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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

On the TV show "The Office," Steve Carrell plays the awesomely inept boss. Rainn Wilson plays one of his subordinates.

Mr. RAINN WILSON (Actor): (as Dwight Schrute) I.D. badges are long overdue. Security in this office park is a joke. Last year, I came to work with my spud gun in a duffel bag. I sat at my desk all day with a rifle that shoots potatoes at 60 pounds per square inch. Can you imagine if I was deranged?

INSKEEP: That's the character Dwight Schrute, as played by Rainn Wilson. In real life, Wilson is something of a comedic philosopher. He's written a book called "Soul Pancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions." And he is the most recent guest in our occasional series in which Hollywood insiders recommend DVDs.

Why dont we start with the movie "Days of Heaven" - what's this about?

Mr. WILSON: "Days of Heaven" is set in 1916. And the director, Terence Malick, he just paints his films. I mean, they're like watching paintings come to life.

INSKEEP: We're in the Texas Panhandle here, right?

Mr. WILSON: That's right. It's got Brooke Adams and Richard Gere. He's committed a murder, and they're on the lam from the law. And they work as migrant workers for this reclusive farmer, played by Sam Shepard. And it's like theyve just walked into an Edward Hopper painting.

And there's so little dialogue in this movie. The movie is - I don't know how long it is - it's like three hours long. There's like eight lines of dialogue. And the girl, played by Linda Manz, she has the most outrageous voice you've ever heard in your life, and she narrates the movie. So it's this 12-year-old girl with this crazy voice like: I remember the farmer.

(Soundbite of movie, "Days of Heaven")

Ms. LINDA MANZ (Actor): (as Linda) They told everybody that they were brother and sister. My brother didn't want nobody to know. You know how people are? You tell them something, they start talking.

INSKEEP: When you say Edward Hopper painting - Im imagining Victorian houses, clear skies, the sun is kind of low, the colors are very rich and bright. That's the look that you see here?

Mr. WILSON: Well, you know, Edward Hopper was mostly in the city. It's more like Andrew Wyeth meets Edward Hopper: very sparse, very beautiful, radiant light. In fact, they shot most of the movie in what film world calls Magic Hour, which is just that brief time when the sun has gone down, but the sky is still completely bright. It's just exquisite.

INSKEEP: Aren't the indoor scenes of "The Office" usually shot during Magic Hour as well?

Mr. WILSON: All the time. Carrell insists on it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WILSON: He's just got to have that radiant light; the sun just kissing the horizon, just to frost his beautiful, black eyebrows.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Now, you have another DVD you recommend here, "Withnail and I." Am I pronouncing that correctly?

Mr. WILSON: Yeah. "Withnail and I" is a cult English film from the late '80s. And it's Richard E. Grant's first movie. He's a great comic actor. He was in "The Player" and all kinds of other movies afterwards - including the Spice Girls movie, by the way.

INSKEEP: OK.

Mr. WILSON: And you just got to see it. Everyone quotes Withnail from the movie. I mean, they have - in England, it's a regular event to get together at a pub, and they have "Withnail" parties. And people will quote, line by line, the entire movie.

INSKEEP: What is Withnail? Is it somebody's name?

Mr. WILSON: Yeah, Withnail is a - they're crazy bohemian actors living in a, just a disgusting flat, just going on an absolute drunken, mad rampage.

To escape their life in the city, they go out to their Uncle Monty's cabin. The Uncle Monty is one of the greatest characters of all times. He is an enormous, homosexual bon vivant.

(Soundbite of movie, "Withnail and I")

Mr. RICHARD GRIFFITHS (Actor): (as Uncle Monty) There is, you will agree, a certain je ne sais quoi, un so very special about a firm, young carrot. Mmm, excuse me. Do have yourselves to another drink.

INSKEEP: So - I mean, this sounds like a film that maybe makes you think of your day job, or give you ideas for your day job, because the subject matter -the certain subject matter...

Mr. WILSON: Listen, I can so relate because when I saw that movie, I was a dirt-poor actor in New York in the late '80s, early '90s. And you know...

INSKEEP: Oh, and these guys are unemployed actors in this movie.

Mr. WILSON: Oh, yeah. They're totally destitute in every way, shape or form. I lived in an abandon beer brewery in Brooklyn, just doing anything to kind of scrape up some money, just hoping that I would get a phone call on my voicemail service that I paid for, hoping for an audition for some Shakespeare play or something like that. So it really resonates with me, too.

INSKEEP: Well, let's move on to one more movie here: 1993, "Dazed and Confused."

Mr. WILSON: "Dazed and Confused" is one of Richard Linklater's first films. It's an absolute masterpiece. It's a bunch of kids graduating from high school in Austin, Texas. And it's just - the whole movie takes place in one day. And it also has the great honor of introducing Matthew McConaughey to the world.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Ben Affleck is also in here.

Mr. WILSON: Ben Affleck plays a - just a horrible bully - very convincingly, I might add. And Matthew McConaughey plays a guy who graduated from the high school - no, didn't graduate from the high school. Dropped out from the high school, and he's got a muscle car and a great - kind of porn mustache.

(Soundbite of movie, "Dazed and Confused")

Mr. MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY (Actor): (as David Wooderson) So you're a freshman, right?

Unidentified Man: Yeah.

Mr. MCCONAUGHEY: (as David Wooderson) So tell me, man, how is this year's crop of freshmen chicks looking?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WILSON: And his famous line from the movie is like: That's the great thing about high school girls. I get older, and they just stay the same age.

INSKEEP: Hmm. There's certain movies that completely flop at the box office and then take on another life. This seems to have been that kind of movie.

Mr. WILSON: Yeah. I mean, I saw it when it first came out, and I think there were about 12 people in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WILSON: And I couldn't believe it. And it was interesting - this is going to sound really pretentious and actorly, and Im sorry. I apologize for that, OK?

INSKEEP: Well, you are an actor. So go ahead.

Mr. WILSON: Well, you know, I do what I can. We were studying Chekhov, the playwright, in acting school when I saw it. And it's like a Chekhov play. It's like a Chekhov play with a bunch of jocks and stoners and dorks from an American high school. It's really funny and really real, and really sad at the same time.

INSKEEP: How do you watch DVDs? Do you watch them at home? You watch them with friends? You watch them alone?

Mr. WILSON: You know, now that, you know, I got a little scratch from that TV show that I do, we have a nice little media room with a big TV. So my wife and I try and really make movie nights special.

The other thing that we love to do is have bad movie nights, where we invite friends. And we have so much fun watching "Troll Two." There's a great one called "Birdemic." It's some guy in Washington state - filmed with a budget of like, $380, about birds attacking people. And it's...

INSKEEP: Didn't Hitchcock to do that with a considerably larger budget, I think?

Mr. WILSON: Yes.

INSKEEP: OK.

Mr. WILSON: And that would be a great double feature, actually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WILSON: But it's a lot of fun to have bad movie night, too.

INSKEEP: Rainn Wilson of "The Office" and author of "Soul Pancake," thanks for coming by.

Mr. WILSON: Hey, thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: And as you go through your day, you can catch a scene from "Birdemic." Go to our Web site, NPR.org. You can also find a link on Twitter. We are @morningedition and @nprinskeep.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

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