Greg Kinnear

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Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Greg Kinnear's latest movie, Flash of Genius, about the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper and his battle with the Ford Motor Company, opens Oct. 3. He spoke with TIME about how real rain is bad for the movies, which news anchor would have made a great actor and his plans for retirement.

Had you ever given much thought to your windshield wipers before you heard about this role?
It wasn't lost on me that none of your great literature or cinema has the concept of a windshield wiper in it. That was a little disconcerting. But I did feel like what this man had created had great value to him personally and subsequently made his fight with Ford so personal. It was a pretty epic battle in that sense.

Some things about that character reminded me of the character you played in Little Miss Sunshine.

Well, in the sense that they were both men obsessed with their own ideas.
It wasn't the clothes?

You know, just that they were men each consumed by a singular thought or idea — at least that was the case with the first part of Little Miss Sunshine. You don't see any parallels?
In the case of [Robert] Kearns, here's a guy being marginalized by the Ford Motor Company and subsequently is marginalizing his own family. I suppose, if you look at Little Miss Sunshine, there was a guy who was losing his way with his family over his pursuit of a 10 Steps deal. Characters that have a real strong identification to whatever they're trying to achieve in spite of whatever obstacles are in front of them are always engaging for me.

Did you have any interest in inventing stuff when you were a kid?
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with this idea of opening a restaurant back in Indiana on a little pond. The guests would order their dinner and then take a little boat out with a colored flag on the front of it. When the matching color of the flag on their boat went up on a flag pole, their dinner was ready! Obviously, the Ford Motor Company is not very happy with me this week, so I will just give that idea to the Olive Garden Corporation.

Rain plays a big role in the movie. Was that ever the real stuff?
The irony is that you can't use real rain to make movies. We would get nice beautiful, perfectly formed drops coming out of the sky and I'd be like, 'Why aren't we shooting this?' And Dante Spinotti, who's our Academy Award-winning cinematographer, would say, 'Greg, it's not right. The drops are all wrong.'

Did you have a favorite scene?
Of course, actors look forward to the day when they can do a big courtroom scene. Unfortunately, I'm playing a guy that has no business being in a courtroom. But the courtroom stuff was fun. And those cars, man. Those great cars were fantastic to have around the set.

Are you a car guy?
I'm not a Jay Leno when it comes to automobiles. I just appreciate the evolution of the technology.

Your role (as a Pentagon liaison) in your next movie Green Zone is a departure from your two films this year (Genius and Ghost Town). Why did you choose the role?
Paul Greengrass asked me to read the book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which is kind of just a backdrop for the movie. It's about the early mobile exploitation teams and the soldiers, including Matt [Damon], who go in to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and don't have a lot of luck. I think what Paul was attracted to was all that Americanism integrated in such a strange and unusual small area of Iraq — that early combination of those two worlds colliding.

Paul Greengrass also made United 93, one of the few movies to be made about 9/11.
Yeah, that was a big thing for me. United 93's a great example of a story that is so difficult to translate for an audience that already comes in with their own preconceived ideas of how the events occurred.

Acting seems like a big departure from broadcast journalism, which was your major in college.
Is it that much of a departure? I think Tom Brokaw would have been a wonderful actor. Brian Williams? Come on! Watch Brian Williams on Saturday Night Live and tell me where broadcast journalism is such a radical departure from acting. Pick anybody in your local news and throw them into any 8 o'clock TV show on Fox and you'd be surprised.

Are you a news junkie?
I'm all news channels all the time. I flip around a lot. But you know with a 2-year-old in the house, the first thing that goes is the television. Which is just another reason to have children, by the way.

You've played loveable, but flawed, characters. Do you ever have a desire to go totally in the opposite direction?
I don't call my agent and say, 'Find me a guy that is a wacko or a drug addict.' Good scripts and interesting stories are hard enough to find.

Do you have anything lined up for after Green Zone?
I'm retiring after Green Zone. Isn't that what all actors say at some point? It always gets a little press. So let's just get a little ink for ourselves. I shall retire.