Sitting in a vegan cafe in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Peter Sarsgaard says that he’s not quite a loner. He just understands them.
“I am very used to this point of view,” he says, citing a childhood that, owing to his father’s Air Force and then corporate career, saw him move again and again and again. “I have always identified with loners, not because I am one. I am just very socially adapted.
“I was always living in a different place and meeting new people.…It doesn’t mean that I’m incredibly social or anything like that,” he clarifies. “It just means that I don’t have a problem with walking up to a stranger on the streets and shaking their hands. I just might not call them again. It might just be that one time. Maybe maintaining it might not be my strong suit.”
The subject at hand is ostensibly Sarsgaard’s character in the upcoming film adaptation of DC Comics’ Green Lantern. Dressed comfortably in brown shoes, light jeans and a navy blue sweater, with aviator-style sunglasses hanging from his collar, Sarsgaard explains that Hector Hammond, the film’s sort of tragic villain to Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern superhero, is a definite loner.
Sarsgaard, who turned 40 in March, is into the second decade of an acting career that now has him in the territory between best-in-class character actor and something a little more. He followed his breakthrough performance in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, with a string of standout roles in indies (Shattered Glass, Garden State, The Dying Gaul), the occasional detour into bigger-budgeted fare (K-19: The Widowmaker, Flight Plan) and at least one or two that straddled the line (Jarhead). Offscreen, he’s probably best known as one-half, with wife Maggie Gyllenhaal, of a sort of Park Slope acting power couple.
If loner is too strong a word for Sarsgaard himself—and it probably is for a guy who’s married and raising a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter in the heart of yuppie Brooklyn—magnetic outsider should do. When the conversation turns to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala in early May, which the couple attended, Sarsgaard sounds at first like a perceptive wallflower.
“It’s always wild to see that, this collection of people who in high school would’ve never spoken to each other,” he says. “The only sense of commonality is some degree of fame or wealth. It makes for, I think, an interesting evening because it is less homogenous than you would think it would be.”
Then he mentions that he saw his Green Lantern co-star Blake Lively at the party. The actress had recently dyed her hair red.
“I don’t notice things like that,” Sarsgaard says. “Maggie said something like that. She didn’t recognize her because of her hair. I recognized her instantly. I mean I didn’t notice.…Is her hair normally blonde?”
He laughs easily at himself.