Did you read the book before you got involved with the movie?
"No, I had been told to read the book by many people and was working. … And then I ended up getting the script and offer for the job and thought it would be better to read the script first, because obviously that was the thing we were going to be doing, and then read the book afterwards to familiarize myself and see if there were any tidbits there that I could find."
In addition to your acting career, you also do a lot of writing. Is there one that you enjoy more than the other?
"I enjoy them both enormously. Writing is harder than acting. I enjoy acting for just the brevity with which you can be in the experience of doing it. Writing is kind of more satisfying in that you're creating a world and doing something that feels bigger, but it's very time consuming and has a higher threshold for failure. I take it harder when something I wrote doesn't do well or isn't received well. But it's two different things. One's an entree; one's a dessert, I guess."
What's your favorite and least favorite thing about Hollywood?
"My favorite thing about Hollywood is the potential to always be doing something new and working with creatives and the business lives in a state of perpetual hope and ability to achieve something, not in a business sense but in a creative sense. The worst thing about the business is it takes too long sometimes because there is a financial element to it. Sometimes you have to wait for stars to align in ways that they may never align. Sometimes it happens very quickly, sometimes it happens very slowly. So if anything that's the only frustration. Many people could be being more prolific if it wasn't so difficult to get things made. It's a lesson in patience a lot of times."
This movie and the book [The Girl on the Train] are very twist-filled. In your own life, how do you avoid spoilers in terms of movies and TV shows that you watch?
"I try not to — in a perfect world there wouldn't even be trailers. I think just the way things are advertised and marketed, you can oftentimes, it's a cliche, to feel like you've seen something before it's happened. Even certain funny moments and dramatic moments, you kind of don't want to see them. You can't un-see them so inevitably you're sort of dog-earing moments that are trailer moments as you're watching the film, which I don't want to do. So I try to avoid trailers. And I try and avoid critics. I just don't want to be told what the story is. Some of the best movie experiences I've had are when I just walked by the theater and decided to see a movie I hadn't heard anything about and bought a ticket, because that's really the first time you can experience it untainted. I understand the purpose that Rotten Tomatoes and things like that serve but I've seen wonderful films that don't rate high or score on Rotten Tomatoes so I think when people sort of grade things in that way, it can taint. Often you'll hear people say like, "But it's only got a 60 on Rotten Tomatoes." Well, that doesn't mean you're not going to see a great performance or a good story or a decent script. It's not my favorite way of quantifying. If there was a Rotten Tomatoes for museums you'd be like, "What?" Just go to the museum. Experience it, and then tell your friends if you like something."
You talked about writing things and the investment that goes into that. One of the movies that you recently wrote was the Zoolander sequel, which may not have been as well-received as you might have hoped. I was just wondering how you felt about that.
"I think it's that thing where you go — I usually try and not pay too much or grade myself too much on the reception of anything because I know I've done stinkers that have been well-received or things that I think are great that have been poorly received either financially or critically or whatever. But I'm also a big believer in that the experience is the thing. That's the reason why you're doing it is to have that experience. If we all did things just for the reception, we'd make shit. So obviously you want to keep an eye on it because there is some — no one's going to let you keep doing what you do if everything sucks — but like Zoolander, for example, from start to finish, the experience of that, was some of the happiest experiences I've had from sitting down with Ben and breaking it to the writing of it to the shooting of it was all fabulous. Three to five years of fabulous memories of that movie. Obviously it can't be defined by a weekend. That movie I thought was just beautiful. Of course it sucks when you feel like people aren't liking it. If you drop your kid off at school you don't want every bully in the class to start taking shots at him. So everything I get to work on, I like when people are kind to it, but it's not the thing that defines it."