In his new movie Experimenter, Peter Sarsgaard plays Stanley Milgram, a psychologist who studied human behavior in the 1960s. In Milgram's most famous experiment, test subjects agreed to electroshock people in another room under pressure from an authority figure. Sarsgaard joined host Ophira Eisenberg on the Bell House stage to talk about the film, and the impact it had on him as a performer.
"Human beings are part bonobo monkey━have sex for fun, matriarchal, live in trees━wonderful monkeys," said Sarsgaard. But he continued that "[we're also] part chimpanzee...[we] torture other animals for fun. It's just who we are." Said Eisenberg, "And like, one percent cockroach."
However dark the subject matter of Experimenter may seem, the film uses surreal storytelling elements that are more charming than sinister. Sarsgaard speaks directly to the camera and at one point sings to an actual elephant. "Of course, when I read 'elephant' in the script I didn't know there'd be a real elephant," he said."We had a fake room and a real elephant!"
In honor of the unique double-A in his name, Sarsgaard's VIP game was about a somewhat fictional day in his life. His job? To chime in with missing words and phrases containing a double-A. Think a game about eating naan at a picnic with an aardvark is easy? Just ask Peter's wife, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
On playing dark roles
I'm just not handsome enough to play the leading guy...I mean, everybody wants to be the guy in the black hat.
On singing to the elephant
When I was singing to it...its trunk came right around like a microphone.
On working at a grocery co-op
You know why I have to work five hours a month? Because my wife won't do her shift.
On fans thinking he's related to Alexander Skarsgaard
He and I decided we might pretend to be brothers but it didn't work out. It's more believable that I'd be John Malkovich's son.
Me first day on set? I'm like, quitting acting.
Heard in Peter Sarsgaard: A Day In The Life