LRM: You have a very emotional scene with Mark and I attended a luncheon here in New York and a police officer in attendance mentioned that scene is very close to reality and that officers have to deal with so much stuff that every once in a while, they just break down. What was it like doing that scene with him? That scene is crushing.

Monaghan: Yeah, it was. Thank you. It was very intense. Initially, the scene was written where I think Carol speaks a little here and there, and we ultimately decided that Carol doesn’t say anything. I think what’s most true in situations like that is that somebody comes in to the door and really essentially has a breakdown or a release, really needs to let it all hang out and communicate. A person knows well enough, especially a wife or a husband, to just listen and to just be there to listen. Pete’s a wonderful director, and I think because he’s acted once before, he really provides such a great space. I just felt the cameras weren’t there, to be honest, but they were right there, as you know, and you keep the cameras rolling. Surely we stopped cameras and changed positions, but Mark and I were really in the scene, and we probably shot the scene in probably about 15 minutes. It was all said and done. It was beautiful. Mark’s performance was wonderful. 

LRM: I absolutely agree. It’s definitely more of an ensemble piece but that moment in particular really pulls things together.

Monaghan: Oh, I know. That’s the thing. It’s such a great ensemble and such an amazing cast. These are all actors that I respected, really admire their work, and to see them all come in and give such poignant performances is beautiful. I think the young man that played Tamerlan—his name is Themo (Melikidze)—I found out the other day that he doesn’t even have his SAG card yet. That was really his first performance and he’s absolutely extraordinary, and then you see legendary actors—actors that have been around for so long like JK Simmons and Kevin Bacon and John Goodman and Michael Beach and obviously Mark. Even the young man that played Sean Collier (Jake Picking), it was one of his first jobs, so it was really nice to see fantastic performances from such a wide-range of actors in their careers. 

LRM: I totally agree. So what else have you been up to? I know you have a movie going to Sundance, and I just learned you have a Hulu show called “The Path,” which I realized I actually have a screener sitting a few feet away, which I would have watched if I knew you were in it. Is that mainly what you’ve been doing?

Monaghan: Yeah, I’ve got a film coming out with Jamie Foxx called Sleepless, that comes out in January as well, and then yeah, Season 2 starts January 25, which is great. I’m so excited for that. I love the show. My co-stars are Aaron Paul and Hugh Dancy, and then yes, I have Sidney Hall going to Sundance, which I’m really excited about. I love the film with Logan Lerman and Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler, and then I’ve got a few things lined up for the sprint. Hopefully, we’ll get picked up for Season 3 on The Path, and if so, we’ll shoot that in June. 

LRM: How are things going with the productions you’ve been trying to get going?

Monaghan: You know, I’m looking at a few books right now. I had a book for a while, and I sort of let that go. I realized I wasn’t feeling that passionate about it anymore, so now I’m looking at a few other things to develop.

Patriots Day is now playing in select cities but will open nationwide on the evening of Thursday, January 12, as will Monaghan’s other film Sleepless, and then later in January, her new movie Sidney Hall will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and then January 25, the second season of The Path will air on Hulu!

Featured, Film, Interviews, LRM Exclusives Michelle Monaghan, LRM Interview, Patriots Day, Sleepless, Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg