Leading Men (Working In The Theatre #353)


HOWARD SHERMAN:
The spring of 2007 has brought an extraordinary series of performances by leading actors to
the New York stage. And today we’re joined by four of those remarkable
artists. I’m Howard Sherman, executive director of
The American Theatre Wing. And with us are Jeff Daniels from “Blackbird,”
Brian Dennehey from “Inherit the Wind,” Kevin Spacey from “A Moon For the Misbegotten,”
and Liev Schreiber from “Talk Radio.” Let’s jump right into it. And having heard some of the conversation
that was underway before we started taping, I wanna ask, what do you enjoy more, rehearsal
or performance? Liev, lemme start with you. LIEV SCHREIBER:
I– I– they’re completely different animals. I– I love rehearsing. I love rehearsing. If I had my druthers, I would– you know–
rehearse and then perform for a week and– end run. (CHUCKLE) But– you know, it’s– it’s– it’s not the–
it’s not the performances that I mi– I love the performances. It’s– it’s the hour of sitting in the theater
before you have to perform that I– I personally find unbearable. (NOISE) That’s when the– that’s when, you
know, the effects of the ravages of time really start to show. But I– I– I– I have to say that I love
them both equally for completely different reasons. It– it– it’s– it’s an interplay with actors
in rehearsal. And it’s an interplay with an audience in
performance. And they’re– they’re very different animals. But I– I love them equally. HOWARD SHERMAN:
Now Brian, I understand you really love long runs. Is that the case? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Well, it– it depends on the part. I’ve been– (CHUCKLE) pretty lucky. (CHUCKLE) Everybody always said, “My god,
you won two Tonys.” I’s, “Yeah, I won two time for Tony playing–
Willy Loman in ‘Death of a Salesman,’ and James Tyrone in ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night.'” You better be right up there in the– (CHUCKLE)
in the– in the numbers. Because those are two of the greatest parts
ever written in this country. Now those parts are fun to do for a long period
of time, because you never find the end of them. I mean you– I did– Willy 650 times. And the last week I was doing it in London–
although you are kind of looking forward to not doing it, every night– you know, you
would see– another door that you hadn’t opened. There’d be something– some other place to
go. And I– (CHUCKLE) I remember– coming back
to the States and driving– in– someplace in Connecticut. And all of a sudden something occurred to
me. I pull off the road, and I sat there for ten
minutes, thinking about one of the scenes that I was never gonna play again, in a whole
different way. It’s– a great part will– will give you those
opportunities. And you have to– (CLEARS THROAT) approach
it that way. You– you have to allow everything that happens
to you in the day– once you learn the words and music, and you learn it pretty solidly
at that point– everything that happens to you in the daytime becomes part of your performance. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s good. JEFF DANIELS:
Well– (CHUCKLE) I’m– I’m kinda fascinated by the– the whole long run thing. Yeah– I– I wanna know from Brian– (CHUCKLE)
what happens when you go out there and there are no doors, and today you’re doing a show,
and you (NOISE) just (NOISE) can’t– find it? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
I said– I said has to be a great part. JEFF DANIELS:
Even a great part. (OVERTALK) BRIAN DENNEHEY:
There’s always doors
(CLEARS THROAT) with a great part. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
There’s always something. You know, it’s funny– I– I– “Apropovis
(PH).” I– I was in Los Angeles doing it. And– Ashkenazi was playing at the music center. And– there was some deal. We went to a– a– a party together. And I had s– he– at the party he played–
“Concerto in D.” And I had recordings from him 20 years before. And we got to– at some point we got together. And I said to him, I said, “That’s amazing.” I said, “you– how many times you think you’ve
played that?” He said– and he thought about it. He said, “Well, that’s interesting.” ‘Cause– you know, people ask me all the time,
(CHUCKLE) and I never can think of– but he said, “About– probably 10,000 times.” I said, “Well, how– tell me about that.” I mean it’s exactly the same question that
we’re going through here. He said, “Well, what happens is you sit down
at the piano,” he said, “the– you know, your hands know the piece, your brain knows the
piece, your arms. Everything– all of the mechanical aspects
of the performance is part of you. (NOISE) So you don’t have to worry about that.” “But now everything that’s happened to you
that day, or the previous week, everything that’s part of you as a result of where you
are right now becomes part of the performance.” And he said, “You realize that there’s nothing
wrong with that. That’s, in fact, what you want. You want those emotions, whatever the joy
is, or the sadness, or the complications in your life, all to become a part of the piece.” And I realize that that’s what happens when
you do a long run in a pl– in a part. Willy doesn’t have to be exactly the same
thing every night. I mean obviously he’s going on this trip to
this certain place. But there– his moods are gonna be different. His feelings are gonna be different. Things that have happened to him can be looked
at in many different– variations of emotion, joy and– sadness and happiness and– ex–
ecstasy and so forth. And you allow those things– to inform the–
the im– performance. And none of them are wrong. They’re just part of you. And– of course what you’re doing is part
of the performance. So that’s one of the things that a long run
allows you to do is to– is to learn that about a character. You don’t have to go out there every night
and– “I gotta figure out a way to get to this place.” You don’t have to– get to that place. That place will come to you if you’ll allow
it to happen. So– I– I– Jerry Orbach, the– king of long
runs, told me that– when– when he– came to see– I said– I said to him two months
into the run, I said, “God, I don’t know how I’m gonna do this. God, driving me crazy already.” JEFF DANIELS:
Yeah, that’s where I am. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
He said– yeah, I know. But if you allow– Billy Crystal– I said–
well, I saw Billy do “700 Sundays.” About a month into the run, he says, “I can’t
do this. (CHUCKLE) I can’t do it.” I said, “Billy,” I’ve said, “If you just–
stick at it, stick at it.” Now he doesn’t wanna stop. He’s doing it in Australia. He’s been– he used to have a problem, (CLEARS
THROAT) well, he done [sic] it 1,000 times. And he’s– having a ball. Every time you do it, it’s different. KEVIN SPACEY:
It’s a little bit like, you know– very often, audience members will ask that question, “How
do you do it every night?” You know, “How do you get up there twice a
day and do it?” (CLEARS THROAT) And– the best way I’ve found
to describe it is that if you– if you– if you take it out of the theater element for
a second and think of sports, think of, you know, if you play tennis, or you play any
game that forces you to work on a different part of your game every time you play a game. Yeah, every time you go out on the tennis
court it’s the same rules. You gotta get the balls in the same place. But it’s always a different game. And that is the experience that I’ve had certainly
in doing O’Neil. But I’ve been fortunate in playing characters
like– like Brian indicates. If there is a lot there, and if you are–
and– and I think the other aspect of it that c– that cannot be excluded is your fellow
cast members. [onstage dialogue from In A Moon for the Misbegotten] If you’ve got people on stage that you trust,
and that you are willing to go to wherever this particular story and pla– asks you to
go, emotionally, technically, in terms of a kind of relationship, if– if you’re all
climbing that mountain together, and you’re all up for the same journey, then it’s so
much easier to get up every night and trust that you can go somewhere else, that it will
still be alive, and fresh, and fun. And that each night you are, in fact, working
on something slightly different. HOWARD SHERMAN:
And using the athlete metaphor, do you feel like athletes? Do you have to– pace yourself like athletes
to do this job? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Oh yes. HOWARD SHERMAN:
Liev, you’re– you’re out there pacing the stage for 100 minutes a night right now in
“Talk Radio.” You’re smoking up a storm. (CHUCKLE) You’re– you know– LIEV SCHREIBER:
Yeah, I’m sore when I’m done. HOWARD SHERMAN:
How do you deal with that? LIEV SCHREIBER:
I’m sore when I’m done. I’m sore. Yeah. I– you know, I– I– (CLEARS THROAT) I think,
you know, within– with– with– within reason, yeah, I– but I don’t think that– for me,
that’s not a long run thing, you know, bringing your day to the show. I mean that’s a– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
That’s every– LIEV SCHREIBER:
That’s an (CLEARS THROAT) every day thing. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah. LIEV SCHREIBER:
That’s– that’s a rehearsal thing. That’s– that’s– you know, that’s a– but
I can see how when you really start to lose your mind, (CHUCKLE) and you really can lose
your mind doing this, that that’s– that that’s a– that is a– that is a respite to know
that it’s not just a gig. It’s a– it’s a– it’s an– it’s an experience. To relate to an audience– with a– a character of substance or a play of
substance. The thing that gets me through is the audience, is that– is the– the ambiguous exchange
of energy– that– I– I still don’t understand, but I’m– I’ve– I’ve become addicted to. And– that’s why I say– you know, for me,
waiting to do the show, sitting in the dressing room, going to the theater, those are the
worst times. But the minute you step out there– for me,
I feel this– there’s a– there’s a palpable– something in the air that– that– that–
that– that is– it’s really remarkable. And it– it’s not only very satisfying– but
it also– it’s– (CLEARS THROAT) it’s informative. And you feel– I feel– and I guess maybe
this– probably was– why I got interested in acting in the first place. I feel connected to something. I feel connected to not only a– an historic
continuum, but also connected in an immediate way to– to– to people, which is something
that– you know, I– I– I struggle with sometimes, but not in the theater. KEVIN SPACEY:
It’s the– it’s the– to me, it’s the– one of the great– gifts that we get. And I think it’s sort of remarkable when you
think about it. You know, people come into a theater. And it’s the most artificial surrounding you
can imagine. You know, there’s big curtains. There’s exit signs. There’s chairs. There’s programs. And yet, somehow if the elements have come
together right, 20 minutes into a play, that entire group of 1,000 people or less go to
a world that you’re asking ’em to go to, and they believe in that world. And that (CLEARS THROAT) collective experience,
where 1,000 strangers come into a building and believe is what, to me, is– is the great
magical quotient of when great theater, great performances, happen. It is a shared– it’s almost like a breath. You know, I– we feel the audience. I mean– you know, you gauge how a show goes
in different ways. We were talking earlier about how– you know,
with Colm Meany, who’s in our play, and plays Hogan, I think to a large degree, because
he supplies the– a lot of the humor in the play, Colm naturally gauges the play and how
it’s going on laughs. I gauge it on silence. Because when I feel an audience absolutely
engaged, and believe me you can tell when they’re not– (CHUCKLE) you know, there’s
a collective rustling of asses. (CHUCKLE) Everyone’s sort of moving and shifting
the programs and whatever. That when you feel an audience absolutely
engaged in following a story, and particularly when they’ll laugh at things that aren’t jokes,
but are character, then you know that you are sharing the story with them together. And it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. LIEV SCHREIBER:
The– the– the idea that– I mean historically– theater and opera– well, even– you know,
even– even– you know, before theater and opera, the ritual of– of people getting together
and collectively watching something– the idea was not just for the performer to be seen. And particularly as you move into opera and
theater in its early phases, was for those people in the audience to be seen. And what I find so unique about theater, that
I love, is that something’s carried through whereby– you know, you’ll get a laugh in
a play that, if it were in a movie, you wouldn’t get. And that’s because, in the movie, it’s– the
experience is sort of total immersion. And it’s personal. And you’re in there and it’s dark. And you’re having the experience that the
film is– is– is– is letting you have. But in the theater– those laughs are more
than just acknowledgements of humor. They’re a connection between the audience
members and each other. “I got that. Did you get that?
How is this date going so far?” (LAUGHTER) Or, “Did you see the guy in the
third row?” Or, “How’s this?” There’s a really sophisticated communication
that’s going on there between not only you and them, but– them and each other. And that– that– that thing is fascinating,
and– and is– is part of what helps generate an authentic interest in– in being there
every night. JEFF DANIELS:
I worry about being there every night, (CLEARS THROAT) I gotta be honest. Eight times a week, and all of that, there
is an art to it. There really is an art that– that we’ve all
worked with movie people that can’t get past the third take. Can’t. I mean they start to recreate it after that
’cause they can’t repeat. And once you’ve done theater and you learn
how to do it eight times a week and make it look like it’s happening for the first time–
you take that onto a movie set, and you’re good on take 25 if you’ve got one of those
guys, you know. But the– just the straight film guys can’t–
can’t get past three or four– take three or four. I worry about– I mean “Blackbird” is such
an emotional investment, you know. From eight o’clock on, it’s just– we’re (NOISE)–
there. And I worry about cheating the audience if
I just can’t, for some reason, get anywhere even in that place. And– and more often than not, I do. But what I’ve found, and Brian said this earlier–
off camera. He said a– a good play will take you there. I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. And I’ve walked out where I just– whatever
the preparation, I’m– (SIGH). And all of a sudden, the play will– if you
let it, it’ll take you there. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
It’s a train. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Being in a great play– once you get past a certain stage, and you have to get past
that certain stage. And you’re still working on it. I– and believe me, I know. I’ve been there. But if– once you’re– being in a great play
is like going to a train station. And you stand there. And the train pulls in, the doors open up. And your feelings can be A, B, C, D, can be
anything. But when you get on the train and the doors
close, the train takes you. And you’re now on that train. And you will go places, whether you feel like
it or not. That’s what I was saying before. You can allow virtually any– group of emotions,
or– feelings to– to be present in you at that point. Because– the train is taking you to a certain
destination, no matter how you feel. And– and those feelings will all be a part
of that trip. And they should be. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
But you’re al– you’re going to a certain– certain place. JEFF DANIELS:
Open it to the other– people in the– in the cast. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah, of course. KEVIN SPACEY:
Oh, very often, when I– when I feel– JEFF DANIELS:
Use them. (CLEARS THROAT) Use them to
take you somewhere else a little bit different tonight. And also– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
And the playwright, of course, will take you– JEFF DANIELS:
It’s the first time– first time experience again. KEVIN SPACEY:
Whenever I feel and– (CLEARS THROAT) and– and I have in– in every play I’ve done, but
more recently in– in “Moon,” whenever I find myself feeling I’m not– quite here, you know,
I just feel like I’m slightly standing outside of it, I actually stop. I mean if I’ve got a move or a thing, and
I usually do this, and– ha– a line happens– JEFF DANIELS:
I do that, too. KEVIN SPACEY:
–I actually stop and just take a second, and just, in my own brain, say– “Really–
reconnect with her right now.” Like just– just reconnect with her. And I just allow myself a moment and a breath
of– realizing that, for whatever reason, I’m off the rails. But if– (CLEARS THROAT) you don’t forgive
yourself very quickly– then you’ll spend the rest of the play– (LAUGHTER) thinking
you didn’t do that moment right. You’ve got– I mean I feel this way about
film, too, you know. You do–’cause movies are all about going,
and taking, and shooting. And it’s not about rehearsal or discovery
(CHUCKLE) very often. Very often you don’t get rehearsal. And sometimes, you know, I’ll do– I’ll–
I’ll get to the end of a scene and I’ll think, “You know, (NOISE) I just– I don’t know–
I– did we guess right?” I don’t know if (CHUCKLE) we guessed right
today. And I find I’ve gotta let go of it. Because I’ve gotta come back the next day
and keep moving and– and keep– and you hope that, in the trajectory of the whole film,
they’ll cut it together in such a way that, maybe if that scene didn’t quite go the way
it should have. But I find in theater I’ve gotta forgive myself
immediately (NOISE) in order to keep going. And it’s about reconnected, and just allowing
myself to– to– sometimes it’s just technique. I mean sometimes– I mean even, you know,
you go back and read some of the great– (CLEARS THROAT) biographies or autobiographies of
actors. They’ll say, “You’re lucky.” Jessica Tandy said, “You’re lucky if you feel
it three or four times a week– in an eight week run.” KEVIN SPACEY:
The rest of it is technique and relying on what you can trust, which is the material
and your fellow actors. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
You also have to be very careful about what– your– assumptions and– presuppositions are. I mean the– there’s a great story of Barrymore. And– Chris Plummer, whom I’m– have the privilege
of working with of course played Barrymore and knows virtually everything there is to
know about Barrymore. Barrymore, when he– was gonna do “Hamlet”
in London which is– talk about– taking the– the– (CHUCKLE) taking the show on the road. Here he is, Barrymore, the great American
profile, doing the great– the great British part on stage in– London. And so he did exactly the thing that he would
normally be expected to do is he got drunk. And he disappeared for the– the– dress rehearsal. In those days, there was a dress rehearsal
and an opening night with critics and everybody. He showed up a few hours before the opening. And he had a terrible, terrible hangover. Fact, he was probably still drunk. (CHUCKLE) And he went on. (COUGH) But he went on sick. He was vir– virtual– literally sick. And he would have to stop in the middle of
a performance and go into the wings and be physically sick, vomit. Come back on stage wiping himself off, and
go on with the play. It was, as far as the producers were concerned
and the directors and the other actors, a disaster. He got the most extraordinary reviews anybody
(CHUCKLE) ever saw (CLEARS THROAT) Hamlet get, because everyone said, “What an amazing
set of choices to go on– the way this guy absolutely at the– at his wit’s end, (CHUCKLE)
so physically ill he can hardly get– .” So– you n– it’s like I said before, sometimes
you go on– like when I do Willy, sometimes I’d be so tired, so exhausted. And you’d drag yourself out there. And– you have no defenses. You cannot protect yourself from the part. And you give the best performance you can
give, because you cannot protect yourself. You can only be what is required you– of–
of you to be, which is Willy. HOWARD SHERMAN:
So lemme ask you– where we’ve been talking about what you all bring to the part, you
know, the outside world coming in, the interaction with other actors. Do you take it home with you– when you’ve
got a particular role? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
I never do. HOWARD SHERMAN:
Or can you turn it off? JEFF DANIELS:
I’ve learned how not to. I did for a while. LIEV SCHREIBER:
No, I’m not the– not really. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
You know– (CLEARS THROAT) various wives and girlfriends may say something different. But— (LAUGHTER) KEVIN SPACEY:
Well, I think there is– (CLEARS THROAT) there’s sometimes– I– I don’t take it home with
me. But sometimes in film I feel like if– if
you’re doing a scene that’s then take you three or four days to shoot, there is a particular
place you have to kinda– stay just mentally in order to be able to stay in that track
and not get thrown out of it and not have distractions, lose the ability to f– finish
that scene. But in– in theater, I find very much that
I– I like to hang it up with the costume at the end of the night and go home and– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah, me too. KEVIN SPACEY:
–and not live it. LIEV SCHREIBER:
I– I think like– like– like most a– I’m sort of super charged
after the performance for about an hour or two. Which is– I think that’s why there’s a lot
of– a lot of stories about alcoholism in the acting business. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah, booze used to take care of that for me, but it doesn’t anymore.
So– (LAUGHTER) LIEV SCHREIBER:
My– then another thing that I just started to notice, and I think on– on– on– probably
on “Talk Radio,” is that– because I’ve never thought of myself, really, as a sort of a
method or as a sense memory person, I kind of– but I’m– you know, I’m– I’m– learning
about myself a lot as I go. And– and– a lot on this play is that I kind
of do things– I have physical associations, which I guess is sense memory. But I don’t intellectualize them. And I don’t psychologize them. I’ll like ask my body to respond in a certain
way, and– and then replace that with the character’s psychology. And one thing that I’ve– been noticing that’s
been happening recently is that I think my– my body kind of– owns things that I don’t
necessarily want it to own after the show is done. Like I notice– like back pain and things
like that, or– or tension. For instance– crying for me is a series of
kind of physical– synapses. Like a– a respiratory thing that happens,
and a gag reflex, and then– then and the emotion follows the physical. I kind of– sometimes I– I find that helps–
me work quicker to get to something. But I notice that there are odd little aches
and pains and things that I do believe in the fact of– that– that there is body memory,
that subconscious body memory. And you put your pl– you put your body in
a– in a toxic place. Sometimes it’s– it’s– it takes your body
a little longer to– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Well, you do this– LIEV SCHREIBER:
–shed it than you’re– you know. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
You do this thing when you– when you have that attack on the floor, where you– you
open your jaw so wide. I– I mean I can’t even do it now because
I (CHUCKLE) would get stuck that way. JEFF DANIELS:
He’ll never be able to do it again now that– (OVERTALK) (CHUCKLE) BRIAN DENNEHEY:
But I mean it is terrifying. (CLEARS THROAT) And that’s obviously part
of what you’re talking about. LIEV SCHREIBER:
Yeah, that’s exa– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
You know that? LIEV SCHREIBER:
Yeah. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
And it must affect your gag reflex. And It’s– ’cause I was looking at it. I was like, “Oh man.” LIEV SCHREIBER:
Yeah. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
I don’t wanna have to go there eight times a week– physically. You know? I don’t know what– what’s the effect of that? LIEV SCHREIBER:
A gold– it’s a goldfish thing, you know, gasping for air. KEVIN SPACEY:
Is it– do you also– do– do you find that– that– (CLEARS THROAT) that emotionally–
(CLEARS THROAT) whether it’s in the course of rehearsal or the course of a run, that
you’ve– that in order to find the places where this character– you know, like I–
I have a character where I have– I have to discover in myself a level of self loathing
and– and– and disgust at behavior that is so– you know, it’s just been so interesting
to ex– sort of excise it, find it within yourself, try to bring it. So that when I have to find those places in
the play where that– that stuff is– is the foundation of that character’s emotional life,
and kind of– comes out in these sort of cascades, like a volcanic eruption, I find I do have
to sort of– dig into places that I might not otherwise– wanna go. JEFF DANIELS:
Yeah, I do, too. I do, too. But it’s very cleansing by the end of it–
I’ve found. I mean I– I had– you gotta go to those places. And the bile that comes out– in the 90 minutes,
and then the curtain call. And it’s– I thought I’d be walking home with
it every night. But I’m not. It’s– I– it’s– it’s– I get it out somehow. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
It’s cathartic. (CLEARS THROAT)
JEFF DANIELS: Yeah. HOWARD SHERMAN:
We’re– we’re– we’re talking so– we’re talking so much about how hard it is (CLEARS THROAT)
to do what you do. (CHUCKLE) I wanna ask, do you have fun with
doing it, even if the part is tough? Now Brian, you’re in a show, you’re out there
sparring with Christopher Plummer. Is it fun, or is it still work? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Well, no matter what I do, I seem to lose every night. (LAUGHTER) But– I guess that– HOWARD SHERMAN:
Well, the train is taking you to a certain place. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah, that’s probably– the way it’s written. Yeah, it is fun. I mean the one– I remember years ago doing
a picture with– Tony Curtis. And this is a long time ago, 30 years ago. And we’re sitting in the back of a car, and
somebody was complaining about something, and somebody else was going (UNINTEL) you
know, and back of car is hot as hell. We’re in wardrobe. It’s a– a back lot in Universal. And Tony turns to me. And I’ll never forget it. I remind myself of it all the time. He says, “You know, some– we are really lucky
guys. This is fun.
Look at this. We’re all dressed up in these clothes. We’re in this old car. And we’re gonna go– they’re gonna say, ‘Action’
any minute. We’re gonna pull up, and then we’re gonna
jump out, we say all these lines and we’re gonna– all.” He says, “We’re having a good time.” And I said to myself, “You know something? He’s damn right.” (CLEARS THROAT) Never– forget that what we
do, we’re extremely privileged to do. And it is fun. KEVIN SPACEY:
And if you’re lucky– (NOISE) and, as I said before, if all those elements come
together, then what also happens in the theater that I think rarely happens in film is you
make families. JEFF DANIELS:
Mm-hmm. (AFFIRMATIVE) KEVIN SPACEY:
The– there– there– I have more– closer relationships with people that I have worked
with in companies of actors. And stage management becomes a part of your
family. And– you know– at The Old Vic, we have a
whole staff. I feel getting up every day, going to work
every day, it isn’t work. I mean yeah, there are parts of it that are
difficult and challenging and– and– and– and can be emotionally draining. But it is such a joy to find a group of people
who are up for the same thing every night. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
It should be pointed out, by the way, that Kevin– to some extent Jeff, too, but– Kevin,
for sure, has a real job. He has (CHUCKLE) a day job. He runs The Old Vic Theater, which is a massive–
job with– a very high profile in London. And he’s done a hell of a job. I– I’ve– I’ve been to see several of the
productions there. And it’s wonderful stuff. So he really is kind of a grownup– (LAUGHTER)
as far as– actors are concerned. KEVIN SPACEY:
Yeah, but I still feel 12. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Now– Jeff has got a– a similar situation in Michigan. But both of them have taken on these responsibilities,
which most of us, as actors– certainly me– say, “Oh please, God– let somebody else–
just write the check.” (LAUGHTER) “And– let me do the acting part.” That’s (CLEARS THROAT) the fun part. But running a theater, especially a theater
with the– the history and the traditions of The Old Vic, that’s a tough deal. And he’s done a hell of a job. KEVIN SPACEY:
Thank you, sir. HOWARD SHERMAN:
But that brings me to a question. You are all actors. You are all known for your success– in your
work. Do you have to take on other things to keep
challenging yourself? (COUGH) Jeff and Kevin with the theaters that
you run. Liev, you wrote and directed a film. Brian, we just saw you making, as far as most
people know, your musical stage debut here in New York. (LAUGHTER) BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Well, I wouldn’t– HOWARD SHERMAN:
Do you have to constantly set new challenges? Or is– the acting enough? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
The challenge is to get a job. The– at certain stages of your careers–
I mean these guys all do this other stuff. There was a time when I did some writing and
directing. But– nowadays I just try to– when you get
to– and when you get to a certain age, you wanna do certain things. I mean there are certain parts I wanna play. And– it’s interesting to watch Chris– every
night, because Chris is a guy who has been a star since he was 25. That’s 50 years ago. [onstage dialogue from Inherit the Wind] But these guys are young, and they can do
lots of different things. And so they should. And– and I’m all favor– in favor of. KEVIN SPACEY:
I think– what– what happened with me was I got to a place– after– you know, I– I
grew up in theater. And I always feel that when people say, “Oh,
you know, we love your movies. We only know you from movies,” I think, “Well,
you don’t know me.” Because the theater is always my primary allegiance. And I got to a point after I’d spent about
ten years really focusing on film. I wanted to see if I could– make a career
for myself in film. And, you know, at the end of ’99 I thought,
“Well, that’s (CHUCKLE) has gone better than I could have imagined. Now what am I supposed to do?” Am I gonna spend the next ten years trying
to top myself and stay on those lists and– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Do it again. KEVIN SPACEY:
–and do all that jazz? And– and I thought, “You know, I don’t. What I really wanna do is what my heart’s
telling me to do, which is to actually flip it, and no longer be interested in my own
personal career, but actually– go back and do theater, but do it in a bigger way– in
a sense, outside of myself.” And– the satisfaction that I’ve had in the
last five years living in London, starting new theater company from scratch– which is
not easy, particularly in England because they don’t necessarily welcome (CHUCKLE) theatrical
beginnings– right away. But the truth is that I find being that person
who tries to bring all those elements together, and that’s really what my role is. You know, I’m not directing the plays. I’m trying to put them together in such a
way that I think that director and that– scenic designer and those actors will– make
this work come to life and serve this writer. Which, at the end of the day, is what we’re
supposed to do. HOWARD SHERMAN:
Jeff, is that the same situation for you at– at Purple Rose in– in Michigan? JEFF DANIELS:
I just– I– yeah– very similar. I– I– you know, I– I– I am a theater rat–
(CLEARS THROAT) from high school-on. I think we probably all were at some point. I just look at it, whether it’s the– executive
directing, which is what I do there, unpaid, but the play writing and the kind of helping
and supervising, as just living a creative life. I can’t wait. I get tired of waiting for Hollywood to call,
you know, and the phone to ring. And do I take this part or that part? (CLEARS THROAT) ‘Cause not– I’m not in a
position this year to– well, it’s the lesser of two evils, so I guess (NOISE) I’ll take
that one. You know? Well– you just get tired of that after a
while. And– there’s no depth to it. And so I– I started the Purple Rose back
in ’91, and– just created this regional theater company that does new American work. That’s what we do. That’s what I’m interested in. And it’s worked. And– and I– I– absolutely starting a theater
company in the middle of nowhere– where art is a guy who lives north of town– (CHUCKLE)
is– there’s a challenge there. And so– but it’s been (CLEARS THROAT) incredibly
satisfying and, in a lot of ways, has brought me back– to the theater now, all these years
later, to get on a stage and– and do it here. It’s– it’s– it’s really– I think– just
part of– of living a fully creative life, which I think were all very fortunate to have
lived. KEVIN SPACEY:
One of the big things that– ha– has motivated me to do a lot of the work that we do at The
Old Vic that we’ve now brought here to New York, which is a lot of educational stuff
and a lot of community stuff and a lot of helping emerging talents sort of find a home
and a foundation, is that I was the recipient of this stuff when I grew up in California. Because I grew up in southern California when
there was a lot of money in the arts in schools. And then all that money went away. But during the– I would say, from 11 to 19,
I got exposed to so much professional work. We used to take class trips. I mean I met Jack Lemmon when I was 13 years
old at a production of “Juno and the Paycock,” where he did a Q and A for us. I met Hepburn. I met all these extraordinary people. We did weekend seminars, and Shakespeare festivals
and one act festivals. And– and– what that did to me, and I know
a lot of my fellow classmates, just in terms of those first seeds of confidence. I mean– we’re doing workshops here now with
a bunch of kids from the New York City schools. And it’s not about whether they wanna be actors–
or go into the arts. It’s about learning to collaborate with each
other using the tools and the artists of theater in order to teach them how to– learn about
themselves. And when a kid, at 11 or 12 or 13 or 14 starts
to realize they can actually do something, they can accomplish something in front of
their peers and their friends and their– teachers, it is an incredibly satisfying experience
for all of us, who– who’ve been through it. Because I look out in these kids’ eyes and
I see myself. I know exactly what it feels like to have
an opportunity to be exposed to the professional theater. HOWARD SHERMAN:
And that seems a great moment to take a short break and hear a few words about the work
of the American Theatre Wing. HOWARD SHERMAN:
You are all actors who’ve had the unique opportunity to explore multiple works by particular playwrights. Kevin and Brian both with the work of Eugene
O’Neil, Liev with Shakespeare, Jeff with Lanford Wilson. Is there– something unique about being able
to go through the work of a particular playwright that– that allows you to do work that’s even
deeper than just when you hit it the first time? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Think there’s something about being an Irish-American as far as O’Neil is concerned. (LAUGHTER) Both Spacey and I are O’Neil–
junkies and Jason Robards junkies. I think Robards has a lot to do with– my–
interest in O’Neil. But now my interest in O’Neil– although I’m
too old to play most of the parts– is– pathological. I mean they’re– O’Neil is– (CHUCKLE) O’Neil
defies the actor– to– learn the words. He doesn’t give a shit about your problems. (CHUCKLE) Even though he’s probably more of
a poetical writer than he’s given credit for. He– he always said– you know– the– the
actor has his– prob– his problem to solve. I’ve solved my problem. Now you solve yours. (NOISE) But boy, when you do– it’s– it’s
just a– it’s– tremendously satisfying. Because you go to a place that– that’s a
hard place to go to. KEVIN SPACEY:
I find the thing that– about doing– a playwright’s work is that each play informs the other. Because they do tend to run into each other. And that’s sort of a joy. If– if you have an affinity for a particular
writer’s work, and I do for O’Neil. I– I happen to find his– ability to write
characters that are so flawed– with such honesty and seemingly no– judgment. I never feel that he judges the characters
that he’s writing. Whereas in– with some writers, you do feel
you’re being led in a certain direction about how you oughta feel about that character. I feel that he just says, “Hey man, here they
are, flaws and all.” BRIAN DENNEHEY:
It’s also– it’s also a thing, I think, that’s inescapable about (NOISE)– O’Neil is that
every one of these characters, whether it’s Hickey– or Jamie– in– two or three different
plays– he’s also writing about himself. There’s a tremendous amount of biographical
content in those characters. The darkness that– that is revealed in those
characters, where obviously darkness is– that he felt about himself. And– in “Long Day’s Journey,” for example,
the one character who is– kind of protected is Edmund, although I thought that Bobby Leonard
was just amazing in that part. But– but I think that O’Neil deliberately
wrote so much of what he was finding out about himself in that amazing, that miraculous five
year period where he wrote all these plays. He was putting those chara– so much of himself
into– into his brother’s character, although God knows his brother was– dark enough to–
and screwed up enough. But there’s an awful lot of autobiographical
stuff in that. JEFF DANIELS:
Good writers do that, though. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah, I think so. (CLEARS THROAT) JEFF DANIELS:
And the good ones do. Lanford– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
And the mother– JEFF DANIELS:
Lanford certainly does that. And– and from my– and just knowing him,
you can hear his voice. You can hear the cadences and the rhythms. And– and I– I agree that– that play informs
that one. In fa– it– it’s– it’s fascinating, really. HOWARD SHERMAN:
And in s– we’re talking now about a living playwright that you’ve been able to work with
and talk to. Does that– does knowing the person it came
from inform the work that you do when you’re in his shows? JEFF DANIELS:
Well, I mean if it’s– HOWARD SHERMAN:
I mean understanding his shows? JEFF DANIELS:
If it’s autobiographical. In Lanford’s case, and when I did “Lemon Sky,”–
(CLEARS THROAT) years ago– yeah. I mean that was really– he said he wrote
it in 36 hours way back when. And you’re going, “Well, okay. Tell me about this.” I mean it’s– it’s, in a way, kind of just
playing him. With “Blackbird,” David Harrower (PH), David
was very kind of– (NOISE) he held back a lot. He would help us, but– didn’t really help
to– he was certainly helpful to understand the place. But I– I didn’t think that there was anything
of the play that was really from David’s life. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
It’s probably not true (CLEARS THROAT) of Miller, interestingly enough. Miller– uniquely, among the great three,
Tennessee Williams, which– of course wrote coded plays. Plays were coded about himself. And O’Neil, who was the deep diver. Miller was the great observer, seems to me. He was– he was– observed certain things. His– in his family, in his friends, in his
relationships with other people. But it was not necessarily about him. There are parts of it which are. But there– it’s hard to find. And he’s also– was also, as a person, very
careful to make sure that there was a separation between what you knew about him and what was–
put on stage. So there are differences. Miller was one of the– is one of the ones,
one of the great playwrights, who– (COUGH) was– was careful about writing about the
other. KEVIN SPACEY:
Liev, I– I’m curious to ask Liev, because you’ve done more Shakespeare than I have. I– last year I did Richard the Second, which
was the first– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Which I also saw. KEVIN SPACEY:
–major Shakespearean part I’ve ever played. And Trevor Nunn, who directed it, insisted
I had to be an English king. So there I was on stage with 24 British actors
who (LAUGHTER) grumbled because they’ve all done it. And it was a real– I mean it was a big challenge. The language is a big challenge. And there were a whole number of things. But I’m curious about what your– what– what
do you feel when you’re doing– ? LIEV SCHREIBER:
I– I think, you know, like– like– like– Brian was saying about the Irish, I think
that– everyone knows that Shakespeare is a sort of galvanizing element of the Jewish
community. So– (LAUGHTER) no. (LAUGHTER) Yeah, it– I– (CLEARS THROAT)
I was thinking about this while you guys were talking, but I– I think, “What the hell–
why the hell have I done so much Shakespeare? I’m– I’m out of my mind.” (CHUCKLE) You know– but I think that– probably a big
part of it is that– I was always attracted to musical language, rhythms– language rhythms
got me. And– and I– in a very real way, I think
that– this thing that is– theater, theatrical literature, film, all this stuff, has been
my education, you know? And I got the sense that– that there was
something– expansive about Shakespeare, that there was something that– that there was
something that– was gonna push me further. You know, Andrew Serban (PH) used to say to
me, “It’s– ” he– he– he– said that all of us sort of live here, and that Shakespeare
is– up here. And– it was a– weird thing to say to an
actor. But I got what he meant, which was that you
were– you had– you had to– you had to find a way to let go of yourself and expand consciousness–
to reach these characters– in a human way. And I– I just always thought that was so
much f– f– that was not only so much fun, it was– I was learning so much from it all
the time that I kept wanting to go back there. And I think that I’ve also always– it’s probably
evident from my film, I’ve always loved old things. I just like old things. I love things that make me f– like my favorite
thing about the seder is I’m not a very Jewish person. I make that as a joke to sort of compensate
for being so large. But I– (NOISE) my favorite thing about the
seder is that ultimate– the end of the day you’re being reminded of your connection to
people– ancient people. And there’s an immediacy to our sense of relatedness. And– and there’s something about Shakespeare
that– I love being part of the continuum. I love imagining– doing Richard the Second
now, knowing that you’ve done it. (CHUCKLE) I really love that. (CLEARS THROAT) And I love going back and looking at every
actor I’ve ever– who’s ever committed anything to film, I love looking at everybody’s performance. I love– knowing that I’m a part of something
that has been around for hundreds of years before me, and– will continue to be around
for hundreds of years after me. There’s something about that. And I think for me it’s all– it’s always
that hub of feeling connected to something. KEVIN SPACEY:
He– he’s touched on exactly (COUGH) what it is about working at The Old Vic that’s
so (CLEARS THROAT) remarkable. I was the 12th Richard the Second in the history
of The Old Vic, Gielgud being one of them, Michael Redgrave being another. And you go back and you look at these photographs,
and costume choices. And– and I just thought, “Wow, you know,
I– it’s a little bit the way I feel about O’Neil.” It’s– someone said to me– you know, “Did
you see Jason’s performance?” And I said, “No.” And in fact, I know it’s on film, but I’ve
avoided it. Because– (OVERTALK) KEVIN SPACEY:
I’m such a huge Jason fan. And I’m prone to imitation. That I thought it’s probably best I don’t
see this until it’s all over and I’ll– I’ll watch it some time. But– I– I– I sort of corrected the person
who said, “You know– I’ll never be able to get that performance out of my mind.” And I said, “Well, that may be true. But I also think that one of the great incredible
things that it’s nice to remind ourselves of every now and then is that we aren’t–
we don’t own parts. We are just the current custodians of them.” LIEV SCHREIBER:
Yeah. KEVIN SPACEY:
And I love the idea that– (CLEARS THROAT) in ten years or 15 years or whenever it is,
that some other group of actors will take on “Moon” and have a different vision of it,
and have a different take on the characters. And that’s why I think these plays live and
why Shakespeare lives, because he can even survive bad productions. LIEV SCHREIBER:
Yeah. KEVIN SPACEY:
And terrible performances. Because the plays– are so solid. And the writing is so dynamic and so– so
in– you know, we see ourselves in the– in this work. That I think that’s one of the great things
that we have to remind ourselves is, “Yeah, we are fortunate. We are lucky. But we’re just the current custodians of this
work.” LIEV SCHREIBER:
And– and plays are– KEVIN SPACEY:
And it will live long beyond us. LIEV SCHREIBER:
If the plays are good enough, the audience develops a relationship to them. As I think is probably the case, as you can
see, with– with O’Neil and– I certainly believe Shakespeare, and I think– Lanford
Wilson, absolutely. If the plays are good enough, the audience
develops a very personal relationship with them. And so when you work on them, you feel that
sense of intimacy, ownership, in that exchange of energy with the audience. And it actually makes them– kind of more
exciting. It’s like the impossible thing about playing
Hamlet, the really– that– that’s the– the– the hyper-exte– the hy– hyper-extension
of that idea is that the reason– the reason Hamlet is so difficult is not because of the
lines. The reason Hamlet is so difficult is because
the audience is Hamlet and they know it. (CHUCKLE) And they don’t buy you for one second
being them. (LAUGHTER) And– and that’s– the thing that
I think– certain great writers keep achieving is intimate relationships to the audience. And that’s where they’re fun to act, ’cause
you get to be in that relationship with them when you do that play. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
The last time I saw Richard Harris, we were at– (CLEARS THROAT) sitting next to each
other, obviously, in somebody’s– house seats at a– at a play. And– I’d known him years ago. In fact, we– drank a little bit together
at Desmond’s– long gone, and Jimmy Ray’s, also long gone. So I said, “What are you doing?” He says– he says– he’s– and he looked pretty
bad. He was– this was only six months or so before
he died. He says, “Well, I– I’m– I’m thinking I’m
going to do ‘Hamlet’ next year.” (LAUGHTER) Which is not exactly what you hear
every day from a 65 year old man, obviously not in the best of shape. I said, “Really?” He says, “I’ve talked to Gerry Hinds at–
at The Truitt (PH) in Galway.” And she’s all f– in favor of the idea.” He says, “I think now finally I begin to understand
the part.” (LAUGHTER) “And I think I’m going to play
it.” And I said, “I think that’s a hell of an idea.” And I– did, and I do. LIEV SCHREIBER:
Who played Gertrude? BRIAN DENNEHEY:
He didn’t– he didn’t get there. (LAUGHTER) He didn’t live that long. (CLEARS THROAT) Yeah, it was ’cause (UNINTEL). But that’s a great story about– Rex Harrison
doing his fifth or sixth– run– tour of– “My Fair Lady.” And– at 80, 81 years old, playing (CHUCKLE)–
Henry Higgins. I found out all this when I did the– the
thing up at– Philharmonic– few weeks ago. And the woman who played his mother was the
original mother in the original product. HOWARD SHERMAN:
Kathleen Nesbit (PH). BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Kathleen Nesbit was playing his mother. She was 93. And they’re at the Airy (PH) Crown Theater
in Chicago. (COUGH) It was a matinee. You know, they’d been doing it thousands of
times. (CHUCKLE) And at one point, of course, Henry Higgins
walks up to her. She’s sitting on a window seat. And she [sic] says, “Mother– what do you
think about going to the races this afternoon?” This is the Ascot thing. She says, “Da– Mother– how– would you like
to go to the races– this afternoon.” And Kathleen Nesbit looks at him and she says,
“Darling, I’d love to, but I’m doing a play with Rex Harrison.” (LAUGHTER) So– yes, you can keep doing it. But at some point perhaps it’s best to– (LAUGHTER) HOWARD SHERMAN:
There’s something fascinating that keeps coming up. You all keep mentioning other actors and performances
that you have seen. And I’m wondering, when you go to the theater,
or watch a film or television, can you enjoy it just for what it is? Or are you always (NOISE) looking at how other
performers do what they do? JEFF DANIELS:
I’m always looking at– at– the choices. I’m fascinated by the choices. And I think once you get into a certain room
where you have a career and you can make this your life, to go see, for instance, these
three guys, I– you know, you’d sit there and go, “Wow, okay, wow, oh, wow. He’s doing it that way.” You just– it’s a fast– ’cause it’s just
a script. You know, “Richard the Second,” (CLEARS THROAT)
it’s a script. And this is how Kevin– chose to do it. And I– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
But you know– you know– JEFF DANIELS:
I love doing that. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
You know when you’re see– I– I– I’ve– I think that’s true. JEFF DANIELS:
Like I don’t get lost in plays anymore. I wish I did. But I– I really don’t. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
I think that’s true. But– what happens is, when you see a really
good performance, that stops. When I’m really– JEFF DANIELS:
No, not for me– (OVERTALK) BRIAN DENNEHEY:
When I’m really affected by– when– when somebody– and I’ll know right away– the
minute they come on stage. All of a sudden, that part of me shuts off
and the audience part just shuts on. And I become part of the audience. And that’s– that’s when I know. When I walk out at intermission or at the
end of the play and say, “I cease to be a– (NOISE) a critic and a– a– a– a– you know,
a– ” KEVIN SPACEY:
Professional. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
–someone taking notes. (CHUCKLE) (OVERTALK) KEVIN SPACEY:
I find this is true. I– I– that– (CLEARS THROAT) I have to say
I love more than anything when I go into a movie, or I go into a theater– and I see
somebody give a performance, particularly, that I didn’t think they were capable of giving. Because I had decided already they were this
or they were that. And it’s extraordinary when you see somebody–
who’s been presented with a challenge, and they rise to the level. And I love nothing more than– I mean it–
it– it– it will come back. But I love nothing more than being able to
disappear and be taken to a world that I didn’t know I was gonna be taken to. And in a way– you know, when I read a play
for the first time, I have a– an ec– an experience when I read it. It does something to me. And sometimes I think that the course of rehearsal
is sort of taking that all apart and wanting to put it back together so that the audience
has that experience I had when I read it. Because that’s when it first touched me. Obviously you dig and you find out lots of
things about it you didn’t know, and discoveries that a director will help you make. But– I love that experience of being able
to be taken somewhere, either in a reading– of a script, or when I go to the theater. And I am magically transported. It’s– you can’t describe what it’s like when
you see a extraordinary piece of work that you cannot figure out how they did it. And the truth is– you know– everyone at
this table has worked hard and done good performances. But, you know, there’s that great Olivier
story– at The Old Vic. When he gave a performance as Othello that
was apparently so unbelievable– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah. KEVIN SPACEY:
–that cast members were calling their friends at intermission saying, “You’ve got to get
down here and see the last act.” And people raced down. And they were in the aisles, and they were
up everywhere. And he must have taken 13 curtain calls that
night. And he went right into the dressing room. And I think Vanessa is the– BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Maggie Smith. KEVIN SPACEY:
Maggie Smith. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
She played Desdemona. KEVIN SPACEY:
He went right into the dressing room, slammed the door. And you heard things being thrown, and him
yelling, and– “God dammit,” and throwin’ stuff. And finally I think it was Maggie Smith who
he finally allowed in after everyone had left. And she said, “Larry, it was the most extraordinary
performance you’ve ever given.” And he said, “I know. I just have no idea how I did it.” BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah. (LAUGHTER) “I don’t know why.” KEVIN SPACEY:
And it– and that, in a way, is the great mystery of it all is that, yeah, you can achieve
something. But you don’t achieve it alone. You know, you have a group of collaborators
and a group– and things may set you off. And as Brian was talking about, the things
in your life that you bring to the theater every (CLEARS THROAT) day that become a part
of the work, it’s a mystery. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Yeah, transcendence– which is the word– it doesn’t happen very often. But it happens enough so that it keeps you
coming back. (CHUCKLE) And– you– you– it’s funny, you
walk out– some– I– I can remember performances where I come off the stage and an actor that
you’ve been working with for three months is looking at you in a different way. And you can tell in her eyes. They– they don’t say anything. And– you go back on, and something else happens,
and something else happens. And you come off and it’s– I understand exactly
that Olivier quit, ’cause you have no idea why. Why did that happen then and not tomorrow? Because I know it won’t happen tomorrow. (CHUCKLE) There’s no– calculation. (CLEARS THROAT) But it’s enough to keep you
coming back. And you can’t try to get it. (CLEARS THROAT) HOWARD SHERMAN:
All of you have achieved extraordinary success. And you are all highly recognizable and known. I’m wondering whether, once you’ve achieved
a level of fame, that has an impact on the work you do and how you feel about your own
work. KEVIN SPACEY:
Yeah. I do. I wish I was anonymous sometimes when I’m
working. Because I think that what ends up happening
is that– fans, not fans, just general audience, come in and watch a performance, they are
not only watching a performance– and it’s your job to try to get them to forget all
the other work that they’ve seen, and just go into that character and that place. But I do think that’s– that– I think that
when you’re just– when I go and I see a play and there’s an actor, an actress on stage,
I have no idea who they are, or sometimes the understudy goes on and gives a phenomenal
performance. And you go, “What a great actor.” You know nothing about them. You just know that performance. And I think sometimes there’s– I mean I–
look, I– I come from a school of thought that there’s way too much infotainment and
way too much information about people, and just way too much blather on about celebrity. And– and I– and I– I actually used to think
the word “celebrity” meant you celebrated someone’s work. I don’t think it means that anymore. (OVERTALK) KEVIN SPACEY:
I find it– I– I find it so great where there’s (CLEARS THROAT) that anonymity. And when you can actually– I– I’ll tell
you when I feel the most satisfied is when people refer to the characters that I’ve played
as three dimensional. When they talk about “the character,” and
use the character’s name rather than mine, then I go, “Well, maybe I got close to doing
my job that time.” Because that character came through. HOWARD SHERMAN:
Liev? LIEV SCHREIBER:
I haven’t– you know, ha– I don’t have it as bad as Kevin has. Kevin has a real problem. (CHUCKLE) I– I think that it’s– (NOISE)
I– I would agree about (CLEARS THROAT) film, you know? I do– I do– I do really love– not knowing
too much about the actors. I really wanna believe that they are who they
are. But I– I– I love that– outline of– of
an a– from Brecht, the– the– the– the three responsibilities of an actor. He says that– one is to– and I’m– I’m gonna
misquote this. One is to– you’re responsible to play the
role you’ve been contracted to play. And these three– these three things you’re
supposed to be at all times on stage. One is to play the role you’ve been contracted
to play. Two is to be– to– to be an actor playing
the role that you’ve been contracted to play. And three is to be a member of a socio-political
society who happens to be an actor who happens to be played a role. (LAUGHTER) I love that. (COUGH) And part of why I love theater so
much– apart from film, and I– I love them both. But– particularly in film is that there is,
for me, no suspension of disbelief. I am an actor. You know who I am. Does that make what I’m saying any less vital
or any less important? And can I find a way to accept that relationship
and work through it as an actor? That that’s– that’s my– that’s my goal in
terms of technique is how do I use that thing that you think to open you? And– and I– I– I– I– I really– I really
love that. I mean I really love that element of it. And it– it– it– it gets annoying, I think–
when you are– you know, a real– big movie star, that there’s a certain level of people
who aren’t really even interested in the play. That’s the problem. That they’re not there to see the play, (CLEARS
THROAT) they’re there to see– their image of you as the movie star. And I think that that probably happens to
Kevin more. KEVIN SPACEY:
There’s an upside to that, too, I think. There’s an– I mean the upside for me is that– LIEV SCHREIBER:
Exposing them to something new, right? KEVIN SPACEY:
Yeah. Because look, I– (CLEARS THROAT) I– I often
say, “I don’t care why they buy tickets.” You know, if somebody who’s 15 or 16 years
old wants to buy tickets because they saw me do “Superman– ” LIEV SCHREIBER:
Right. KEVIN SPACEY:
–or they saw you do it– in– a film, fine. Our job is to give them an experience in the
theater on that day that they won’t ever forget. LIEV SCHREIBER:
Right. KEVIN SPACEY:
And maybe the next time someone invites them to a play they won’t make a face. (NOISE) And they’ll go, “Yeah, I had a really–
it was– theater was more exciting than I ever thought it would be.” I hear that from kids all the time who’ve
never gone to the theater. And they say, “I never thought theater could
be that dynamic.” And that (CLEARS THROAT) is a good thing. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
’cause what happens to me all the time is that people come up to me and say, “God–
you’re– you’re– you’re a really great actor. I really– you know, I saw you do this performance–
years ago with– Julie Harris in– this play called ‘Gin Game.'” And I say– “You mean Charlie Durning.” They say, “Yeah, Charlie Durning.” (LAUGHTER) “You’re Charlie Durning, right? That’s a– I tell you, you’re a hell of an
actor, Mr. Durning.” And I always say, “Thank you very much.” (OVERTALK) HOWARD SHERMAN:
Do you sign it, “Charlie Durning?” BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Next time I see him– KEVIN SPACEY:
Do you sign it, “Charlie Durning?” BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Next time I see him I’ll tell him. (LAUGHTER) KEVIN SPACEY:
But the truth is– it– it happens all the time. I saw it happen to Jack Lemmon. (NOISE) Someone was absolutely convinced Jack
Lemmon was not Jack Lemmon. And I get complimented on “Reservoir Dogs”
all the time. (LAUGHTER) And I have no idea who I’m supposed
to be. (LAUGHTER) BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Harvey Keitel. KEVIN SPACEY:
I don’t know who I– could be Michael Madsen. I don’t know who I am. JEFF DANIELS:
We’re all– we’re all someone else. LIEV SCHREIBER:
No, they’re mixing of “Usual Suspects.” (CHUCKLE) That’s (INAUDIBLE). BRIAN DENNEHEY:
I don’t mind being Charlie Durning. I love Charlie Durning. He’s a lot older than I am. But– let it pass. HOWARD SHERMAN:
And Jeff, Chelsea, Michigan versus coming to New York to be in a play, the– the– the
fame issue, does– does it play differently back home now? JEFF DANIELS:
There are many more “Dumb and Dumber” fans back in Michigan. (LAUGHTER) (CLEARS THROAT) I will say that. BRIAN DENNEHEY:
Oh, my son is one of ’em. JEFF DANIELS:
Or– or if “Dumb and Dumber” fans are here, they’re– they’re closet “Dumb and Dumber”
(LAUGHTER) fans. They’re too busy. Yeah. No, it’s– I– I– I agree with Kevin. Whatever gets your butt in that seat– great. Now it– it is, it’s– it’s our job now to
take you someplace that you didn’t think we were gonna go. HOWARD SHERMAN:
And I’m gonna let that be the final word. You all take us to many places we don’t expect
to go. And we’re very glad to get there. And I wanna thank you all for being with us
today. The American Theatre Wing’s “Working in the
Theater” is brought to you from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York
with our long time partners, CUNY T.V.. On behalf of The American Theatre Wing, thank
you for joining us for another edition of “Working in the Theater.”

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