Patrick Wilson and his wife Dagmara Dominczyk kicked off The Film Institute at Montclair State University’s Behind the Screen 2018, discussing everything from acting and family to the upcoming “Aquaman” film.
After an introduction from the Director of Programming at the Film Institute Susan Skoog, Wilson and Dominczyk took the stage of a packed presentation hall in the School of Communication and Media. From the moment they entered the hall, the couple was loud, happy and bubbly. They were unfazed by the rainy Sunday morning.
Both graduates of Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, the stars strongly advocate for higher education whether that be acting school or not.
“I went to Laguardia on a whim,” Domincyzk said. “I auditioned and I was good, but I had no money. Carnegie gave me a full scholarship. It gives you exposure but doesn’t guarantee you a job.”
Wilson and his wife were adamant on school not being an instant route to success but rather preparing them for the future.
“I’ve never done Shakespeare or Chekhov since school, but it’s great to press yourself. Will I ever play an 80-year-old woman like I did sophomore year of college?” Dagmara asked rhetorically. “Probably not, but I know I can.”
After graduating, Wilson did mostly musical theater. He starred in “The Full Monty” on Broadway and Mike Nichols “called me into audition for ‘Angels in America.’” The actor said he cannot go a month without someone mentioning that miniseries to him.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Wilson said.
Since then, he has appeared in countless roles in films like “The Conjuring,” “Watchmen,” “Insidious,” “Fargo,” “Young Adult” and “Hard Candy.”
Dominczyk and Wilson were clear that a filmography like Wilson’s in not the only measure of success.
“If you can act on a semi-regular basis with people you respect and make money from it, doing something of value and valuing yourself while paying your bills, then that’s a success story,” Dominczyk said.
In addition to acting in television and films like “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Immigrant,” she is the author of “The Lullaby of Polish Girls,” a novel in which the protagonist is a Polish immigrant.
“We each have our own story,” Dominczyk said. “Put your pen to paper and create your own content.”
One of Wilson’s most anticipated upcoming roles is with frequent collaborator James Wan’s “Aquaman.” He could not say much about it, as “the Warner Brothers [non disclosure agreement] is racing through my mind. But I thought green screen would drive me nuts.”
“[Me and my costar Willem Dafoe] really liked it,” Wilson said. “We found ourselves on various wires and different devices but it almost felt like this weird avant-garde theater.”
Kate Braunstein, Taylor Moore and myself conducted an interview with Wilson and Dominczyk for WMSC. We spoke about the importance of highlighting different paths to success.
“You want to take away, not the sparkle, but the intrigue because it’s amazing and awesome but it’s a doable thing,” Dominczyk said. “You can still be a real human being and be a movie actor or a theater actor.”
Wilson recounted having to audition and “fighting pretty hard for a role that was not very flashy.”
“I don’t think it was one of my greatest roles,” Wilson said.
When pressed by his spouse, he revealed he was referencing the 2010 Roger Michell comedy, “Morning Glory.”
The couple also spoke about balancing their schedules while raising their two sons in Montclair. They try to be away from the family for no more than two and a half weeks at a time.
When Wilson is shooting on location, Dominczyk either works on local sets or focuses on writing.
“There are a few times when I’ve gotten something great and he’s away filming, and I take it because I want it and then we have to manage,” Dominczyk said. “We don’t have a nanny and you have to juggle schedules and the kids. I remember when I was doing ‘The Immigrant’ and I was really sick. I had a double ear infection and we shot nights and the babysitter would sleep at our house. I’d get home at five in the morning, get up at seven and take the kids to school.”
Thinking back, the couple remembered the first time they saw each other on screen postgraduation. Wilson recounted watching his then future wife in “The Count of Monte Cristo” and being amazed by her talent and beauty.
Dominczyk told a similar story of watching “Angels in America” in her Brooklyn apartment. She instantly recognized her former classmate and was hooked for the six-hour miniseries, sobbing through its entirety.
When asked about when they first felt successful, Wilson talked about being emotionally touched by a play at 15 years old. Dominczyk discussed getting a $4,000 check for a yogurt commercial that aired in Ireland and bringing it home to her family that was annually earning roughly $5,000 a year.
The pair was more than willing to share advice.
“We’re Amazon Prime-ing our lives,” Dominczyk said. “We need to play the long game. Rub shoulders with people. Go into the city a lot. Look up from your phone.”
Concluding the interview, Wilson and Domińczyk discussed their favorite films of the past year. The couple enjoyed “I, Tonya” and “The Florida Project,” but their Oscar front runner is “Get Out.” Wilson described it as a benchmark film and he was thrilled.
“It was Jordan Peele’s first directing gig,” Wilson said. “Daniel [Kaluuya] really brought it, and I love seeing beautiful acting work in a genre that’s not known for it.”