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Chris Messina On Working With His Daughters, Yelling At Matt Damon And His Comfort Movies

“It’s fun to yell at people, especially Matt Damon.”
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Chris Messina, 48, is no Hollywood newbie. Eagle-eyed fans may even recognise him from his small role in the 1998 rom-com, You’ve Got Mail (one of his first ever film roles). In his 25-year career, Messina has worked alongside some of the most revered people in the industry, earning legions of fans across genres, from indie flicks to action blockbusters to the Mindy Kaling-powered TV sit com, The Mindy Project.

In 2023, he’s appearing in two of the year’s biggest films—an adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Boogeyman and the Ben Affleck-directed Air. We spoke to the actor about working with his daughters on The Boogeyman and yelling at Matt Damon in Air.

Marie Claire: You’re starring in The Boogeyman, which is based on a short story by Stephen King. What was your first exposure to King’s stories?

Chris Messina: The first movie I saw of his was Cujo and that freaked me out. Maybe I was too young to see it. I was scared of dogs for a while after that. I feel like Stephen King owns his own genre.

Chris Messina has acted across all genres, from thrillers, to indie rom-coms to major blockbusters. (Credit: Getty)

MC: Who is your favourite Stephen King villain?

CM: Kathy Bates in Misery. It’s a really tight, beautiful, scary film. Kathy Bates is breathtaking and because she was unknown at the time you really bought into her psychopathic character because she wasn’t a movie star.

MC: You worked with your daughters on this film. What was that like?

CM: I loved working with my daughters. They were fantastic. [But] they were frustrating because they were so good. I was terrible in their presence.

MC: You also recently starred in the movie Air. How familiar were you with the origin story of the Air Jordan shoes before you took on the role?

CM: I didn’t know anything! I always assumed as a kid that Nike was this gigantic basketball company, but it was actually for runners at the time. I played David Falk [Michael Jordan’s sports agent]. His tenacity and his love and fight for his clients was a lot of fun to play.

MC: What was it like being on the other side and playing an agent?

CM: As an actor, you definitely need somebody to believe in you and fight for you the way Falk does for Michael.

Messina says ‘Air’ director, Ben Affleck, gave him licence to improvise this scene. (Credit: Amazon Studios)

MC: The phone conversations you have with Matt Damon are hilarious. I read that usually phone scenes are quite isolating but Ben Affleck, who produced the film, did something different for this one.

CM: That was incredible. Ben put us down the hallway from each other, so Matt and I could overlap and improvise. Ben would go from my room to Matt’s room and once he had what he wanted Ben came up to me [and said] “Now do whatever you want.” A lot of the improv stuff I said made it into the movie. Some of the most ridiculous stuff that I said was in that intake.

MC: It seems very satisfying.

CM: It’s fun to yell at people. Especially to yell at Matt Damon.

MC: You’ve worked with Ben before when he produced and directed Argo. What do you like about working with Ben?

CM: Ben hires the people he really likes and he believes in them. He gives everybody permission to fly. He just gives you wings and says “Go”.

One of Messina’s most beloved characters was Danny Castellano in ‘The Mindy Project’. (Credit: Hulu)

MC: One of your most beloved characters is Danny Castellano in The Mindy Project. That TV show is one of my comfort watches. What show or film is a comfort watch for you?

CM: I love watching Tootsie. It’s a movie that I watch more than twice a year. I love Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray and Sydney Pollack. Being an actor, you know, I am wanting to be seen or heard. It’s set in New York at a time that no longer exists. So there’s a lot of nostalgia for me.

MC: I read that you’re a camera enthusiast and a photographer. What’s your favourite subject to shoot?

CM: At the moment I really enjoy landscape photography. I like the meditation of it. It centres me.

‘The Boogeyman’ opens in cinemas on June 1.

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