If you’ve seen Part 1 and Part 2 of my look back at my various Random Roles interviews for the Onion AV Club this year, then this third chapter in the saga will come as no surprise, even if it’s taken me a bit longer to post it than I’d intended. (That’s what happens when you’re frantically trying to pull more work that actually pays: the stuff that you do for the enjoyment of it has to fall temporarily by the wayside.) Sorry to have teased you about previously-unreleased RR tidbits, but I wanted to get this out of the way and then wrap up with the unreleased stuff in its own post. So, yes, they really are coming soon…but for now you’ve got to stick with this best-of installment. All things considered, though, this is still some pretty good reading…
The veteran actor talks about Lost, Lawnmower Man, and Lake Effects.
Lost (2008-2010)—“Frank Lapidus”
AV Club: Did you have a favorite episode of your work (on Lost)?
Jeff Fahey: Hmmm. No, you know, I really couldn’t say, mostly just because I really enjoyed the whole experience. Sometimes we get to a place where… I’m not quite sure if it’s where you’re at—meaning myself, as an individual—or where the projects are at, but sometimes they meet at this great place, and that was one of ’em. You know what I mean? It was so fantastic to feel that you’re in such a well-tuned and well-honed machine, from writers to producers to actors to directors, that there was no tension at all, and you were never worrying about what you didn’t understand.
AVC: And did you understand how it ended?
JF: Well, no. [Laughs.] I’m left out there with half the audience. We can read into it how we want, whether it is and was that place of so-called purgatory and people were having to clear up their lives before moving on to whatever that next place was. I actually kind of enjoyed that sort of—how should I say this?—unfinished, unknown metaphysical element of what the message was. Or was the message left up to each individual in the audience? But it was a great ride, man. I don’t have a specific favorite episode, I just dug the whole ride.
The actor discusses how his ability to sing landed him roles as Sideshow Bob, Ebenezer Scrooge, and more.
Toy Story 2 (1999)—“Stinky Pete the Prospector”
Kelsey Grammer: Stinky Pete! What a poor, repressed little shit. [Laughs.] I loved him, but he was… I liked how small his thinking was. You know, how inside the box he wanted to be. He was a very interesting little character to play. The thing I remember most, though, was [co-writer/director] John Lasseter. His enthusiasm for the work he does was just breathtaking. He would run out of the sound booth and go, “Oh, my God, I can’t wait to go animate that line!” He loves performance and embraces it. He likes to… well, he’s just like a child. He’s wonderful.
Philip Baker Hall
“When I came to L.A., I began to learn how much they loved New York actors who came out with no agent and no prospects and almost no film in his bag. They didn’t.”
Seinfeld (1991, 1998)—“Bookman”
Philip Baker Hall: Yeah, Bookman, Seinfeld. God, that was over 20 years ago. It’s hard to believe how long ago that was. It’s just so ironic. I mean, every actor has to deal with this, but I’ve played so many roles both in theater and on film—and when I say “so many,” we’re talking a few hundred—but the one that’s most often mentioned with my name is Bookman. And wherever I go, even if I go out of the country, Bookman is an identifiable character. I mean, it’s shown all the time. The reruns are shown on TV at least a couple of days a week, sometimes hour after hour of Seinfeld, so they’re out there. But the character… he’s a fun character, and I guess kind of an unusual one for TV, but everybody knows Bookman, no doubt about it. I’m not putting it down, but I’ve done so much else. But Bookman is the one that everyone remembers. People will say forever, at the supermarket or wherever, it doesn’t matter where, “Oh, you’re Bookman, right? I really loved that Bookman. Now, I know you’ve done a lot of other things, but I loved that Bookman character.” When they say, “I know you’ve done a lot of other things,” it’s like, “You don’t know the half of it!” [Laughs.] But Bookman? Bookman hits a response button. And I’m not ungrateful for that.
Before Bookman, I had a long theater career, I was making a really good living in TV—I’d even been a regular on a couple of series—and I’d done quite a few movies, but Bookman absolutely exploded my career. I can’t deny it. Before Bookman, my agent would say, “Well, they really liked your work, they really love you, but they don’t think you’re right for this,” or whatever. After Bookman, there was no door closed to me in the industry. My agent would say, “Everybody wants to see you. Everybody wants you to be in their movie, everybody wants you to be on their show.” It was kind of incredible, I have to say. It was pretty amazing. So I’m not putting it down. It’s just that when people say, “I loved you as Bookman,” I can’t help but think, “But what about the other 280 roles I’ve done?” I don’t say it, though. [Laughs.] Because with Bookman, I kind of hit the jackpot.
You know, because it was so eventful, career-wise, in my life, I can still remember that audition. I remember going in for it. And first of all, I did have a copy of the script or the sides or whatever, and I was kind of amazed at the depth of the role. Seinfeld wasn’t writing roles that big for the guest actors. Or that varied, that interesting. So that was surprising. And then when I walked into the waiting room for the audition, there were a number of prominent actors sitting around the room, waiting to go in. I can’t remember any names now, but they were all actors who’d been prime-time series regulars, and they all had pretty good profiles in the industry. Probably a higher public profile than I did. So I remember walking in and feeling a little intimidated by the star power I saw sitting around the room. But then I went in to read and—by the way, that was episode 22, and Jerry was still reading with the actors. So it was the director [Joshua White], Larry David, and Jerry Seinfeld, just the four of us in the room, and I remember that none of them could stop laughing. They just couldn’t stop laughing. They were, like, choked up with laughter. And it was one of the few times that, when I came back from that audition, I told my wife… in this business, we normally don’t count any chickens before they hatch, but I said, “I got this role. They will be calling soon. I got this role.” And an hour or so later, they did call and offer the part to me. It was a memorable day.
“I can perform the life of the snail and be moving. But I have to be let go.”
Eating Raoul (1982)—“Mary Bland”
Mary Woronov: That’s my favorite movie. Every part of that movie, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. At one point in the movie, Paul goes to bed with a bottle of wine. I said to the crew, “Guys, what am I, chopped liver? I want toys!” And we were filming in a house that was somebody else’s, but they ran around the house to look for toys and got me all those toys to sleep with. [Laughs.] The crew was working for nothing, practically. In fact, they were working for nothing. The script was okay. You know, it was bizarre. But everybody just did everything because they loved the turn that the movie was taking. It was funny, but it was really, really scary. But it was also comical and funny. And I love the combination of that. You know, he shot 21 days of film, but it took him a year to do it. He’d call me up and go, “Mary, I want to shoot this next scene,” and it’d be the first time I’d heard from him in two months. But you’d just walk onto the set, and there it was. It was like a living thing. Also, I got along wonderfully with Paul. I act very, very well with him, because he understands the Theater Of The Ridiculous. But after the film, we’d do interview after interview, and he’d tell everybody that I was really married to him. And it disturbed me, because it wasn’t true. And finally I said to him, “I’m not going interview with you anymore, because you keep on saying that.” And he goes, “Oh, Mary, there’s an interview in New York, it’s a magazine, you’ve got to do it.” I said, “No!” And then he said, “Okay, I promise I won’t say we’re married.” So we sit down at the table with this woman, and the first thing she does is smile at me and then look at him and go, “So you’re married, aren’t you?” I look at Paul, and he says, “No, we’re divorced.” I didn’t speak to him for a year.
AV Club: Were you disappointed that the sequel to the film [Bland Ambition] never got off the ground?
MW: No, I wasn’t, because the sequel dropped me like a hot potato. I was his wife, but I’m totally in the background. The sequel’s all about another girl. And I didn’t even want it to get off the ground. What I was disappointed about was that, because of Eating Raoul, Paul got two other movies together, got financed for them and everything, and didn’t hire me. When I easily could’ve played both roles. One was a Girl Friday. But he just dropped me. And I said, “Why?” And he said, “You know, these movies, these are real movies, and I’m working with real actors.” I hated him for that. You know, Paul was a little misconceived. But I do love him, anyway.
“Most people think of me as only a tragic actress. They don’t really see my comedy chops.”
Lucy & Desi: Before The Laughter (1990)—“Lucille Ball”
Frances Fisher: That was always a dream of mine, ever since I did a set of head shots where—this photographer, after I’d done this straight head shot, he decided to play a bit, use some makeup on me, put my hair up. And Desmond Child, who was in my acting class at the time but has gone on to be a fabulous producer and musician, he saw the pictures and said, “You know, you look like a young Lucille Ball!” I said, “Really?” So I started doing research on Lucy and fell in love with her history and who she was. Not just what she did in I Love Lucy and everything she accomplished with Desi Arnaz, but just her life growing up. I thought, “Someday I’m going to play that part.” And sure enough, when I saw the casting call in Variety, I went back to that photographer 10 years later, I went out and got a couple of thrift-store dresses, hired a makeup person, and sent in my headshot as Lucille Ball. And I was the first one to audition, and after a long couple or three tours of auditioning Lucys all over the planet, they finally decided to give me the role.
“Pushing Gary Oldman into the pigs is about as good as it gets.”
The Soldier (1982)—“Bombmaker”/“Cleaning Lady”
Zeljko Ivanek: Good God, man, you have done your research! [Laughs.] I didn’t even know if that was on my IMDB page. I was doing (a) play in New York when I was doing The Edge Of Night, and I think they came to see the play, and somebody said, “We have this part of the bombmaker. It’s just, like, a day. Would you want to do that?” And then later you see a cleaning lady planting the bomb, and in the play, I was playing… everybody played two roles in the play, and in the first act, I was playing this Victorian wife. So I jokingly said, “Well, I could play the cleaning lady, too!” [Laughs.] And they took it not as a joke and cast me as the cleaning lady, also. So at some point in the movie, suddenly there I am in a gray wig, looking shockingly like my mother, dusting and planting a bomb.
“When you’ve been around the big ones and the catastrophes, you get the smell of them.”
John Rhys-Davies: Eric Bercovici, who’d written Shogun, said, “You’re in town? I want you to do me a favor. It’s a piece of shit that I wrote, but I want you in it.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Why? I gave you Rodrigues in Shogun and you’re asking me why?” I said, “No, no, no, I didn’t mean it quite like that…” “Good!” he said. I said, “Give me why I can play this thing.” He said, “For one line: ‘When the loading is finished, bring me his other eye.’” [Long, loud laughter.] I said, “I love it. I love it!” Eric is one of the great adapters and writers. The script of Shogun was so tight that you could not take a word out of a sentence, you could not take a sentence out of a scene, and you certainly couldn’t take out a scene without putting ripples right through the back or the front of the overall story. Just brilliant.
“They had versions of the characters made out of fish food so that the fish would eat them. I thought, ‘Boy, this is a real movie! All we’re doing is talking!’”
Lady Liberty (1971)—“Policeman” (uncredited)
AV Club: Whenever an early role is listed as “uncredited,” you never know for sure if it’s going to turn out to be accurate or not…
Edward Herrmann: It is! It is accurate! I was doing a play called The Basic Training Of Pavlo Hummel in New York—the David Rabe play—over the summer, and I was one of the soldiers and had a couple of scenes. But I got this job, which was an under-five (less than five lines of dialogue), and I was allowed to do it. It was all night, it was with Sophia Loren and an Italian director, Mario Monicelli, and I played this cop. I had one line. I said, “Well, I don’t know what it is, but it smells like gas.” And they had this big sausage they were eating. [Laughs.] And that was it!
We were shooting out at the old TWA terminal, that fantastic aero center they were building, and it took forever. The camera… they shot everything unblimped, which meant that everything was going to have to be looped later, because of all the jets and everything. And I looked outside in the middle of the night, on one of those little arch bridgeways in the middle of the terminal, these vast windows, and I saw this parade of twinkling lights. Not just the jumbo jet, but all these little lights. Well, it was cop cars, and apparently someone had tried to hijack a plane that night! And then… this terminal is empty, but then all of a sudden I see this line of police and reporters coming through, and I’m standing there in my cop rig, and this guy comes up to me, very Efrem Zimbalist-looking, and he says… [Out of the corner of his mouth.] “Where’s the meeting?” And I said, “What?” He said, “Where’s the meeting?” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” So he flips out his gold FBI badge, and his mouth turns down, and he says, “Now where’s the goddamned meeting?” [Laughs.] And I said, “I’m sorry, sir, we’re making a movie here. I’m an actor in the movie.” He looks me up and down, and he says, “An actor, huh? Congratulations.” And I just melt in front of this FBI guy’s steely gaze. So by virtue of that one little scene, I found that brush with immortality in the midst of a hijacking.
At about 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, we lost the light, and I was walking down one of those tunnels, and Sophia Loren came out of a room. It’s 5 in the morning, and she’s looking like she just stepped out of a bath, like Venus. And she was alone, she’s walking down the tunnel, and she nodded, so I said, “It was lovely working with you.” And she said… [In a high, breathy voice with an Italian accent.] “Thank you very much. It was nice.” And off she went. She’s still a dream to me. She was very sweet.
“I found out that during this whole run, [my character] was high on crystal meth. I had no idea!”
Dill Scallion (1999)—“Dill Scallion”
Billy Burke: At the time, it was the most fun I’d ever had doing anything. Ever. Anything. [Laughs.] Again, I hadn’t done a whole lot at that point—I believe I’d just finished Mafia! —and I went in to meet Jordan Brady, the creator and director of that. Kind of like with Twilight, we just sort of sat and BSed about what it was, we threw around a couple of scenes, and, I sang a couple of silly little tunes. Literally, he gave me the words of some songs he’d made up that he hadn’t even written melodies for, and I just sat there with a guitar and sort of made them up as I went along. And literally there on the spot—this has never happened before—he’s like, “We leave in a week. You wanna go?” And I was like, “Yeah!” So we literally got on a tour bus in Los Angeles and shot on tour across the South, all the way over to Nashville. We finished the movie in Nashville, and every single day was… Nobody knew what was going on any day. It was complete guerilla-style. We got to Texas, and we didn’t have backstage passes, but we rushed onstage with cameras. Everything was done without permission. It was awesome.
“Even Ishtar eventually disappeared. But Showgirls keeps coming back!”
Showgirls (1995)—“Zack Carey”
Kyle MacLachlan: Uh… yeah. [Laughs.] That was a decision that was sort of a tough one to make, but I was enchanted with Paul Verhoeven. Particularly Robocop, which I loved. I look back on it now and it’s a little dated, but it’s still fantastic, and I think it’s got some of the great villains of all time in there. It was Verhoeven and [Joe] Eszterhas, and it seemed like it was going to be kind of dark and edgy and disturbing and real. I signed on, and… I think they’d wanted Dylan McDermott and he’d passed, so then they came to me and asked, “Do you want to do this?” And I was like, “Yeah!” Because I was really into that mode. And I worked hard, I came in and did my scenes, but then I wasn’t really involved in anything else until it finally came time to do the press for it.
It was about to première, I hadn’t seen it yet, and I wanted to. So I went to see it and… I was absolutely gobsmacked. I said, “This is horrible. Horrible!” And it’s a very slow, sinking feeling when you’re watching the movie, and the first scene comes out, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s a really bad scene.” But you say, “Well, that’s okay, the next one’ll be better.” And you somehow try to convince yourself that it’s going to get better… and it just gets worse. And I was like, “Wow. That was crazy.” I mean, I really didn’t see that coming. So at that point, I distanced myself from the movie. Now, of course, it has a whole other life as a sort of inadvertent… satire. No, “satire” isn’t the right word. But it’s inadvertently funny. So it’s found its place. It provides entertainment, though not in the way I think it was originally intended. It was just… maybe the wrong material with the wrong director and the wrong cast.
AV Club: But apart from all of that…
KM: Apart from all that, it was great. [Laughs.] It has a couple of moments in it that are pretty wild. And I gotta say that, when I was watching the actual shows that they created, I was like, “Hey, this is a Vegas show!” I was watching it from the audience, and it was amazing, what they were able to create. But reduced down to its elements, it was, uh, not one of my finer attempts. But it was done initially for all the right reasons; it just didn’t turn [out] to be what I anticipated. Everybody has one of those in their repertoire, I think. It’s just that this one has stayed around. Even Ishtar eventually disappeared. But this one keeps coming back! [Laughs.]
“I couldn’t do zombies, I couldn’t do vampires. I didn’t have money for stunt men. I had enough money for one camera!”
Navy SEALs (1990)—“Lieutenant James Curran”
Michael Biehn: That is a movie which… [Long pause.] I was really disappointed with that movie, because we had the Navy behind us, we had a really, really good producer, Bernie Williams, we had a great crew and a great cast. We had Charlie [Sheen] and [Bill] Paxton and me and Joanne Whalley, Dennis Haysbert… just a great cast. We had a script that could’ve been worked on, could’ve been made a lot better, but they wanted to make this kind of silly movie about Charlie Sheen running and jumping on the back of a car, putting it in reverse, and driving it off a ramp. The director wanted to make… I don’t know what he wanted to make. A comedy or something. I guess he considered it like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. I wanted to do Top Gun, and Paxton wanted to do Top Gun. We wanted to make a really good movie, and it really turned out to be kind of a mish-mash and not a very good movie at all. So it’s really kind of… yeah, it’s probably the worst experience of my life, working on that movie.
AV Club: Wow, really? Bill Paxton didn’t exactly love it, but he at least enjoyed the golfing scenes.
MB: Well, yeah, I can see that. Paxton basically… what they basically had us doing in the original script was playing volleyball, okay? And it was like, “Dude, come on, man, they did that in Top Gun. Do we really have to do the exact same thing?” So we came up with the golfing stuff, and I remember that Bill came up with—he’s kind of a director himself now, but at the time, he came up with a list of different shots and different things he thought would be really cool. And Lewis Teague [the director], who somehow failed upwards in his career at that point—I think Navy SEALs was his final failing—wouldn’t shoot the stuff.
Still, I’m surprised that Bill has any fond memories of that movie at all, because Bill was, I think, kind of frustrated, too. I just thought there was a possibility to do Top Gun, you know? I thought there was a possibility to show Navy SEALs in a real light, not some sort of crazy jumping out of cars, jumping into rivers kind of shenanigans. I think you’ll probably see the first real great portrayal of Navy SEALs when Kathryn Bigelow’s [Zero Dark Thirty] comes out. I think she’s working on that. So you’ll see it in that. But the thing about the movie Navy SEALs is that it was just such a waste. The script could’ve been shaped to be much better, and you just hate to see all that talent and passion go to waste.
“People ask me, ‘Where did you learn to do what you do?’ I learned it in the Roger Corman Film School.”
Behind Enemy Lines (1987) / Eye Of The Eagle (1987)—“Johnny Ransom”
Robert Patrick: [Narrating.] Robert Patrick. Young boy. Outlaw. Comes to Hollywood, wants to get into the movie business, has no connections whatsoever, lives in his car and claws his way into the business. How’s he do it? He gets an audition for Roger Corman Studios; he does a movie called Warlords From Hell, and that director recommends him to Cirio Santiago, the prolific Filipino director of action-genre exploitation films of the ’80s, back when there was a vacuum, and they needed to create VHS tapes and were churning out movies. And with that, Robert Patrick gets thrown in front of a camera to play Johnny Ransom. [Laughs.]
It was a Vietnam story. Johnny Ransom was the predecessor of Max Kennard, Tom Ryan, and even the role I’m playing on Last Resort. It all started with Johnny Ransom. I’m not shitting ya! Watch the movie, you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you can stomach it. But hey, listen, I went after Eye Of The Eagle. Back then, I was just trying to get a break in the business. I didn’t even have a fricking agent, man. And just to get in there and actually be running around doing action films… Hell, I thought I’d made it.
AV Club: You’ve said you spent some time as a bartender during your early years as an actor. Were you filming these movies by day and tending bar at night?
RP: Well, when I got to Hollywood… After living in your car for a while, you want to try and find a place to live, and I had a guardian angel. I saw an ad in the paper, a furnished apartment for rent, and I was getting kind of desperate. I didn’t have any local references, I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have a local address… There were so many things that I almost fell through the cracks. But this lady recognized the Southern twang in my voice, and she said, “You sound like a good boy. Why don’t you come over here and let me meet you?” So I went over there and met her, and she said, “All right, I’m gonna rent you this apartment. And not only am I gonna rent you this apartment, but… What do you do?” I said, “Well, I’m an actor.” She said, “So you’re a waiter.” I said, “Yes, ma’am, I can wait tables.” She said, “All right, let me help you out.” She got me an application for a job right up the street that I could walk to, ’cause by that time, I think my car had kind of blown up, and I needed a new engine. I got a job waiting tables and bartending, and, yeah, that’s what I did to make ends meet. To pay the rent, I painted houses, I did all sorts of stuff. But who knew that while I was doing those movies in the Philippines, there was a young filmmaker named James Cameron who had also worked with Roger Corman, and that in a couple of years, our paths would cross and we’d change each other’s lives?
“I’m pretty ugly, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I went behind the camera.”
The Descendants (2011)—“Brian”
Matthew Lillard: That was like being called up from toiling in double-A or triple-A ball and getting a call saying, “We’d like you to pitch in Game 1 of the World Series.” I mean, the whole whirlwind of the Academy Awards and the experience of that is something I’ll never forget.
AV Club: How did you come into the film? Did they call you up and ask for you specifically, or was it an audition?
ML: Uh, no, it was an audition. No one has ever called me up for a film in the entire history of mankind. [Laughs.] The only time I ever get called up is to validate whether I’m dead or not. Look, my career has never been about somebody needing me. It’s always me needing them much more. So, yeah, I auditioned, and trust me when I say that I thought I was the last guy to ever get the role of the guy who gets George Clooney’s wife. I almost went in as a dare more than anything else, because you’re definitely kind of transcending reality at that point.
Marcia Gay Harden
“If I saw huge bugs outside my window, bugs as big as a tree, I might think the end of the world was coming, too.”
Space Cowboys (2000)—“Sara Holland”
AVC: Was Space Cowboys where you first met Clint Eastwood, or did you know him prior to that?
Marcia Gay Harden: No, it was on Space Cowboys. I met him for the first time on that. I was shooting Pollock, I said [to Ed Harris], “Oh, my God, I’m up for Space Cowboys! We go down on Pollock for a month and a half while you get fat, Ed. That’s exactly the amount of time that they need the character. Would you just call Clint? If you like working with me, would you just call him and tell him?” So he called Clint, and the conversation literally was like this: “Hey, Clint.” “How ya doin’, Ed?” “I’m good.” “Well, good. I’m good, too.” “So, listen, Marcia Gay…” “Yeah? You’re working with her, aren’t ya?” “Yeah, Clint. She’s a good girl.” “She’s a good girl?” “Yeah. She’s a good girl.” “Okay. Talk to you later.” Cut to… I get the part. [Laughs.] Apparently, I’m a good girl.
On playing a vampire, a taxi driver, a toon, and more, plus why he almost passed on Back To The Future.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)—“Kruge”
Christopher Lloyd: Ah! [Laughs.] To this day, I don’t know why they cast me, because I hadn’t done anything that I can recall that bore any resemblance to the character of Captain Kruge. They just played a hunch, I guess. And I loved doing that. I mean, he epitomizes somebody with absolutely no moral conscience. He even blows up his so-called girlfriend in another spaceship. They have a short conversation at the beginning, and he doesn’t even apologize. She’s amenable because… well, it’s for whatever political reasons. But, yeah, he’s just evil. [Laughs.] He’s demonic. There’s no conscience in place at any point, and he has no apologies for any of his actions. He just goes out and destroys and kills and creates havoc until he gets what he wants. And that was fun to play. I loved all the makeup and the clothes, the whole Klingon look. It was a joy. And Leonard Nimoy directed!
AVC: And John Larroquette was one of your henchmen.
CL: That’s right! Yeah, he was there when I had my big fight with Kirk, with Bill Shatner, at the end. I mean, I had to do that film. It was like, “What the hell, you only live once.”
“You have to trust someone has an idea of what the story is, so you can be in the moment, and not be outside of yourself, watching.”
Road House (1989)—“Doc”
AV Club: It seems like your sex scene in the film must be one of the most uncomfortable in cinematic history, being up against a rock wall and all.
Kelly Lynch: Oh, I know, but I was padded. [Laughs.] No one knows, so it looks more painful that it was. They really liked everything about the way that scene looked, with the blonde hair against the rocks behind me, but I was like, “Isn’t this kind of… mean?” So they put a thin padding under my dress, so you can’t see it. But he’s still slamming me against the rocks, so I had to be careful not to hit my head. Thank God Patrick was so strong. He could’ve carried me around that room forever.
By the way, speaking of Bill Murray, every time Road House is on and he or one of his idiot brothers are watching TV—and they’re always watching TV—one of them calls my husband and says [In a reasonable approximation of Carl Spackler], “Kelly’s having sex with Patrick Swayze right now. They’re doing it. He’s throwing her against the rocks.” [Away from the receiver.] What? Oh, my God. Mitch was just walking out the door to the set, and he said that Bill once called him from Russia.
AVC: Sorry, not to dwell on this, but you said that Bill Murray “or one of his idiot brothers” will call. Which brothers are we talking about?
KL: All of them! Joel has called; Brian Doyle has called. They will all call! Any and all of them!
AVC: This was already an awesome story, but now it’s even better.
KL: I know, right? I dread it. If I know it’s coming on—and I can tell when it’s coming on, because it blows up on Twitter when it is—I’m just like, “Oh, my God…” And God help me when AMC’s doing their Road House marathon, because I know the phone is just going to keep ringing. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 or 3 in morning. “Hi, Kelly’s having sex with Patrick Swayze right now…”
The actress discusses her favorite characters and which performances go in her gold file.
King Of The Gypsies (1978)—“Tita”
AV Club: It seems like everyone we’ve talked to who was in King Of The Gypsies is loath to discuss much of the experience.
Brooke Shields: Really? You know, I mean, I touched on this earlier, but that was an era where it was kind of “everything goes” when it came to filmmaking. It was as if everyone was kind of crazy. You know, Sterling Hayden was lovely, but I didn’t really have to work with him that much. Shelley Winters was just… loony. [Laughs.] She made me eat ham and ketchup on white bread sandwiches, because she said she was a method actor and that’s what happens. But I was like, “Yeah, but… I hate ham and ketchup! How am I supposed to do it? If it’s method, I’m supposed to pick the sandwich that I want, right?” Eric Roberts was in his prime in his, uh, Eric Roberts way. Susan Sarandon was my mother.
It was sort of like we lived the life. We were all on night shoots in New York City, and you got the feeling that it was more of a documentary. They didn’t have stunt people protecting me. We got into a crazy car accident and we couldn’t get out of the car, and Eric wanted to do all of his own stunts… It was just stuff like that. It was just unprecedented. But I was young. If I was older, it might’ve affected me a little bit more, because I might’ve been… I wasn’t drinking or doing drugs or sleeping with anybody or any of those antics. It was Dino De Laurentiis producing, and… Basically, it was a very debaucherous production. The word “Caligula-esque” comes to mind. But, you know, it was New York in the ’70s. You could do anything you wanted… and, uh, I think that might be why people aren’t opening up a whole lot. [Laughs.]
“As an actor, you learn not to get your hopes up when you hear Johnny Depp and Sean Penn are ahead of you in the queue.”
W. (2008)—“Karl Rove”
Toby Jones: When I came to research the part of Karl Rove, the overwhelming impression is that Karl Rove had done a very good job of making sure that there wasn’t much to go on in terms of research. [Laughs.] So that was a part I attempted with all of this huge help and huge insight but largely through observation of video footage and news footage of that time. It was a great part. The key into that part for me was that I sensed a sort of delight in him, a smile playing on his lips all the time, even in the face of huge pressure. I think at the time I sort of described him as looking as if he’s got fairground music playing in his ear the whole time. He’s a supremely intelligent man and, like a lot of intelligent people, the world would tend to occasionally appear to be a joke to him, so easy was it for him to manipulate.
The actor discusses his favorite roles and why Telly Savalas should’ve played Macbeth.
Dragnet (1987)—“Jerry Caesar”
Dabney Coleman: I went in to see Tom Mankiewicz—the director of Dragnet, whose dad [Joseph Mankiewicz] wrote All About Eve and was a director himself—to discuss the role, having already gotten it, but we just wanted to have a little talk before we started shooting. I said, “By the way, I’ve got an idea.” My daughter Mary has had a lisp, which was rather pronounced when she was younger. But it’s always been very touching and adorable to me, to the point where I mimic her from time to time. Like, when someone asks how I’m doing, I’ll say, “Exthellent!” [Laughs.] But I do it in a loving way, and, of course, Mary knows that it’s affectionate and it doesn’t hurt her feelings. Now, I saw Tennessee Williams several times, and I can’t recall if he actually had a lisp, but he had this wonderful Southeastern accent, which I’d already done in Modern Problems, so I said, “Well, I think I’m just gonna put a little lithp on top of that accent.” And I suggested this to Tom without actually doing it for him, and he said, “Oh, no, I think that might be a little much.” Then, several minutes later, as I’m getting up to leave, he says, “By the way, what would that sound like, that Southeastern accent with the lisp?” And I said, “Well, give me a line.” And he did, so I delivered it for him: “He had ballth as big as church bellth, and I came down on him like athid rain.” And he said, “Excuse me. If you don’t use that, I’m not going to pay you your salary. You’ve got to use that accent. That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.” So I used it, and I loved it.
“I thought getting famous was a drag.”
The Magic School Bus (1994-1997)—“Ms. Valerie Frizzle”
Lily Tomlin: [Claps her hands together.] Oh, my goodness! Yes, that was great. That was something where Scholastic came to me to do it, and at first I said, “Oh, I’m not good at [voice acting].” But I said, “If I do it, I want to make sure I do a good job, so let me just try and do a few things on tape and see how it feels or how it sounds.” And they still liked it, but I was very reluctant, because I don’t ever think I do that kind of thing well. Sometimes they’ll give me a book to read or when I narrated The Celluloid Closet for Rob [Epstein] and Jeff [Friedman], Jeff would have to go into the sound booth with me when I was recording, and I had to finally pretend he was from a foreign country so that I could talk to someone. [Laughs.] Also, what happens is that my voice gets real Detroit and real flat. Because that’s where I’m from. But Scholastic liked it, so I did it, and I’m happy I did it. Oh, let me tell you a quick story!
I don’t know if you know, but a lot of teachers around the country dress up like Ms. Frizzle. In fact, that’s one reason I really loved doing it, because all of those little kids. Although it’s funny, because their mom or dad will say, “This is Ms. Frizzle!” and they look at me and they don’t get it at all. In fact, they’re kind of scared. [Laughs.] “This isn’t Ms. Frizzle!” Anyway, I’d heard that this teacher was retired, and she’d been Ms. Frizzle for her third-grade class, and her class had watched a lot of the Magic School Bus videos, so I went to the school to surprise her kids, like I’d be such a big surprise. They don’t know me! In fact, they asked, “So what do you do when you’re not Ms. Frizzle?” And this is after it’d already taken a lot of convincing to get them to even buy that I was Ms. Frizzle. I had to say this thing and that, and they had to think it over and had to decide if it really sounded like Ms. Frizzle. So, finally, they said, “So what else do you do?” And I said, “Well, I do a lot of different characters and stuff.” “What kind of characters?” And I’m trying to tell them, and then I say, “Oh, I even do a kid!” And they wanted to hear it, so I started to do Edith Ann… Oh, my God, it was suddenly so embarrassing to pretend I was 6 years old when they’re all, like, 8. I finally had to stop and say, “Oh, this is so embarrassing. I usually don’t do this for kids. I do this for grown-ups.” And a little boy raised his hand, and he said, “Here’s what you should do: Just pretend we’re grown-ups.” [Laughs.] “Just pretend we’re grown-ups.” Why didn’t I think of that?
“Wow. What can I tell you about Solarbabies?”
Square Pegs (1982-1983)—“Muffy Tepperman”
Jami Gertz: For me, I think that’s the definitive moment where I became this actor. You know? There were little things I had done, like a week on Endless Love, but that was… First of all, it was the first time I saw women in such impressive roles. Anne Beatts was our creator; most of the staff were female writers, from SNL and other places, but just really brilliant women. Kim Friedman was a female director we had. It was the first time as a young girl—I was 16 when I did the pilot—that I saw such creative women all around me. And it had an effect on my mother as well, who came with me, because I was a minor at the time. But she got a job after Square Pegs was over. She decided to go out into the work force after being on Square Pegs and seeing all these women working and creating and just being creative. So I think it had a profound effect on my mother as well as myself.
I think it was a groundbreaking show at the time. It’s so funny, because our ratings were… We were canceled with, like, 22 million viewers a week. That’s how many viewers you would get for that show. And I just ate it up. I loved the character. I just adored Sarah Jessica Parker. We were very close on that show, and we lived at the Oakwood Garden Apartments, and her mother, Barbara, was just such a bright woman. I remember we would just listen to NPR all the time. Barbara would make sure that we listened to NPR, and Barbara and my mom would take us to museums and plays. It was just a magical time of working really hard, working with amazing people. Bill Murray played a substitute teacher on the show!
AV Club: So do you have a Bill Murray anecdote? It seems like everybody’s got one.
JG: Well, he’s just such a character! Because I was from Chicago, he called me “Chicago.” And I had just gotten my driver’s license, so he threw me the keys to his car at lunch one time and said, “Let’s go!” And I got in the car, and we just started driving around. We went to In-and-Out Burger in Norwalk, California, and I think they started looking for us, because he had absconded with a minor! [Laughs.] But I was like, “Mr. Murray, I know how to drive!” So he threw me the keys to this, like, Mercedes convertible, and we were just driving around for an hour during lunch. We came back to, like, “Where the hell were you?” And he’s like, “She just learned how to drive!”
So, yeah, he became a friend of mine for a while there, and I did some improv with him back in Chicago, with Del Close. He really introduced me into the improv world and what improv is all about. In fact, there was a small time there where we were… well, he was trying to get a movie through improvisation, and he had put together a whole group of people, including Dana Delaney, Bud Cort, Bill Irwin, Brian Doyle Murray, and Bill. And for a couple of months there, he was trying to get a movie script through improv. I mean, it never happened, but for me, I think I was 19, maybe only 18 at the time. We went to study with Del at Second City, then we went to New York and studied, and we would just do improv all day long. It was very interesting, and it was like school for me. It was like a master class in improv.
“My whole thing is usually villains that don’t know they’re evil. I think this guy does. He’s bad and he knows it.”
The Proposition (2005)—“Arthur Burns”
Danny Huston: I suppose evil is his lover, but he doesn’t necessarily see himself as that. He’s quite a romantic, in a cosmic kind of way. He has a strong sense of family. He has his own family values. He’s like a mystic. Yes, maybe a little psychotic, but I have great affection for Arthur Burns. I really do. He’s somebody who I think has a way of seeing the world that’s maybe not necessarily what we want to see, but it is a truth.
AV Club: How was Nick Cave to work with?
DH: Fantastic. Nick would come in in his suit in the middle of Australia, and it was very hot. Beer has never tasted so good. But he was there for the rehearsals with Guy Pearce, and I said, “So how long have these guys been in jail? When did they come over?” Things like that. And Nick would roll his eyes and say, “Well, I don’t know!” [Laughs.] Well, okay! You know, I think of all the films I’ve done, it’s the one that stayed the closest to the original script. I wish it had gotten a bit more love, because it’s a film I absolutely adore. But with that said, Nick also said one of the most annoying things about it: “It took me three weeks to write the script: one week to figure out the script-writing program and two weeks to actually type out the story.” I’ve never had a script come that easy!
“I’m all over the place, aren’t I?”
Rock Star (2001)—“Kirk Cuddy, Steel Dragon Guitarist”
Dominic West: What a glittering career I’ve had. [Laughs.] Kirk Cuddy was brilliant. I was [in Los Angeles] when I was filming it, and I suppose I’d always, like lots of actors do, wanted to be a rock star. And I got to be one. I remember when they showed me my costume, and I was like, “It’s great!” ’80s velour leotard with a silver cape. I thought, “Brilliant! The more ridiculous and camp, the better!” And then the first day, when everyone was wearing their costume, I realized that everyone was else was wearing quite hardcore leather and looked like they were in present day. I was the only one looking like some sort of ’80s twit. [Laughs.]
Anyway, I had a great time. I played in front of 60,000 people in the L.A. arena. It was fantastic. But I remember one of the assistant directors came up to me at one point and said, “Dominic, I’m afraid we’ve had a slight delay in shooting: One of our supporting actresses had to be taken to hospital.” I said, “Oh, fuck! Why, what’s wrong?” He said, “Well, unfortunately, her breast’s exploded.” [Laughs.] My wife in the film was this very cool girl who was a Playboy bunny, and the first thing she said to me was, “Where are you from?” I said, “London.” She said, “Oh, my breasts are from London!” So, yeah, I definitely had a great time working on that!
“Not everybody gets to hang out with Optimus Prime and Megatron, you know?”
Body Double (1984)—“Cameraman”
Rob Paulsen: Oh, dear. [Laughs.] That is an interesting story, actually. My son was coming along, and I remember that my agent called me—I was still doing live-action stuff at that point—and said, “Hey, Brian De Palma wants you to come in and read for him.” And I said, “Wow! That’s pretty cool!” I don’t know how the hell he knew who I was, but I was happy to do that, because he had actually just come off of directing Scarface, and Scarface had a lot of press that was very… [Hesitates.] Not criticizing, really. I mean, the movie got pretty good notices, and it was a successful movie. But [De Palma] had gotten a lot of reviews that suggested that the violence of Scarface should’ve made it an X-rated movie. Mind you, this was 28 years ago, so the stuff that was considered racy or violent then was nothing compared to what it is now. I read an article in the L.A. Times where Brian De Palma said, “You know what? Screw those people. If they want an X-rated movie, I’ll give ’em one!” And that movie was Body Double.
I remember going to audition for Body Double, and I read for a different role, and when I went in, I read the part, and Brian said, “Put the script down, let’s just improvise.” And I’m comfortable with that, so we did. And by the time I got home, I had a message on my machine from my agent, saying, “Hey, Brian loved you! He doesn’t necessarily want you for the part he read you for, but he really loved you and wants to use you. It’ll be three or four days.” And I said, “Oh, great!” Mind you, I was in my late 20s at the time, Brian De Palma was a big deal, and it was a Columbia Pictures movie, his first movie after Scarface. So they just said, “Your call time is such and such, you’re going way down on Melrose, way past Hollywood. It’s Melrose and Heliotrope, it’s an abandoned warehouse, and you’re going to shoot your stuff there.”
So I drove down there, and they said, “Your scenes are going to be with Craig Wasson and Melanie Griffith, the stars of the film.” And I remember Steve Burum was the director of photography, a very well-known and excellent DP, and, of course, De Palma’s there, too. Now, I knew that the movie had something to do with the adult-movie business, but I didn’t know that I was going to be involved in the parts that were directly involved in the adult-movie business. [Laughs.] But when I got down there, they just kind of handed me the script and said, “You’re this guy.” And then the guy that was playing the director in the adult movie was Al Israel, a really intense actor who got a lot of notices for being the chainsaw guy in Scarface. So I was already thinking, “Wow, this is really weird…” And then as I was getting ready to do my scenes, they brought Melanie and Craig in, and then they also had a bunch of extras who were real adult-movie actors, and… It was all just really bizarre for a young man from Flint, Michigan. [Laughs.] I mean, I’d already been out here for about five years or so by that point, but it was still pretty disconcerting. But I didn’t have the guts to say, “I can’t do this.” I don’t think it was purely discomfort. It was a little bit of consternation, but also going, “Wow, what the hell is going on here?”
So these folks were all in various stages of undress, and Melanie was very uncomfortable with all of the people there, so the only crew that were allowed on the set were the DP, Brian De Palma, and… that was it, actually. The rest of us were actors. And it was a very odd circumstance. They shot more than [they] ended up [using]. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. [Laughs.] I was on the movie for three days, and I remember coming home and telling my wife, “Wow, that was a bizarre experience. At least I know I’m making some diaper money, but it was pretty wild.” Luckily, I didn’t have to take off my clothes. Nobody’s going to want to see me naked, anyway. Trust me.
Years later, my son was about 16, he had a bunch of buddies over, and they were watching movies. I’d already gone to bed, and he came in and said [whispers loudly], “Hey, Dad!” He woke me up, and I said, “Yeah! You okay?” He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh… Were you in a movie called Body Double?” And I heard my wife immediately laugh. He and his buddies were watching Body Double, and they saw me. Then he said, “That was so cool!” I said, “It wasn’t really that cool, buddy, but…” [Laughs.] So it came back to haunt me. And it shows up every now and then in articles like this or whatever. But, hey, if you decide to be in show business or politics, your life is an open book. So I have no problem with people asking about it. I suppose it’s a left-handed compliment: When you achieve a certain modicum of celebrity—and I don’t consider myself a celebrity, but other people do—your past is available. Whether it hurts you or helps you, it’s all fair game.
The actor reflects on his career and the nightmare of working with Dennis Miller.
Meatballs 4 (1992)—“Ricky Wade” / Voodoo (1995)—“Andy”
AV Club: As amazing as it may sound to anyone who hasn’t seen it, there’s a scene from Meatballs 4 on YouTube featuring you and Jack Nance that, if you didn’t know its origins, you could easily be convinced was from some lost ’90s drama.
Corey Feldman: Actually, I can explain that: The movie that we were making wasn’t the movie that they ended up marketing and promoting. That’s why you noticed the, uh, extreme difference in what you were watching. [Laughs.] Because when I agreed to do that movie, I agreed to do a movie called Happy Campers, which was kind of a romantic comedy, but it was a comedy-drama as well. A regular comedy but with some hard-hitting, serious moments. Kind of a Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison vibe, where it’s very funny, tongue-in-cheek, but then there’s also the seriousness of the implications of the plotline and all that. It would’ve actually been a pretty good movie on its own merits.
But unbeknownst to us on the set, as we were in the process of making the film, the producers decided to go out and make a deal with HBO to run it as a first-run feature, and they said that the only way that they would want to do that was if it was a franchise movie. So they said, “Well, what kind of franchises do you have available?” “Hey, how about Meatballs? We can call it a Meatballs movie!” “Okay, great!” They literally made the decision to make it Meatballs 4 after we were already on set. As I’m sure you would be aware from looking over my career, a third sequel to a movie that I was never involved with originally is not really something that I would jump into. [Laughs.] So I never signed up to do Meatballs 4, nor would I have signed up to do Meatballs 4. I was completely swindled on that one.
AVC: Do you at least have fond recollections of working with Jack Nance?
CF: Jack was great. Actually, Jack and I also did a drama together. I don’t know which one was first, but we did another film together called Voodoo. Do you know which one was first or second?
AVC: Voodoo was second.
CF: Meatballs was our first one, so on Meatballs we were just getting to know each other, and we were both sober. We were both 12-step recovery people. I found that very appealing, because I was just fresh out of rehab, which is part of the reason I got swindled on it. It was also because I didn’t have all my business savvy yet. I was still a kid, and I was still trying to figure out how to be a man in the business world and be responsible and take care of my own business, vs. letting my parents dealing with it and that kind of stuff. But being newly sober, it was very frustrating to try and assimilate what exactly was expected of me as a sober individual on a movie set. It was a new experience. And Jack was great, because he had been sober for many years, and he really had it together and he was a super-nice guy.
He would tell me all these stories about how he was messed up, and he had done so much work with David Lynch. He said, “Literally, there was a point when I was walking, stumbling down Hollywood Boulevard in my rags with no shoes on, stinking of alcohol and unshaved, and I look up at the marquee, and there’s a movie with my name over the title. Then I’d walk down the street, and a few buildings later I see another movie that I’m in. There were three movies playing on the same block and I’m in all of them, and here I am, this raging alcoholic looking like a homeless man. Nobody would know if they ran into me that I was actually a guy who was starring in all of these movies.” That was kind of what made us hit it off and have the connection that we did.
As an actor, he was brilliant. He had such a dynamic performance in everything he did. Sometimes to the extreme, to where he was such an oddball that he literally seemed like he was overacting much of the time. But a lot of that came from the fact that… I mean, when you start your career as Eraserhead, and your entire career is based on doing the obscure and avant-garde type films that he did, that makes it really hard to wrangle yourself into a “normal” movie, which is basically what he had to do for Meatballs 4. I was very sad about the way his life ended. Just a sad, sad story.
The accomplished actress on Breaking Bad, Tender Mercies, and shooting Kevin Bacon…but she doesn’t have a lot to say about Ishtar.
Starflight: The Plane That Couldn’t Land (1983)—“Janet Briggs”
Tess Harper: [Monotone.] The…plane…that…could…not…land! [Sighs.] I’ll tell you the most interesting thing about that horrible piece of crap. That was with the Six Million Dollar Man [Lee Majors] and Lauren Hutton, but I met Ray Milland on that set. One morning, Ray Milland came into the costume department, where we’re getting wardrobe, makeup, hair, whatever, and he looks at me and he says, “How old do you think I am?” And I said, “What?” “How old do you think I am?” I said, “Uh, I don’t know, sir. About 70? 75?” He said, “I’m 85! And it’s boring! And I hate it!” The great Ray Milland was in a honey wagon. That’s when I realized that it doesn’t matter who you are, there’ll be a time when you’re back in your honey wagon. Which, if your readers don’t know what that is, it’s a little bitty tiny trailer with a bathroom in it that you wait in ’til you’re called to the set. Most people, once you have one or two titles to your name, you’re not supposed to ever have to go back to honey wagons. But an 85-year-old man, walking up the stairs to a honey wagon, it’ll break your heart. And it’ll happen to all of us.