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Peter Sarsgaard

'Kinsey'

THESP FILE
What actor/actress would you most like to work with?
Maggie Gyllenhaal. “That’s the easy answer. I’d get in trouble if I didn’t answer that.”
What’s your favorite film from the past five years?
“Down to the Bone,” (which was shown at the 2004 Sundance Festival). “It hasn’t really been seen yet. I’m not sure it has distribution.”
Which character have you watched and wished you could have played them?
“Ripley in, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley.'”
Currently working on “Flight Plan” with Jodie Foster, directed by Robert Schwentke.

For Peter Sarsgaard, the role of Clyde Martin, the adventurous “Kinsey” protege, was possibly the “healthiest character I’ve ever played,” he says.

“And I don’t just mean in terms of how I’ve played drug addicts and rapists and things like that. I mean healthy in a way that’s deeply, psychologically well-adjusted.”

Still, as Sarsgaard says, for a graduate student in the McCarthy-era Midwest who wife swaps, participates in intimate interviewing methods and sexually experiments with his mentor (Liam Neeson), along with his mentor’s wife (Laura Linney), Martin wasn’t exactly “period.”

“What attracted me was the idea of playing someone who was so genuinely searching for his true self, somebody who didn’t handicap himself on who he could be,” he says. “There were certainly a lot of social mores that could have kept him from exploring different sides of himself, but that he was willing to explore them, I thought that was interesting.”

The most challenging work in the film for Sarsgaard was probably also the most talked-about — love scenes (if, in the “Kinsey” world, you can talk about “love”) with both of his primary co-stars.

“With some of the intimate stuff, you worry about how the other actor’s going to feel. So, beforehand, I was concerned because I had very intimate scenes with both Liam and Laura,” he says, noting that even if you know the other actors, you never know how it will work. “I always think it’s the job of each actor to make the other actor feel comfortable enough to invade your space and break boundaries.”

In the end, it was a rewarding role that not only let Sarsgaard try an “opposite” of his usual characters, but also gave him the chance to portray a real-life, yet little-known, figure.

“When you’re playing someone who was a real person, but not in the public eye, I think you have a lot of leeway,” he says. “Leeway not to dishonor them, but to honor them, in a way, by being more human.”