The tragic element of a character is always intriguing I think. I have always been interested in the concept of ruin. Richard is on the brink of losing everything and that fuels his actions. He is a failing motivational speaker, which is an interesting dichotomy and I thought that was a very good starting point. When I first read the script it seemed very real to me. Of course I saw the places where it was more broadly funny, but I certainly saw the tragedy in this family more than I saw the comedy, the first time I read it. I know that sounds crazy, but they were really being 'squished' and stifled in life. Richard is facing the end of the road in his career and that is an intriguing place to start off in a character.What would you say the film is essentially all about?
It is about family who are seemingly going on a simple trip, but there is actually a complex family dynamic taking place that leads them towards change. It is a darkly funny movie but at the same time it is positive and uplifting. It takes some unexpected turns that are quite refreshing.Did you get frustrated with your character sometimes when he didn't behave well towards his family, he had some pomposity?
Well people who have those faults often do not see them. I thought that he was a little lost, but if he was in the Dr. Phil show he would be talking about his heroin-smoking father and blaming him for causing all his problems. I thought the lack of approval he had from his dad probably had a big effect on him. I think he is a lost guy and it is interesting that he manages to dig himself out of a deep rabbit hole in this story.What do you think the film says about families and family life?
Everybody's family has problems. People say that this family is dysfunctional, but I think that they are very functional actually. They manage against all odds to get their little girl to this event, this beauty pageant she is entering. They are all together despite all the problems and there is a strong love that they share. You don't get to pick your partners in families; you get assigned a seat at the table. I don't know if anybody will watch the movie and say 'that is my family' maybe some people will say that, but I think they will be able to see some element of this family in their own experience. They will certainly identify with the Hoovers in lots of ways.As a father yourself, what did you think of this guy's approach to fatherhood?
I just think he is trying to control the universe and he is trying to do things that he is incapable of doing. But I like characters that are a little off the railroad tracks.How do you choose projects?
I like good characters and scripts. I suppose I would describe myself as a character actor and those are the kind of actors I admire most. I try to choose varied material and different kinds of roles. So much of this movie was set out in the script by Michael Arndt, who is a great writer and wrote a wonderful screenplay. The starting point is a good script and you follow along as best you can. With this movie I was not entirely clear what the tone would be, I was not sure. The tone is set by the directors and established by the person who is telling the story. The directors on this film, Jon and Val had a really clear straightforward story to tell and I liked that.What was it like working with Toni Collette?
She is wonderful. We worked together before in Dinner With Friends and I love her, she is a great actress and so adept at comedy and drama and telling stories, without even talking. She does not need to say anything. She is just amazing and I was lucky to get to work with her again and I hope we will do it again.What about working with Alan Arkin?
Alan is so funny and he is a truly fantastic actor. Our characters have an interesting relationship to explore. He is an eccentric, very spontaneous old guy who is dabbling in heroin, while Richard, my character is an uptight self-help guru and he is probably rebelling against his father. The key was balancing the characters' eccentricities while keeping them accessible.What about your on screen daughter, Abigail?
She is amazing and a lovely girl. I had a new baby daughter a few weeks ago and I saw Abigail soon afterwards. She came up to me with gifts for both my children and said 'this is for your daughter Audrey and this if for your daughter Lily'. She is thoughtful and she's remarkable and a great actress. I forget sometimes how young she was when she made this film. She was right there like Elizabeth Taylor, like a professional actress. And then all of a sudden you would see her in the corner eating candy and playing with a yoyo and you would say 'my goodness, she is only nine'. She is really talented.Did you always want to act as a child?
I was interested in acting from a young age, but I didn't know whether that was going to be a reality. I didn't know anybody in show business and I ended up moving into broadcast journalism after college and got a lucky break when I first moved out to LA.Do you think you would let your own children act in the future?
Well I don't know yet. I suppose part of the job of being a father is not to decide anything or make judgments. One of my daughters is three and the other is a few weeks old, so I am not going to make a list of all the things I will and won't let them do. But probably I would be a lot happier if they could find a different line of work that they enjoy.Why?
I do love what I do - but it is no secret that this is a strange business. It's all so tenuous, the idea of earning your living as an actor. I want them doing something else, living in New England, far away from Hollywood.Do you think fatherhood is affecting your approach to films at all?
Well I don't know. It is hard to say because I am so careful about what my three year-old children watches on TV.I can't imagine doing anything at any time that is inappropriate, but it is still a little early to know. Would I do a film like Autofocus today? I did it a few years ago, I don't know, but I think I probably would do it. I would think more carefully about taking on a project that dealt with exploitation and drug use, but I don't know how fatherhood is going to affect my choices directly yet.Do you think family life has changed you?
I used to be more insecure about my job. I used to tear my hair out a lot. But when I got married and had kids, at some point I had a greater sense of security. That somehow I was in it for the long haul.What about the time you spend on movies on your career? Will you spend more time at home with the family?
I am a pretty active father now, that is why I am so goddamn tired all the time. When you are acting, you fall into a swirling all consuming vortex of work for a few months and that's hard for family life, but when you come out of that and you are not working, which has been the case with me for the past few months, you are around at home all the time with the family - perhaps too much.Do you think that having had a previous career as a talk show host and journalist has given you a different perspective on your career?
You know, I do not think so because film is such a different medium. It is a different world and they are different skills. Obviously, over the years in my previous TV job I got to interview some really good actors. But I don't know that I learned anything special from them, or if that job was an easy segway into acting. There are lots of other jobs people do before acting - driving cabs, waiting tables. It is a strange vocation and people find their way in many different ways.Are you a better guest now on talk shows, do you have more compassion for the people interviewing you?
I don't know, I certainly try hard not to be a terrible guest. I am tortured. If you have been an actor all your life, you go on these talk shows and you talk about yourself. bluh bluh bluh - you don't even think or have the capacity to think about what the person opposite you is thinking or going through. But I can actually hear the thoughts from David Letterman saying: 'oh my god we are almost out of time, how is he going to wind this up, will he stop talking? We've only got 30 seconds left, what am I going to ask him next?' So I can hear all the thoughts from the other side of the chair and it really is torture because I know what the host is going through.