- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

LONDON — Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson cuts a poignantly persuasive figure in "In the Bedroom" as a New England husband and father seeking an explanation for the awful death of his only son.

His turn as a doctor in Maine is a rare American role for the British actor, who may be known best as one of the more reluctant Sheffield strippers in "The Full Monty." Mr. Wilkinson also appeared in "Shakespeare in Love," "Black Knight" and "The Patriot," among other recent movies.

Born in Yorkshire in the north of England, the 53-year-old Mr. Wilkinson shares an apartment on the northern edge of London with his wife, actress Diana Hardcastle, and their two daughters.

He says that before he was cast in "In the Bedroom," some questioned whether he could play a leading role and "pretend even to be an American."

The answer on both fronts is yes. His performance as the grief-stricken Matt Fowler already has won Mr. Wilkinson the best-actor prize from the New York Film Critics Circle.

He was selected as a best-actor nominee by the American Film Institute in its inaugural prize-giving ceremony and by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Still to come: the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, followed by the Academy Awards the next night. (Other nominees for the best-actor Oscar are Russell Crowe, Sean Penn, Will Smith and Denzel Washington.)

"It's exhausting," Mr. Wilkinson says by phone from the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, where he has taken up temporary residence. "I've got to meet Larry King this afternoon. I'm doing some radio in a few minutes anything they throw at me."

Q: Are you battling "awards show fatigue"?

A: I've been to about five or six of them now. They're all pretty much the same: banks of photographers, a red carpet, people asking what you are wearing and did you think this would happen when you made the movie and what you think your chances are of winning the Oscar. And then you go inside and watch Russell Crowe win.

Q: Have you gotten any great gift bags?

A: I promptly lost my SAG Awards goodies bag, so I haven't a clue what was in that. They are such an odd collection of things, like cookies, and I understand that toothpaste was in the SAG one. Whose idea was that?

Q: How have you dealt with the political-style campaign the Oscars seem to have become?

A: I like to be the kid from the sticks the innocent abroad and try not to get myself involved in any of the details of the PR war that is going on around one. In any case, other people seem to be more politically minded than I am.

They do develop passions, and you just think, "It's only a stupid Oscar. It's not going to make the work any better."

Q: Is it true that your mind tends to go numb when the winner in your category is called out?

A: Something like that does happen. Although I'm very skeptical about my chances for any of these things it's not phony, I just think, "I'm not going to win, so it doesn't matter" there is always a moment where you think, "It could be me, and I don't have a route to the stage. I haven't checked that out."

Q: What is it about the British and the Oscars six nominations in this year's supporting-performance categories alone?

A: They're all good; I know them all. I've worked with most of them. I know them to be very, very good at what they do. And I think, perhaps, that English actors aren't going to be nominated for an Oscar unless they mean to be, in a way. They're more willing to step up to the plate, having for years thought about the Oscars as something that other people won.

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