Thomas Haden Church may play the role of Matt Damon's overly concerned brother in We Bought a Zoo, but we learned that the actor is actually the proud owner of a fully functioning ranch in real life! No stranger to working with animals, Church spoke at a recent press day for the movie in NYC about the unpredictability of acting alongside zebras, ostriches, and even a 900-pound bear on the set. He also talked about one of his human costars — Matt. The two share a great brotherly chemistry on screen, and Thomas said they bonded easily over their shared love of "guy stuff" like football and cowboy movies. Watch our interview and see We Bought a Zoo when it hits theaters this weekend.View Transcript »
At any moment, a zebra can run at you and try to trample you. An ostrich can try and kick you. Matt's a very, very accessible guy, very easy to talk to. So, okay you played Matt's brother in this movie. Did you two know each other well before working together? We did not. We did get some rehearsal time. It just kind of floated from there. Matt's a very accessible guy, very easy to talk to. You know, likes a lot of the guys stuff that I do. He likes football and he likes movies. We talk about westerns. We've both done movies with Robert Duvall. I mean, we have people in common that we can trade stories about. It was easy to get to know the man, Now, your character is probably the most resistant to the zoo, at the beginning of the film. Completely. But you just said that you have a ranch in Texas. I do. So, you're more of the 'by the zoo' kind of guy, it sounds like. When I bought my ranch, twelve years ago, it was a viable working ranch. Right. I mean, I had to update things and renovate certain things, but for the most part it was there, whereas this zoo, it's fallen into such disrepair that they had to close. And they're facing, you know, the animals being sold off and the whole place being razed and probably turned into a subdivision or. Matt's character took on a catastrophe in the wake of this family tragedy that is detailed in the book, and that is where true courage comes into play, because he's got two children in tow, and you know, yes I comment. I do my finger wagging. But I see his convictions. and I am won over by his fervent belief that it has to work. What surprised you the most about working with some of these amazing animals? I've worked with animals a lot in my life, but also in movies. I mean, horses and lions. They all have, to some measure, an unpredictability factor and as long as you're willing to deal with that, you know, that any moment a zebra can run at you and try to trample you, and ostriches can try and kick you. Matt worked in close proximity with the bear. If he decides to just lay down, when they need him to be standing up and threatening Matt, there's not a whole lot you can do with a 900-lb. bear that changes his mind.