Here we go: it’s time for part two of my look back at the Random Roles interviews I’ve done over the course of 2016!
I can’t say I’m not disappointed that this is part two of two, especially when there have been occasions in the past where splitting this retrospective into three parts was a necessity, but that’s the lot of a freelancer, especially when more and more publications are trying to make the most of their staffers. All things being equal, I suppose I should really just be glad that I continue to have a recurring opportunity to do these pieces, although having said that, I’ll also offer the reminder that, as a freelancer, I’m available for any assignments you may have to offer, and I’m only an email away.
Just a few quick observations about this bunch of interviews, the first of which is to say that I found myself giddier than usual as a result of some of the anecdotes I was gifted with during the course of these conversations. Everyone was great across the board, but when I look back, here are the recollections that particularly leap to mind:
- After his Random Roles ran, Enrico Colantini followed me on Twitter and promptly sent me a direct message to tell me how great the piece had turned out and how much he enjoyed the interview.
- Keith Carradine’s interview was done over the phone, but I was lucky enough to meet up with him in person during this summer’s TCA tour, and upon being introduced to me, I got a clap on the shoulder and a thank-you for the piece, which was pretty awesome.
- I’ve now had two conversations with Billy Bob Thornton – one in person at a TCA tour, and this one on the phone – and he was consistently cool on both occasions. You can either chalk that up to my having exclusively asked him questions that I wouldn’t have asked Tom Petty or to knowing how to read the room and asking questions that work within the context of the situation. Either way, you won’t hear any horror stories from me, because I thought he was swell.
- Nick Nolte was everything I wanted him to be and more, and I realized that was going to be the case when he offered up his stories about Andy Griffith and Don Johnson. It wasn’t until the ancedote that I included here, however, that I realized I had a Random Roles for the ages.
- John Lithgow’s legitimate amusement with and appreciation for my choices of roles was career-high stuff.
- My inteview with John Rothman was, in a very real way, the coolest one of the bunch, because after introducing myself to him onstage after the TCA panel for One Mississippi, I pitched him Random Roles, and within a few hours I was sitting on the roof of his hotel, doing the interview.
- I interviewed the Six Million Dollar Man and the Fall Guy. If you grew up in the ’70s, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.
- Hal Linden was stunned when he realized we’d been talking for an hour. Not that he doesn’t like to talk, but it’s always a nice compliment when the person you’re chatting with is enjoying it so much that they lose track of time.
- D.B. Woodside was kind enough to hop back on the phone to finish our interview while he was in Vancouver, within a day or two of Thanksgiving, so that I could have both up-to-date Lucifer info as well as some discussion about his time on 24, which we didn’t get to talk about while we were at the TCA tour.
- There is no #10, but there might’ve been if I’d been able to get on the phone to finish up with… Nah, I won’t call anybody out. But I will say that I tried repeatedly to finish up two different Random Roles, and I never got replies from either actor’s publicist. Not cool.
Okay, enough of my bitching. Here’s the remainder of my Random Roles interviews from 2016. Again, thanks for reading, thanks for supporting me throughout the year, and I look forward to bringing you more such pieces in 2017!
P.S. Stay tuned for a piece covering other AV Club pieces as well as my favorite interviews from other outlets, which should show up sometime in the next day or two.
Galaxy Quest (1999)—“Fred Kwan”
I seem to have a lot of favorite projects and a lot of high points, but Galaxy Quest, wow, that was almost too much fun, that particular group of actors. And that was the first time I worked with Dean Parisot. He was the director on that. After Galaxy Quest, I asked him to direct the pilot of Monk, which he did, and we’ve been friends for a long, long time.
That was an interesting situation, too. I had first gone in to meet the director for the role of Guy Fleegman, Sam Rockwell’s part. Crewman #6. That was the initial meeting. And then I found out a little while later that Sam was going to do that, and that was great. And then Dean called me up and said, “We would like you to do this guy Fred Kwan.” And I said, “Well, no, that’s an Asian guy. I can’t play an Asian guy! Why don’t you get an Asian guy? There’s a lot of guys out there who could knock this out of the park!” He said, “No, no, no, we think you should do this thing.” And I said [Sighs.] “Well, I can’t play an Asian guy. I won’t play an Asian guy. But I will play a guy who plays an Asian guy.”
So Dean said to me, “Why don’t you take a look at the pilot for Kung Fu?” You know, the David Carradine show? “Because that was a guy who wasn’t an Asian guy playing an Asian guy.” This got really convoluted. [Laughs.] So I watched David Carradine, and then we found out that there was this rumor—I don’t think it was a rumor, I think it was a legend—that David Carradine just smoked a lot of weed on that show. That was the thing. That’s how he was able to channel that kind of Zen, unflappable character. So we decided, “Well, maybe that’s what happened to Fred, too: He just became this kind of burnout.” And then we just kind of rewrote it as we went along. Dean and the writers, we just kind of made it up as we went along, based on that idea: that he’d smoked an enormous amount of pot.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)—“The Murderer”
Enrico Colantoni: Aw, man. I don’t want to talk about that.
A.V. Club: Really? Because that’s fine.
EC: Are you kidding me? [Laughs.] Steven Spielberg hired me from a tape or something, and that experience was so petrifying, for one because Jude Law was with me, and Steven Spielberg and [cinematographer] Janusz Kaminski. And it was 4 in the morning. And I had to do it right, because unbeknownst to me at the time, Steven—Mr. Spielberg—was going to do it all in one take. But I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know what he was covering or anything. He was just hidden in the corner, him and Janusz. I barely saw the camera.
I think we had to do it, like, 90 times or something, I guess to honor Stanley Kubrick or something? But he had to do it again and again, and I go, “I’m fucking this up! I am fucking this up, and it’s 4 in the morning, and Steven Spielberg isn’t happy!” So I finally did it, and he knew I got it, and that was great, but I think it was somewhere in the middle when I suddenly hear him imitating me. He was over in the corner imitating Mathesar from Galaxy Quest! I go, “All right, this is the coolest thing in the world.”
I wanted to tell him the story where he actually came to my friend’s house trick-or-treating with his kids one Halloween night. But we were ready. Everybody was tired. It was already 7 in the morning by the time we wrapped. But I hope to work with him again so that I can tell him that story. Yeah, that was cool. But you know what? When Mr. Spielberg is imitating you and your character, you have a sense of arriving somewhere. Unfortunately, that was 15 years ago. I could use another moment like that. [Laughs.] Just for my ego’s sake, you know? Those things last for 15 years, and then you need another one just to keep you going.
Emperor Of The North (1973)—“Cigaret”
That was [directed by] Robert Aldrich. And that was one of the only times I actually got a part in a movie in the conventional way: The role was there, I auditioned, I auditioned again, and then I actually did a full-fledged screen test, which they shot on a soundstage on the lot at 20th Century Fox. They put up a set, and Robert Aldrich actually directed me in this screen test. I was fully made up and wardrobed, and the thing was shot with a Mitchell BNC camera. I’ll never forget it: one of those great big ol’ cameras and this huge blimp of a sound protection thing around it. I mean, it was classic old-school, everything about it. And we shot that screen test, and then I waited for I think almost six weeks before they finally said, “You got the part!”
Lee Marvin was there at the same time, and I knew obviously it was his movie, and Ernie Borgnine was playing the other part in the movie. But I met Marvin there at wardrobe, and he said, “What are you doing for lunch?” I said, “Nothing.” He said, “C’mon with me!” And he took me to the commissary. I walked into the commissary with Lee Marvin at 20th Century Fox, and he introduced me to people. He said, “This’s Keith Carradine. We’re doin’ this movie together.” He was so cool. I mean, my God. And the two of us sat down in this booth and had lunch together, and one of the first things he said to me… He said, “Well, congratulations on getting this role.” I said, “Well, thanks!” He said, “You know, every other actor in Hollywood hates your guts right now.” [Laughs.] He was just the best. Just the best. And that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted until he died. And the same with Ernie Borgnine. You know, I went up there and did that movie with those guys, and I actually was with Ernie the night that he died.
These guys, you know, they were the real deal. And it was a great thing to do very early in my career, because I got a chance to spend eight weeks on a movie set up in Cottage Grove, Oregon with these two legendary actors. Talk about film school. Talk about acting class. But even more than that, it was a class in professionalism and just how you come to work every day and how you do your job. It was an extraordinary opportunity as a young actor, and as I say, I stayed friends with those guys all their lives.
Hunter’s Blood (1986)—“Billy Bob”
AVC: It looks like your first on-camera role was playing a character named Billy Bob—a big surprise there—in a film called Hunter’s Blood.
Billy Bob Thornton: Oh, yeah. [Chuckles.] I don’t even remember what that was like, it was so long ago. I was a stand-in on that movie for the whole production, and then I was in, like, two scenes. And they didn’t know what else to call me, ’cause they just kind of threw me in there, so they had me keep my name!
AVC: It looks suspiciously like a Deliverance rip-off.
BBT: Yeah, I think that’s what it was: a cheap rip-off of Deliverance. I don’t think many people ever saw that one.
AVC: I can’t claim that I have, either.
BBT: Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about it. [Laughs.] I wouldn’t put it on your list!
AVC: How did you find your way into acting in the first place? What led you down the path to make it a career?
BBT: Well, I came out here just to continue playing in a band. Tom Epperson was coming to L.A. to become a writer, and he said, “You ought to go with me!” So I came out here, and I kind of found out that you don’t just come out here and get in a band in L.A., but we met this one guy who had a contact with this other guy that… Tom knew his girlfriend’s mother back home. [Laughs.] And he was in an acting class, and he said, “Hey, you ought to come to my acting class and try that!” And everything kind of started from there. I got a theater group, and casting directors started seeing me doing one-act plays, and I used to do a one-man show and stuff like that. So that’s kind of how it happened. I started getting roles, I started to have a little bit of money, and I just kind of went with what was happening.
AVC: As far as your music career goes, it looks like your first actual recording credit was on Neil Young’s soundtrack to Dead Man. And that’s not even music. It’s just dialogue from one of the scenes.
BBT: Yeah, I didn’t record anything when I first got out to L.A. In fact, before that, the last time I’d recorded was in about ’78 or ’79 in Ardent Studios, in Memphis, with my band back there. And the first time I recorded was in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but that was never released. That was just my local band. We went down there to make a 45, which… I think one of those guys still has that on reel-to-reel tape! But, no, the next time I recorded anything with my own music was… the late ’90s? Somewhere around there. Because the acting thing just kind of took over for a long time.
AVC: Yeah, your first solo album, Private Radio, came out in 2001.
BBT: Yeah, that was the first actual album on a real label. That was on Lost Highway. It’s a Universal label. That was great. Robert Hilburn really liked that album, and that was a big thing to me, because I’d always read his reviews and articles. That was huge to me. And then about 10 years ago, we started The Boxmasters after I’d done four solo albums. The last solo album I did was Beautiful Door, and J.D. Andrews was doing some assistant-engineering on it. Somebody asked me to record a song for something, and he played guitar on it. So we recorded this thing together, and we really liked the sound.
We did two stylized albums where we used old hillbilly stuff mixed with the British Invasion, and then we did another one where it was more along the lines of Big Star and late-’60s stuff like The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and that kind of thing. These days, people say we fall into the category of being sort of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers-ish. But we just got off tour a couple of weeks ago, and it was probably our best tour ever. We’ve gained a lot of new fans, and we’ve built up a real cult following. So I’m real satisfied.
AVC: You opened up for the Steve Miller Band, right?
BBT: Right. Not on this last tour, though. But we’ve opened for Steve Miller and ZZ Top. We’ve opened for ZZ before over the years. Also, Elvis Costello, Heart, and different people. We kind of like that role, opening for people that we admire and people we listened to growing up. That’s always a great thing. It also gets us in front of bigger audiences. That’s always something that appeals to us.
AVC: On the topic of people you admire, is there a particular memory that stands out for you about your friendship with Warren Zevon?
BBT: Oh, every moment with Warren stands out. [Laughs.] He was a real character, Warren. I loved him. He and I didn’t meet through the entertainment business. We were neighbors in an apartment complex in West Hollywood. That’s how we met. I was a working actor and writer by then, but I wasn’t by any means a household name. So when we met, I knew who he was—he didn’t know who I was. I was just a guy who lived in the apartment building.
We met because he discovered that I have OCD, which he had, and we started talking about that. He saw the way I was getting my mail out of the mailbox, which was… quite complicated. [Laughs.] And he said, “Oh, so you’ve got it, too, huh?” “Yep, I do.” So that’s how our friendship started.
AVC: You did a nice version of “The Wind” on his tribute album.
BBT: Yeah, he made some of The Wind at my studio. I used to own Slash’s old house. I bought my house from Slash in Beverly Hills, so it was the old Snakepit studio there. I was there for 13 years—we moved recently—but Warren recorded “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” there and parts of some of the other songs. I did some background vocals on two or three songs.
AVC: That’s such a great album, but it’s still a rough album to listen to even now.
BBT: Oh, yeah, I hear you. Yeah, it was really something else. I went to do background vocals on one session over at Sunset Sound, and I got there and Jim Keltner was on drums. Ry Cooder and Warren and Jorge Calderón were there… I mean, it really was something else.
Heart Beat (1980)—“Neal Cassady”
Nick Nolte: We had us a good time. You know, in fact… Oh, what’s his name? Beat Generation author, the one who shot his wife in the head.
AVC: William S. Burroughs.
NN: Burroughs! Burroughs came and stayed two weeks with us. So I had lunch with Burroughs every day. He had two assistants, and they dressed exactly like Burroughs, and they would ask questions like, “You know, Neal Cassady used to flip hammers all the time. Are you gonna do that?” [Flummoxed.] “I… I don’t know.” And then they’d be quiet for awhile. And then Burroughs would say something like, “You know, Nick, one time I got in a car with Neal in Texas. We were going to California. He didn’t say an entire word until we got there.” He’d throw out the stereotypes, which was good.
That was something that Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, wanted. He called me in to ask me if I thought it was time for a Beat Generation film. And I said, “Yeah, I think so! I mean, the public still doesn’t really know they exist. The word is out, Jack’s books are out there, but to know a little more about it would be good.” And he said, “Well, Carolyn Cassady has written a book, and John Byrum is going to direct, but there’s a problem. He thinks you’re just the kid from The Deep. But he lives right over here in Hollywood, up above Sunset, so why don’t you go over to his house and convince him differently.” And I said, “Arthur, you mean… take him up on the roof a little bit?” [Laughs.] “Yeah, something like that!” So… I got the part!
I don’t know how many people knew this, but Arthur Krim was an in-house presidential advisor to [Lyndon] Johnson. And Eric Pleskow was from Austria, and Mike Medavoy was the Hollywood agent they hired for the front office. It was Eric, Arthur Krim, and him. And, boy, they had a run going. They’d just won the Academy Award with [Jack] Nicholson and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which was a role that Kirk Douglas wanted to play. He owned the rights to the book. I had talked to Kirk because I wanted to play it, too! [Laughs.] But he said, “Well, my son’s going to do it with Jack [Nicholson].” I said, “But he’s too little!” I was just teasing, though. Jack did a great job. He had the charisma part of [Ken] Kesey.
Kesey was a giant man, though. He had a constitution that… [Dismissively.] Well, that’s not really the important part about Kesey. It’s the literature, and then his decision to go into the moment, to live in the moment. Robert Stone [author of Dog Soldiers, which was later adapted into Nolte’s film Who’ll Stop The Rain] would tell me about how they stopped by his house in that crazy bus and say, “Stone! Let’s go! Come on!” And he said he was running into the woods in the opposite direction! [Laughs.] When you look at that bus, you realize that at that period of time, it wasn’t hippie-dom yet. Nobody had seen anything like that. So they didn’t touch it. They were spooked by it.
You know, in the early ’60s, I was studying photography with Allen Dutton and Minor White—Alan Dutton was a professor of photography at Phoenix College, and I would carry their 8×10 view [cameras]—and Alan had been sent from Harvard from Professor [Timothy] Leary and Professor [Richard] Alpert a letter and these little crystal substances. He couldn’t find any teacher to go drop it with. He couldn’t find anybody at all. But I was one of his older students, so… we took eight trips to the desert, when it was legal. Then we had a kid in the photojournalism class, Manny Garcia, and he wanted to shoot a documentary of me dropping acid for Channel 3 in Phoenix, but when we got down to the hotel, the police were there. And he’s going, “You can’t be here! There’s nothing illegal going on!” And they’re saying, “There will be!” [Laughs.] So there’s a little-known story for you.
The Bernie Mac Show (2004)—“Monroe”
Meet The Fockers (2004)—“Prison Guard”
[Doing The Bernie Mac Show] was such a fun week for me. Niecy Nash was playing Bernie’s sister, and this character Monroe was a suitor, and he ends up marrying her on the show. [Adds a twang to his voice.] And he’s this country-western kind of guy who is also a singer-songwriter kind of a person, but he’s got no kind of career—at all. He actually works at a stereophonic stereo store, but he has aspirations to be a singer of some sort. But Bernie was so cool and so generous that I just thought, “If I ever get to have a show of my own, I will be that way, the way he is with me.”
He didn’t know me from anything, but he never felt threatened; he never felt like I was trying to get bigger laughs than him. He would invite me over to his dressing room. We would talk—and this was when he was pretty sick, too. But he always had time for people. He loved to have them in his dressing room and talk to them about anything and everything. And when we talked, he said, “You know, I’m here every day. It’s called The Bernie Mac Show. So when you come in and do what you’re doing”—because I was doing a lot of improv—“it’s only helping my show, and I appreciate you coming in here and making it funny. Make the show funny! That’s what matters!” A lot of times you work with people who are pretty big, and they feel threatened, but he never felt like that. And I vowed that if I ever got a television show, that’s how I would want the show to be run. No one’s getting yelled at on set, and it’s very generous. It’s a welcoming place for everyone to play.
But Bernie, man, was the coolest millionaire I ever met. [Laughs.] Him and Dustin Hoffman. Those two are, like, the coolest rich people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.
I worked with Dustin Hoffman when I did Meet The Fockers. I worked on there for two days. I played a guard on that. The first day, [Robert] De Niro was extremely quiet. The second day, I couldn’t shut him up. He was so cool. We talked for a long, long time about kids and his family and acting. But with Dustin Hoffman, it was, like, right away he was the grandfather I never had. He was fucking around with me while we’re getting ready to do a take. He’s pinching me! I’m, like, “Oh, god, okay, I’m about to do my lines, and Dustin Hoffman’s doing a bit.” But that was another very cool experience about how to handle yourself on set, and to watch these legends having such a good time, really enjoying working together, and having the genuine respect from the people that they’re working around and with.
AV Club: We try to go back to an actor’s first on-camera role, and it looks like yours was playing John in Dealing.
John Lithgow: Oh, my god! I haven’t heard about that in so many years. Good for you! You’ve actually surprised me!
It was the first time I was ever in a movie. I didn’t know what moviemaking was about. Nothing! And nobody told me! Nobody gave me the slightest instructions! I didn’t know about two-shots and over-the-shoulders and close-ups and masters. I knew nothing! And it was a very interesting experience, for sure. I was quite young, it was in… oh, god, what year would it have been?
AVC: It was released in ’72, so it would’ve been made maybe in ’71?
JL: I think it was ’71. And everybody wanted to do another Easy Rider. That’s what it was all about. We were all stoned, all the time, so that didn’t help. I mean, try to learn how to make a movie when you’re stoned. I don’t think we were ever stoned on the set, but… it was about dope dealing, for god’s sake, so I did plenty of research with everybody else.
I don’t know. I was playing a sort of Harvard fop, which a couple of years before was exactly what I had been. The director was from Harvard, and he’d known me then very slightly. He’d known me as sort of a campus star actor. And that’s how I got into the movies: in a movie that nobody has seen or even mentioned to me in about 40 years. So good for you!
AVC: How did you find your way into acting in the first place?
JL: Well, I grew up in a theater family. My father was a regional theater classical repertory producer. He created Shakespeare festivals. He produced all of Shakespeare’s plays, mostly in Shakespeare festivals in Ohio. One of them, the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, is still going. So I grew up not wanting to be an actor, not wanting to go into the family business.
AVC: I was going to ask if there was a temptation to rebel.
JL: Well, it wasn’t actually rebellion, but I was very interested in being a painter. I had facility, I had talent, and I loved painting and printmaking, and I was quite serious about it. But I went to Harvard and immediately fell into the theater gang, and I was already an experienced actor, so you go with the flow! I’ve already used the phrase “campus star.” [Laughs.]
AVC: Were you surprised to find yourself the campus star?
JL: Well, surprised and delighted! Anyone who hears enough laughter and applause at a young age will become an actor, whether they intend to or not. And it’s worked out fine. I’ve always considered it my first big mistake.
Third Watch (1999)—“Ross Green”
I did an episode of Third Watch during its first season. A prostitute takes all of my character’s clothes and locks him in a car. So I’m locked in a car, naked, and they have to come and get me out. And they say, “You’re going to be naked. How do you feel about that? Is that okay?” And it wasn’t too many years after Dennis Franz’s butt was on NYPD Blue… and now my butt was going to be on Third Watch! [Laughs.] Which I was okay with. I decided I was going to do with it, and I didn’t question it. Of course, the crew was all getting into the set, and everyone was very nervous about it. So they get me out of the car, and I knew it was network television, so I knew they were going to be careful, although there was a moment where my hands were against the car.
So I’m having lunch in a restaurant in New York by myself, I’m reading The New York Times, and there’s an article about John Ridley, the guy who wrote Third Watch, and how he was a triple threat: He had the movie Three Kings, he had a novel at the time, and now he’s got Third Watch. So they had a picture from the movie, they had the cover of the novel, and for Third Watch, there’s a picture of me, naked up against the car! [Laughs.] I just went, “Oh, my God…”
Clambake (1967)—“Man In Restaurant” (uncredited)
AVC: With the caveat that I didn’t get a chance to confirm this, IMDB says that you make an uncredited appearance in Clambake.
Lee Majors: Yeah, well, Elvis [Presley] and I were great friends, and I went over to [visit him at] the set at Four Star, over at the old Republic Studios. That’s where I shot Big Valley, actually. [Hesitates.] In fact, come to think of it, the Big Valley producers were producing Clambake—[Jules V.] Levy, [Arthur] Gardner, [Arnold] Laven. So Elvis was going to do a scene in a bar with Shelley Fabares, trying to pick her up or whatever, and in the back these waiters were wearing—oh, you know, the tasseled cup hats that the Shriners wear.
LM: Yeah, and they were also wearing vests with gold trim and stuff. So I went and put one of those on, and then they put a mustache on me. So I’m cleaning up a table, and Elvis is about 5 or 10 feet away from where I’m cleaning, and as he’s talking to her, I’m knocking over glasses and shit. Finally they said, “Cut!” And he didn’t look around—he just kind of shrugged—but I think I did it three times in a row, and on the third time he turned around and said, “What the fuck are you doing?” [Laughs.] I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that. “What the hockey puck are you doing?”
AVC: It’s all right. We won’t censor you here.
LM: Well, anyway, the next take, I did it right, and you can spot me back there. So, yeah, it’s me with the mustache, cleaning the table behind him. He called me “Double Trouble,” because they did a movie where he was playing cousins [Kissin’ Cousins], and he had to play a blonde, so he played two parts and had to dye his hair blonde for the one part. And his Memphis Mafia kept teasing him: “You look like that guy on The Big Valley, Heath Barkley!” [Laughs.] So he called me “Double Trouble,” and we used to play tricks on each other all the time. He’d be on stage in Vegas at the old International Hotel, and I’d come off the other side from where he’s leaning down and singing, and I’d get some scarves and bring ’em out, and he’d hear this roaring over there from the other side of the stage, and he’d see me and go, “What the hell are you doing over there?” We’d do stuff like that all the time. We had a good time. It’s too bad he died so young.
Donny And Marie (1976)—himself
AVC: There can’t be many scenes that sum up ’70s variety shows more than you, dressed in a spangled white shirt and white jeans, shaking it for all you’re worth.
Hal Linden: I don’t remember that scene! We did a dance number?
AVC: It’s actually just you, singing and disco dancing.
HL: [Bursts out laughing.] I don’t even remember that! What did I sing?
AVC: I can’t remember. The visual memory may be blocking out the audio memory.
HL: And in a disco outfit! Well, look, I’ll tell you the one memory I do have of shooting that show. They knew I played the clarinet and wanted to give me a clarinet number, so they had a cutout of the big band. I’m the band leader, Donny and Marie are the boy and girl singers, and they sing, “Marie / The dawn is breaking…” And I’m conducting the band, and I play jazz for about 16 bars, and then we finish the song.
Well, technically you had to prerecord all that. It wasn’t done live. It was prerecorded, and we lip-synched it… and that means I have to finger-synch the clarinet. I don’t remember what I played. It was jazz! [Laughs.] And if the fingers don’t go with what’s playing, then you lose the whole point of it, which is that I was actually playing it. Anybody could’ve picked up a clarinet, held it, moved their fingers around, and pretended to play. Ninety-eight percent of the audience wouldn’t have known and wouldn’t have been aware of it. But 2 percent would. And that 2 percent… I mean, I thought, “The whole point is that I’m actually playing!”
So I took the track home, and I transcribed my solo onto sheet music. And then in the morning, I got in, and I made cue cards—enormous cue cards—of just music. The 16-bar jazz solo I played, written out, so that when I picked up the clarinet, I actually read what I had played, so the fingers matched the clarinet playing. Now, is that attention to detail or what? [Laughs.]
The Inheritance (2011)—“Henry”
That was a horror movie I did one winter. I believe it was in Minneapolis, and it was in the middle of December, and it was absolutely freezing. I’d never been more cold than I was shooting that film. It was something that was different for me. It was fun. I wish it had turned out better. I wish that we had gotten more time to play with the script. I thought that it was a really interesting concept, but unfortunately we just weren’t able to execute it as well as I think anybody had hoped. But it was fun.
I will say that I had a fantastic time shooting up there. The people were really nice, and I loved the cast. And this was also the movie where I met my daughter’s mother, so that’s something that we will always have. It was a really interesting time in my career as well as personally, but it’s still something that, to this day, if I see it on some cable network or something, I’ll find myself stopping for a minute or two, smiling and remembering where we were during that time and what was going on in my life at that time… and then changing the channel and watching something better!