This article appears in the July 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
Whether he likes it or not, the viewing public most recognizes Louisville native William Mapother as creepy Ethan Rom from the hugely popular TV series Lost.
His second most remembered role, arguably, is that of the abusive, wound-tight Richard Strout in the 2001 film In the Bedroom, which drew five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It’s notable that both Rom and Strout met their demise by being pumped full of bullets. Such is the life of a character actor who does “menacing” awfully well.
The articulate and — surprise! — affable Mapother, who graduated from St. Xavier High School before earning a degree in English lit from the University of Notre Dame (and is the first cousin of actor Tom Cruise), flew into town from Los Angeles in June to visit family and attend board meetings of the Community Foundation of Louisville and the Louisville Film Society, whose third annual Flyover Festival was held in June. He brought along a screening copy of his latest film, Another Earth, a sci-fi emotional drama that won the Alfred P. Sloane Prize at January’s Sundance Film Festival and will be released in selected theaters later this month.
The 46-year-old Mapother says the new movie — about an unlikely love relationship that grows out of intense tragedy while a “mirror” earth, with “mirror” inhabitants, hovers overhead — contains a few firsts for him. Such as? “Well, a sex scene,” he says, “although I don’t know if I’d really call it a sex scene. We kind of fall on a couch. I never take my clothes off and she (actress and co-writer Brit Marling) keeps her top on.” Also, he says, “I had never played a character who was so deep into depression and grief.” Mapother doesn’t say it, but he’s probably never showed the kind of exhilaration he exhibits in the film’s Wii boxing scene, either.
The indie movie, by first-time feature director Mike Cahill, was made on a shoestring budget, and Mapother says he agreed to shoot his scenes for $100 a day.
“It all comes back to doing what an actor often has to do,” he says, “which is to generate your own opportunities. Fox Searchlight would not have bought it (post-Sundance) if they didn’t think we had strong potential.”