In the film “The Time Being,” Wes Bentley plays a struggling artist who takes a job for a mysterious benefactor (Frank Langella). One idea raised by the drama is whether artists can even have families. As the father to a 2-year-old son, it’s something Bentley himself has grappled with, but he’s satisfied with his answer. He’s also satisfied that the film does a great job of making it look like he can actually paint.
The idea your character is confronted with, “artists can’t have families,” is an interesting one. What’s your take?
At one point, in my younger days, I certainly would’ve agreed with that. I thought you can’t be your true artist with a family, especially if you’re going to be a good family man. That was in my 20s before I thought I wanted to have one. Then I met my wife and fell in love with her. We decided we were going to have a kid and had him, and I then was going through the debate — “Oh my God, am I going to be able to put myself into my work knowing that I want to be a great dad and knowing the time that that’s going to take and the concentration?” I had a battle with this for a while but I quickly decided that I’m going to be a family man, and if my art struggles so be it.
There’s a saying that you can’t have a marriage, a social life and an artistic career. You have to pick one to fail.
That makes sense. I would throw out my social life — mostly because I had one and it was not all it was cracked up to be. [Laughs] I don’t find I get as much satisfaction out of an amazing social life. Having one at all is great, but it’s not at all as satisfying to me. But I get so much satisfaction out of working on my marriage — and it is work. It’s easy to love somebody, it’s hard to work on living with them. But socially, do you want to do that with a group of people? People who do that make me a little uncomfortable.
You’ve been working a great deal, filming several projects back-to-back. That can’t be easy.
The uncertainty is hard. It’s hard on a family more than you might think. I was used to it already, but as you get older and now with my family, it’s harder on them not knowing, I guess. Of course like everything, it’s a great feeling because I so desperately wanted to work and I wanted to do better and better stuff. But I’ve also got a son, so I lament missing some of my time with him because he’s only 2 years old. So bouncing around Sweden and Mexico and all that — all great projects, but I love being with him, so it’s been a bit hard. And also they haven’t been the highest-paying films, so that’s been a bit stressful. I was literally doing one and being thankful I’m on it but at the same time thinking, “I’ve got to get something right after this.”
Do you see playing parents to children older than your son as learning experiences or practice for later?
Definitely, definitely. In many ways. Within the project itself I learn some parenting but also just hanging out with a child actor all day and trying to have fun but also get them into the work, trying to influence some things there. Yeah, it’s a bit of practice.
How about the actual painting in the film? There’s a decent amount of footage of you going at canvases.
I didn’t get to do a whole lot. I think if it was something that I’d been doing for years and years we could’ve used a little bit more of it, although they did a great job of making it look like I did more than I did. It’s the beautiful thing about film. “I’ll take care of the emotional stuff, you guys make me look like a painter.” There were two artists on the film who showed me the basics.