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‘Sight’ Exclusive Interview: Greg Kinnear

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Terry Chen and Greg Kinnear in 'Sight'.

(L to R) Terry Chen and Greg Kinnear in ‘Sight’. Photo: Angel Studios.

Opening in theaters on May 24th is the new medical drama ‘Sight’, which is based on the true story of Dr. Ming Wang, a Chinese immigrant to the United States who became a renowned eye surgeon.

The film was directed by Andrew Hyatt (‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’), and stars Terry Chen (‘Almost Famous’) and Ben Wang (‘American Born Chinese’) as Dr. Wang, Oscar-nominee Greg Kinnear (‘As Good as It Gets’) as Dr. Misha Bartnovsky and Fionnula Flanagan (‘Yes Man’) as Sister Marie.

Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with Greg Kinnear about his work on ‘Sight’, his first reaction to the screenplay and the true story it is based on, his approach to his character, Misha and Ming’s friendship, working with Terry Chen, collaborating on set with director Andrew Hyatt, the message of the movie, and being the real Dr. Wang’s favorite actor.

Related Article: ‘American Born Chinese’ Star Ben Wang Cast in new ‘Karate Kid’

Greg Kinnear talks 'Sight'.

Greg Kinnear talks ‘Sight’.

Moviefone: To begin with, can you talk about your first reaction to the screenplay and learning about Dr. Ming Wang and his incredible story?

Greg Kinnear: Well, timing is a funny thing, and I was in the middle of COVID, as many of us were, and I got sent this script by a producer that I had worked with before. He was like, “Now listen, I’m sending this to you, but I have to tell you if you want to do it, we’re shooting it up in Canada and you have to go live in a house that you can’t leave for two weeks.” So, it took me a while to pick this up off the coffee table. But I did, and I, of course, was obviously quite taken with the story and I think it put things in perspective very quickly of my woe-is-me moment. So, a little quarantine and then straight to work on this film that I thought was quite powerful. Certainly Dr. Wang’s story is incredible in the sense of true adversity. I don’t think a lot of people can imagine the kind of poverty and difficulty that he sustained. The Cultural Revolution, which I knew nothing about, in China is quite amazing. Plenty of books to read about that too, but it’s told nicely in Andrew’s movie in a way that I don’t know how they did it. Everybody you see in this movie had a mask on prior to shooting any scene that was shot, and it’s quite amazing to me. I was taken with it and just thought, “Wow, this is a hell of an immigrant story,” and there’s not a lot of Asian American stories told cinematically, so I was happy to join.

MF: Can you talk about your approach to playing Dr. Misha Bartnovsky and your research into the medical work that he and Dr. Wang are doing?

GK: Well, that’s all fake. I’m an actor and I know nothing. Fortunately, Ming was on set periodically, and what a great, incredible, invaluable resource he was. This is a relatively small movie, and to try to sell a lot of the sense that these guys are really doing the work that he was doing, there’s a kind of a trick to that. More than anything, I think it’s just making it feel true and accurate, and he was a great resource just in terms of, both for Terry, who plays him, and myself, of kind of giving us a sense of not only the technical side of what they do and what they’re doing, the science of that, but also of their relationship. Listen, in a romantic comedy, I’m the goofy friend who’s just off on the side. It really is a through line of Ming’s story, and Terry does a great job of it. But I mean, it starts from childhood. It takes you through China and the Cultural Revolution before coming to the United States. He faced all sorts of adversity, financial difficulty, racism and a lot of stuff that is chronicled in this movie. But in the part that I’m in, he’s struggling with this surgery, that he is kind of being haunted by his past to perform. I mean, Misha Bartonovsky, his friend, is basically a springboard and maybe a silent guide and a mirror for him to work off, but it’s really his story.

Terry Chen and Greg Kinnear in 'Sight'.

(L to R) Terry Chen and Greg Kinnear in ‘Sight’. Photo: Angel Studios.

MF: Can you talk about Misha and Ming’s friendship and the way your character really supports and encourages him?

GK: I think you’re right. That is basically what the through line is, and I feel like when you’re facing a friend whose kind of crippled with doubt, it’s cheerleading and its confidence building. I’m playing Tony Robbins. He’s basically trying to invigorate his own confidence and his own belief in himself. So strangely, it’s a friendship, maybe a father-ship traditionally as well in a way, but he’s a difficult subject because, at least in the story we’re telling, he doesn’t give himself a lot of breaks, and so that was the challenge of it.

What was it like working with actor Terry Chen?

GK: Well, as I said, we were kind of locked up for a couple of weeks before we ever met, and so this was the first thing I had done. This was early on, when doing a movie was kind of impossible. I mean, to be fair, I would’ve loved seeing any human being at that point, but it was particularly nice to meet Terry who has just a lovely disposition and really cared about the story. When your character’s based upon a relationship, obviously, and you don’t know who that person is, you never know what you’re going to get, but it was quite easy working with him. He was wonderful, and I hope he feels the same way.

Mia SwamiNathan, Fionnula Flanagan and Terry Chen in 'Sight'.

(L to R) Mia SwamiNathan, Fionnula Flanagan and Terry Chen in ‘Sight’. Photo: Angel Studios.

MF: You’ve worked with some legendary filmmakers throughout your career, what was your experience like collaborating with director Andrew Hyatt on this film?

GK: Andrew was great. I started talking to him about it. I mean, I think the thing we probably worked on a little bit was just adding some levity to their relationship, and at the same time zeroing in on what sort of guideposts there were in terms of the story, in terms of how Misha is affecting Terry on any of the journey. I hadn’t worked with him before. I had worked with one of the producers before. I mean, I guess part of the job is you hope to get there and feel like whatever the set is or whatever the situation is that you’re working in, that it feels real, and it feels truthful. I mean, this movie spans his time in China, his time through MIT, and most of what I’m doing with him is in this laboratory. There’s a little bit of expanse outside of that, but it’s a small portion of the story. But you want it to feel real and you want it to be set up with other actors and sets and environment that feels real. In a world where every scene you see in the movie, people were wearing masks right up to the point they said, “Action.” I thought he did a really nice job.

MF: Is it nice being a part of a project that also has an important message at its core?

GK: I think it is. I try not to pick movies for message, but I do think that the underlying idea of this was certainly inspiring to me when I read it as a guy who was moaning and bitching about COVID. Suddenly you read what this guy went through and the story that he went through, and I thought, “Wow, that’s a story worth telling.”

Ben Wang as Young Ming in 'Sight'.

Ben Wang as Young Ming in ‘Sight’. Photo: Angel Studios.

MF: Finally, is true that you are the real Dr. Wang’s favorite actor? Is that how you got cast in this movie?

GK: I don’t know if that’s true or not. I think one of the producers told me that. I’m elated to hear that. I don’t know what it was. I’m not sure what movie, but for whatever reason, yes, I guess he liked me being in the movie. So, he didn’t reject me when my headshot flew across his desk, I guess.

Sight

“The present is made possible by the past.”

PG-131 hr 40 minMay 24th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

SIGHT, starring Greg Kinnear and Terry Chen, follows the inspiring true story of Ming Wang, an impoverished Chinese prodigy who flees Communist China to become a… Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Sight’?

‘Sight’, follows the inspiring true story of Ming Wang (Terry Chen and Ben Wang), an impoverished Chinese prodigy who flees Communist China to become a pioneering eye surgeon in America. When tasked with restoring the sight of an orphan (Mia SwamiNathan) who was blinded by her stepmother, he must confront the trauma of living through the violent uprising in his youth, the Cultural Revolution.

Who is in the cast of ‘Sight’?

  • Terry Chen as Dr. Ming Wang
  • Greg Kinnear as Dr. Misha Bartnovsky
  • Ben Wang as Young Ming
  • Fionnula Flanagan as Sister Marie
  • Wai Ching Ho as Alian
  • Danni Wang as Anle
  • Raymond Ma as Zhensheng
  • Mia SwamiNathan as Kajal
  • Jeffrey Pai as Lao Bin
Ben Wang as Young Ming in 'Sight'.

Ben Wang as Young Ming in ‘Sight’. Photo: Angel Studios.

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