Reilly visited The Early Show to discuss his latest works. In "Gangs of New York," he plays a brutal cop on the take. In "The Hours," he's a World War II veteran who's oblivious to his wife's unhappiness. And in "Chicago," he takes on the role of a meek husband married to an unfaithful wife.
At the Golden Globes on Sunday, he says, he felt like someone who goes to a horse race and bets on every horse. All three movies walked away with something.
"They all won," he says. "'Gangs Of New York' won for best director, 'The Hours' won for best dramatic and 'Chicago' won best musical and a couple others too. It was nuts. For me, I was nominated, but I was going to win no matter what."
Reilly says he doesn't mind being referred to as a character actor. If being a character actor means that you get to play quirky, interesting, off-beat characters, he says, then that's what he wants to be.
Reilly has appeared in nearly 30 movies and he thinks he gets so much work because directors haven't pigeonholed him into playing a certain kind of part. He says he's selective about the parts he plays and strives for diversity.
"'No' is a very important word for an actor," he says. "Well, I think 'No' is a very important word for an actor. You have to do things that you believe in. You got to do things that are going to make you grow or expand your work somehow. You also have to have time to learn about life. I think if you just go from job to job to job, you are not really absorbing life. You are not reflecting. Everything is a reflection of a reflection. I value my down time in that way. It teaches me about life, which is what you need to be an actor."
Reilly grew up in a rough neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. He says that acting kept him out of trouble.
"Well, I had a lot of energy. I was mischievous, you know, crazy kid. It gave me something to focus my energy on. I want to say that the Chicago Park District is how I became an actor. They had great after-school programs for kids, woodworking, drama and music and all this stuff.
"I don't know if they still do that or not, I hope that Mayor Daley is sending money to the parks for kids to do that stuff after school. I would not be here now if it wasn't for Market Parks Field House where I got to do 'Peter Pan' and all of these musicals when I was a kid," Reilly says.
Reilly plays the guitar and a little drums in a couple different bands.
Some Facts About John C. Reilly
- Born in Chicago, Ill., May 24, 1965
- Received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from DePaul University's Goodman School of Drama in Chicago
- His first movie role was in Brian De Palma's "Casualties of War" in 1989
- In 1990, he had a supporting role in "Days of Thunder" with Tom Cruise
- In 1993, he won notice for playing Johnny Depp's friend in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape"
- In 1994, Reilly had a juicy role as Kevin Bacon's co-conspirator in "The River Wild"
- In 1995, he performed in the movies "Dolores Claiborne" and "Georgia"
- In 1997, Reilly lured Mark Wahlberg into the porn world in "Boogie Nights"
- In 1999, Reilly acted in ensemble film "Magnolia"
- In 2000, Reilly was in the sea adventure "The Perfect Storm"
- Reilly received a Tony nomination in 2000 for his performance as a feuding brother in the Broadway staging of Sam Shepard's play "True West"