Pat Healy (not the author of this story) stars in "Cheap Thrills." Credit: Drafthouse Films
Pat Healy recommends watching his latest movie in the theater rather than at home on-demand.
“The people that watch it at home find it disturbing,” he says, “but the people that watch it in the theater with a crowd have a blast.”
“Cheap Thrills” is dark comedy at its darkest. Healy plays a desperate man who is reluctantly thrust into a situation where he is competing with an old friend for money, testing the limits of acceptable human behavior. He says that at first, he didn’t realize how intense the film would be.
“I knew that it was the best part I have ever been offered,” says the actor, who has also appeared, memorably, as a wry, pathetic hotel clerk in Ti West's horror film "The Innkeepers," and as a sociopath who takes prank calls way, way too far in the controversial "Compliance." "Basically I get to play and act out every emotion, more than I can imagine doing in one role. It's a challenge and it’s very cathartic for me to do the things that are very painful looking. It's gratifying to be a leading man, who is carrying the movie and goes through this sort of transformation. You don’t get to do that that often, unless you are doing a play or something."
The intensity wasn’t limited to the script. The budget was tight, the weather was hot, there was no air conditioning, and there was a rolling blackout in L.A. during the filming. Healy says that both he and Ethan Embry, the old friend who ultimately becomes his biggest competition, began to assume the traits of their characters, which made for some thick tension.
“We got kind of adversarial and have since worked everything out. We are friends now, but we were not friendly with each other,” says Healy of his co-star. “It was all just so intense and it was such an intense story, we all sort of lost our cool at one point or another.”
He says the two didn’t actually patch things up until they started to do press for the film.
“I certainly admire him a lot and I like him, but we didn’t get along," Healy says. "I had to say, ‘Let’s talk about this. Do we really not like each other?’ and he told me that he — whether consciously or unconsciously — started to look for things in me that he didn’t like as my character. I recently watched a making-of documentary and I saw how intense I was; I didn’t realize how intense I had been. ...We were equally involved. It wasn’t just him."
Healy says that even though these characters are competing for a lot of money, he sees it as much more primal than that.
"It really becomes more about this pissing contest gone wrong, proving who is the bigger man. I think there is something about proving you’re the better man by being the worse man. It’s this strange thing where you are so far in the quicksand. It’s very noir, like a guy doing everything he can to better position himself in life and all it does is make things worse and worse and worse."
So does Healy think his character will walk away from this pissing contest and achieve a better station in life?
"I feel like he looks on the outside like how he actually looks on the inside," he says, which as the photo above shows is not pretty. "He was a person putting up false pretenses and now he’s finally embracing who he is. It’s not like one day he wakes up, decides to do all this stuff. Yes, there are external circumstances that force him into certain positions, but no one has a gun to his head.
"He has his own free will, but I don’t think that people suddenly become that. People are who they are. I wanted to make it about a guy who is not in touch with his feelings, and wherever he goes from the end, in a really twisted way, he’s actually being true to himself. And I’m kind of proud of him for doing that, because that’s who he is."
Being Pat Healy
Speaking of people being who they are, it's time to address the elephant in the byline. You will notice that the guy in the promotional photo, who may or may not have just severed a digit, is not the same guy in the profile pic accompanying this story. Allow me to get first-person for a moment: Pat Healy and I are both, well, Pat Healy. Obviously, we had to devote some of our conversation to what it's like being named Pat Healy. When I called him on the phone for our interview, I asked, "Is this Pat Healy?" and he countered excitedly with, "Is THIS Pat Healy?!" What follows is our discussion about what's in a name.
Writer Pat Healy: I think you have a few years on me, so I guess that means you have the rights to the Pat Healy name more than I do.
Actor Pat Healy: I was the first one in SAG and then there are other people. There’s a guy that works for the Farrelly brothers.
It’s funny — when I met Matt Dillon, I was living in Providence at the time, and it was when he was playing Pat Healy in the Farrelly Brothers movie "Something About Mary," and I didn’t know that was the character's name. You don’t go up to an actor and say 'hey' and state your full name.
But it never came up?
No, we just talked about The Replacements. I wasn't interviewing him. I just met him at a bar, and he had written liner notes for a best-of disc of theirs.
I hung out with him one time and we talked about "Jaws."
I have firstname.lastname@example.org, which over the years has lent itself to a lot of confusion, because it’s such a common name. There’s an engineer in Texas, a drummer in Atlanta.
Yes! Whom I met when I was writing for the Globe, because he was writing for the Globe. They got so many letters, like, "Why is your chief political correspondent writing about arts in Somerville?" I met up with him for a beer because he felt badly that I had to change my byline to include my middle name, and then he went to the Times where there was another Pat Healy, and he had to use his middle name in his byline.
I’ve had many drivers come and pick me up and watch their face sink when I’m not the MMA fighter.
Because drivers are really into MMA?
Yeah, they’ll have the photo out with the sharpie, you know?
There's a guy who won Jeopardy with the Pat Healy name too. And one time I met Brian Posehn at SXSW, and I had my name badge on and he was like, ‘You’re not Pat Healy!’ Is that you or the Farrelly brothers' friend?
No, it’s me. Brian and I are friends, because I used to do comedy. We used to play "Halo" together all the time 10 years ago. Him, Paul Tompkins, all those "Mr. Show" guys.
So wait, I'm calling you on your cell and you're at SXSW right now? Please tell me you'll be there when I get there on Wednesday!
Unfortunately, I fly out before then!
We could have had the Pat Healy Convention.
The world would crumble into cosmic dust as soon as we shake hands.
OK, I think we got all the Pat Healyisms out of the way. Or do you have another? Did you have a tortured nickname that kids gave you?
I have big ears, so "Dumbo." I have a big forehead, so "Charlie Brown."
No, I meant, like, pertaining to your name, like I gained some weight at one point and the nickname of "Healy-um" was thrown out there.
Wait, why didn't they just call you fat Pat?
Because they just weren't as clever as you or I, Pat Healy!
FINAL NOTE: Upon going to SXSW, I (the writer Pat Healy) stood for a badge photo, but whenever I went into a club, and the bouncers would electronically scan the badge, the photo that came up on the bouncers' handheld devices was of the actor. When I texted him to ask if he currently had a mustache, as the man in the photo did, because it was confusing the people checking my ID, he texted back, "Yes! They thought I was you, initially."