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Rainn Wilson leaves cubicle for the big screen

Rainn Wilson may be best known as Dwight K. Schrute from "The Office," but the actor proves his versatility in the new family film, "The Last Mimzy."
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Rainn Wilson may have been attracted to the role of Larry White in “The Last Mimzy” for its departure from the character he plays in “The Office,” but his “plan” for promoting the family film, which opens today, has the distinct fingerprints of offbeat, self-promoting paper salesmen of Dwight K. Schrute.

“I am going to be sitting in my briefs in a folding chair in front of all of the theaters in Los Angeles in which it’s playing, trying to draw the crowds over and have them buy some tickets,” he deadpanned in an interview with “Scarborough Country” host Joe Scarborough. 

In reality, Wilson admits, he doesn’t know “anything” about opening weekends and is feeling a bit nervous about the premiere of “The Last Mimzy,” in which he plays a science teacher who helps two children save the world after finding a mystical toy. 

He was offered the role after filming the second season of NBC’s “The Office.” At a time when he was being inundated offers to play characters “that run into a wall and into tree and fall down stairs and stuff like that,” the role of Larry White stood out.

“After playing Dwight for so long I really was looking for something different and I got sent this script called ‘Mimzy’ of all things,” the 41-year-old Wilson said.  “I had no idea what it was…oddly enough, I was really moved by the story. I was really touched by it.  And here was an opportunity for me to just play a real character.”

Wilson studied acting at New York University’s Graduate Acting Program and toiled as a Broadway actor for years before moving to Los Angeles and landing the role of a mortician’s apprentice on “Six Feet Under.”  That led to an audition for the lead role in “The Office,” which he lost to Steve Carrell.  But his penchant for playing the quirky character proved perfect for Dwight Schrute, the role that has bolted Wilson to fame.

When Wilson hosted Saturday Night Live to promote “The Last Mimzy” last month, he was keenly aware of how far he’d come from the days of scrimping in New York.

Actor Rainn Wilson is photographed in New York, March 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cooper)Jim Cooper / AP

“I mean, people say, ‘Oh, is that your dream come true?’  But you know, it never was really on my radar,” Wilson said. “I was in New York doing theater for 500 bucks a week and barely making it, driving a moving van to make money to get by.  It was never really on my dream list to host Saturday Night Live."

“So I’ve already exceeded my expectations and I’m very grateful.  Yeah.”

Wilson described hosting the show as one of the greatest moments of his life, behind the birth of his son, Walter, now 2, and marriage to his wife, fiction writer Holiday Reinhorn.

Next up for the actor – writing and starring in “Bonzai Shadowhands,” a movie about a once-great ninja who has fallen on hard times.  While the role is a return to the quirky, Wilson is not worried about being typecast.

“I know that I am a well-rounded, capable actor and I’m going to have a long career,” he said.  “And right now, if guys in muscle cars roll down their windows and go, ‘Yo, Dwight!’ that’s fine with me.  I’ll keep doing different kinds of parts and different kinds of roles and having a great time and have a long career… as my hair continues to fall out.”