Billy Crudup has worked consistently in movies for more than two decades.
Grafting in strong ensembles like Oscar-winning sexual abuse exposé Spotlight, he surrounds himself with strong women.
He played a probing journalist to Natalie Portman’s grieving First Lady in Jackie, and housemate to Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women.
Speaking to me over the phone from his New York apartment, I get the impression he’s quite comfortable with this scenario.
“I confess, it’s almost like my life vest,” he said.
“I like to work on strange things that have the potential to be really wicked. That tends to lead to a high degree of potential failure, so surrounding yourself with people who are much better than you makes sense.”
He made a mark early on as a recovering addict in Canadian director Alison Maclean’s Venice Film Festival hit Jesus’ Son in 1999.
One year later he burst into the public consciousness in Oscar-winning cult hit Almost Famous, playing rock guitarist Russell Hammond, opposite Kate Hudson’s groupie Penny Lane.
“It’s really wild, you know. That movie’s probably 10 times more popular now than it was when it came out,” he said.
“Typically when people come up to me, they think I’m maybe Russell’s grandfather.”
Chuckling at his self-deprecating modesty, I suggest he could be Russell’s dad at a push.
He laughs, “I’ve had a lot of work done. I’ve got to keep working.”
This week he appears alongside Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in swooping melodrama After the Wedding. a gender-flipped remake of the Danish original.
After the Wedding was adapted and directed by Moore’s husband Bart Freundlich.
Crudup first worked with the couple on 2001 movie World Traveler and they’re now best mates.
When we speak, he’s just got home from lunch with Freundlich at Charles Street hotspot Mary’s Fish Camp, where he rates the famous lobster roll.
Crudup plays doting dad Oscar, whose swelling pride at the marriage of his daughter (Abby Quinn) is sideswiped when his free-spirited former lover Isabel (Williams) appears unexpectedly.
She’s in town because his entrepreneurial wife Theresa is looking to fund Isabel’s work in an Indian orphanage. Emotional earthquakes crack open.
“Not one of us misses that notion,” Crudup suggests.
“All you have to do is show up for one family holiday a year and I can guarantee you’re going to have wildly different interpretations of the shared history. It’s incredibly relatable, however this is a rather unusual circumstance.”
Crudup’s no stranger to tumultuous family drama.
The tabloids had a field day when he separated from then-partner Mary-Louise Parker in 2003 to be with Claire Danes, then 24.
Parker was seven months pregnant with their son William Atticus Parker, who is now 15 and keeps dad’s ego in check.
“They do a pretty good job of putting you in your place,” Crudup said of children.
“Especially when it just appears out of thin air, when chemicals decide to be released in their body and they have all the right ideas. I’ve got a wonderful one too, and even still, watching that development is amazing.”
Crudup is rumoured to be dating Naomi Watts – I note they got on great while working on Netflix series Gypsy.
“Naomi is the perfect example of what I was saying before about hedging your bets,” he said coyly.
“She’s crushing it. That level of work ethic, her specific aesthetic in addition to her skillset, is undeniable.”
He says it’s wildly impressive she also produced the show while performing the lead role.
“I saw that recently with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and with Julianne. And Naomi also has two kids. So from being a mum, to being a producer and a badass actor, just bearing witness to it made me want to take a nap.”
After The Wedding is in cinemas nationally from October 24