Self-made success and The American Dream. That’s what The Last Tycoon is all about. And that’s something any aspirational man would immediately relate to. Bomer stars as Monroe Stahr, a Hollywood executive during the 1930s—a booming period for studios and interesting time to be living in the world.
Coincidentally, the story is not far off from Bomer’s own personal journey. His rise from rural middle America and climb to Hollywood’s elite echos the ascension and political navigation of Stahr, a survivor of the Great Depression and The Hoovervilles.
We sat down with Bomer to talk about what attracted him to the role, his appreciation of 1930s, and his secret to staying calm, cool, and collected under pressure in any of life’s tricky situations.
MEN’S FITNESS: How would you describe a man who can relate to The Last Tycoon?
MATT BOMER: I’ll give you a condensed summary of it and let them decide for themselves if it’s something that’s appealing to them. It’s based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, an unfinished novel actually, his final unfinished novel, which you know, for Fitzgerald it’s always about at what cost the American dream? That’s really what’s underneath everything, and it’s about the studio system at the height of the golden era of Hollywood and the relationships and politics and social dynamics that went into the decisions being made there and into the lives of the people who were making those decisions.
MEN’S FITNESS: An entrepreneur…?
MATT BOMER: Yes, it’s about very, very ambitious people who are trying to run a very new, profoundly successful business. This is an industry that, at the height of the Great Depression, was still booming.
MEN’S FITNESS: What were your thoughts when you first accepted this role? How excited were you?
MATT BOMER: I was really flattered that they reached out to me. I’m a huge Fitzgerald fan as almost everyone, I think. It’s intimidating to interpret his prose and to bring it onto the screen and interpret an iconic character of his. But thankfully I had Billy Ray who is just a brilliant writer and director. I’ve been a fan of his since a movie called Shattered Glass that he did I think in early 2000s, I’m not sure, for whatever reason he thought I was the right guy for the role, and it was a real honor to get to be his avatar and collaborate with him on this and help try to bring his vision to life. It’s a story that he’d been living with for a really long time, and I think he very wisely took this great structure we have now where you can take a novel and make it a 10-part series as opposed to one 2-hour open and closed film and where they open up the world and the relationships and the characters that I thought had a lot of room to grow, so I was really excited to work on it.
MEN’S FITNESS: Is there any way that you can personally relate to the character, Monroe?
MATT BOMER: Yeah, absolutely. I think he’s someone who, I mean I don’t want to get too deep into it, but I think, he’s someone who has been, is succeeding in an industry that has ostracized him at times, second guessed him at times, maybe not included him in certain things because he’s Jewish or you know, had a certain prejudice towards him. And I think he’s also someone who’s had to really create himself. He’s a self made American man. He’s somebody who came, he was a carnival-barker in New York and now he’s a studio head so, you know, I came from a rural town outside of Houston in Texas. No one in my family had ever been any kind of entertainer and had to figure out how to make it into this industry with a couple of strikes against me in some ways, so I guess that’s really what I relate to.
MEN’S FITNESS: And you did it… and you’re killing it.
MATT BOMER: Oh, well thanks man. I love the diplomatic process that Amazon has. I love that people can be a part of the decision-making process. I love that we’re using this interconnectedness that we have with the world wide web to let people decide what they want, but at the same time, the pilot’s a rough draft. It’s a bit like turning a rough draft into a final exam or bringing people into your ultrasound and tell you what your baby is going to look like, you know? Um, you take it, you take and look at what works and what you need to fix and all those things. I know just for me personally I have a lot of work to do should we get to go forward, but I had a great experience being a part of it up until now.
MEN’S FITNESS: What do you think life would look like for you if you actually lived in the 1930s?
MATT BOMER: Well it depends. I mean it’s an incredible, it’s one of my favorite things about getting to be a part of this piece. I love any period piece but the 1930s, especially 1936 when this takes place, was an incredibly rich place around the world. You had the Spanish Civil War going on, Hitler was rising to power in Europe, you’re at the height of the Great Depression and here you are in Hollywood where business is booming, So, you know, it depends, I could be, you know, suffering through a Hooverville in the height of the Great Depression or I could be a young studio executive and business is booming. I think there is in American landscape at the time, if you’re talking about our country in particular, it was you know, really, really bipolar in terms of what your experience could be as a human being, and I think that’s something they really tried to pick up and express and show in the piece.
MEN’S FITNESS: Let’s shift a little now, Matt. You practice Transcendental Meditation. How did you get into that?
MATT BOMER: Well, I started after I read a book when I first moved to New York in 2000 called Autobiography of a Yogi. It was sort of my foray into yoga. I’d always thought of meditation as this esoteric, full lotus-in-a-cave in the Himalayas experience, and I didn’t realize it’s a practical tool. It can enhance any spiritual practice you have, but it’s completely nondenominational. It can also just to center you and focus you, and so during that time, obviously communications it’s just exponential, we’re living in exponential times, and there’s so much information and marketing coming at you on a daily basis, that for me, I just needed 20 minutes a day to really center myself and quiet myself so that I could listen.
MEN’S FITNESS: Can you expand further on how it’s helped your career, or fitness?
MATT BOMER: In so many ways. And by the way, I’m not a perfect meditator, I think these people who hold themselves to these impossible standards, like, ‘If I don’t do it 20 minutes twice a day I’ve failed,’ No. I know people who only do one session a day for 20 years, did that, and then they switched to two when it was right. These things will open themselves up to you. I know with three kids, you know for me, my life until they’re out the door to school, camp, whatever it is, it’s not about me. I either have to wake up early and do it or get them out the door before I can do my practice, but in response to your question, it’s helped me in a lot of ways because I think it enables me to sort of get out of my own head, to get all the different voices going on kind of centered and focused. It thickens my skin. In meditation you’re not always going to have some great, transcendent experience when you meditate. There are some days when it’s really, when you think you’ve had the worst meditation ever, but I’ve found those days are actually the most important for me to meditate. Um, I’m a sensitive person by virtue of what I do for a living. I have access to my emotions and I think meditation has allowed me to really step back and thicken my skin and be more compassionate of other people and also with myself that I don’t have to you know, stick my head in the oven every time something remotely disastrous happens. I’ll also say, working with other creative people it helps to come from a centered place so you’re able to stay in touch with yourself and your own voice in the midst of everyone else in the room who has their own agenda and take on things.
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