Jon Hamm isn’t waiting for the Earth to stand still

[15 December 2008]

By Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Jon Hamm spent most of his life as just your average struggling actor. He has been in independent movies like “Kissing Jessica Stein” and had small parts in television shows such as “Point Pleasant” and “Related.”

Then came “Mad Men.”

The AMC drama series about a New York advertising firm in the early 1960s made Hamm an instant star. He picked up a Golden Globe for his portrayal of advertising executive Don Draper. The show won the Emmy as best drama. Hamm even hosted “Saturday Night Live.”

Now Hamm is starring in the big-budget holiday film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” with Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly.

“The last couple of years have been bizarre to say the least,” Hamm says during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel to talk about his film role. “It’s still kind of a weird thing to wake up and talk about things like this. So it’s new and weird and terrifying and all of that stuff but still very exciting.”

Hamm has left his “Mad Men” look at the office. There’s no mounds of hair gel. He sports a beard stubble. Hamm has traded a white shirt, tie and dark suit for a sports jacket and a shirt that is open at the collar.

His work on “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was done between production of the first and second seasons of “Mad Men.” Only a few episodes of the cable series had aired. “Day” director Scott Derrickson jokes that if three or four more episodes had been broadcast, he probably would not have been able to afford to hire Hamm.

But Hamm would’ve signed on anyway because he has always wanted to be part of a big science fiction film.

“It’s fun,” Hamm says. “That’s the overriding feeling of what this career should be: an opportunity to have fun and do great stuff. Just the opportunity to be involved in something like this is amazing for me.”

The second season of “Mad Men” ended in October. The third season is scheduled for 2009. On the surface, the show should not have lasted three episodes. It is set in the 1960s. The men are all chain-smoking, heavy-drinking womanizers. The women are underpaid, underappreciated and constantly being sexually harassed.

Hamm’s theory as to why the show became a hit is that it deals with larger issues. And he sees some of the same issues in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

“One of the big themes of the show is change, and that’s been kind of a significant watchword in recent culture as well. There’s a huge paradigm shift in the social vibe that was the 1960s. We explore the beginning of that, and we’re now moving through the rest of that,” Hamm says. “There are a lot of parallels to right now. It’s not lost on some of the themes in this film.

“I think those things resonate in the culture. Yes, it’s a small cable show that nobody really watches. But yet it resonates larger than what it is, and I think that is why the show has struck a chord.”

Since Hamm plays an advertising executive on “Mad Men,” the natural question is how would Don Draper promote the release of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

Hamm smiles and says, “Don Draper would sell it probably poorly. That’s not necessarily his forte, the modern science fiction epic. He’d rather stick to products in his own time.”

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