NEW YORK — Dallas Roberts has been on enough movie auditions to know that theater actors often lose plum roles to marquee-ready names. So when he auditioned for “A Home at the End of the World,” based on the book by Michael Cunningham, it was with an appropriate dose of cynicism. “I just assumed if it was a really good part, it had already been shown to a number of kids my age who’d already been on celluloid,” he says over lemonade on a rainy afternoon. “My first question always is, ‘Who already has the offer for it? Is it Matt Damon? Robert Downey Jr.?’”
As it turns out, the role was offered to him — and thankfully, he accepted. The film, which comes out July 23, follows the story of two reunited childhood friends and the woman in their life. Roberts, 34, who had previously acted in two unreleased independent films, “The Lucky Ones” and “Music,” delivers a nuanced and touching performance opposite seasoned stars Colin Farrell and Robin Wright Penn.
During shooting in Toronto, Arizona and New York (many scenes were filmed blocks away from his East Village apartment), Roberts had to make the transition from stage to screen, where filming is done out of sequence and on a very tight schedule. “I’m used to having an idea about a character and having a month and a half to change and try new stuff,” says the actor, who appeared on Broadway in “Burn This” opposite Edward Norton and Catherine Keener in 2002. “So I woke up the second day of shooting thinking ‘Oh, I know what I’ll do in that scene tomorrow.’ But that scene’s gone and it’s never coming back.”
The Houston-born actor spent his childhood in school plays and discovered Juilliard while toiling away at a Texas community college. “I saw that it was very prestigious and in New York, so I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll go there.’” he says. “And fantastically, amazingly, I got in.”
Roberts has since performed at theater festivals around the country and received a Drama Desk nomination for his performance in Adam Rapp’s “Nocturne.” Since being cast in “Home,” he’s landed supporting roles in three upcoming films: “The Ballad of Bettie Page,” “Winter Passing” with Zooey Deschanel and “Walk the Line,” the Johnny Cash biopic, as a record executive.
Meanwhile, Roberts is expecting his first baby this October with girlfriend Christine Jones, a scenic designer currently responsible for the set of the Public Theater’s Central Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
He’s also getting used to seeing his face plastered on the poster of “A Home at the End of the World,” next to Farrell and Penn. As he says, only somewhat convincingly, “I call it ‘Famous Guy, Famous Gal, Who’s That Back There?’”
— Jamie Rosen