actor and writer
When I approach a play or film, a new role, a new scene, I think
about how I can bring up the juice, inject more extreme stakes sort
of up the ante.
How were you motivated to become an actor and writer?
When I was a kid all I ever wanted to do was play. I was the one on the
block who was always organizing the neighborhood kids into these epic
productions of makebelieve. It was always based on whatever the
current movie I had seen that week with my family. One week it was BEN
HUR I would get the kids into making wooden swords, trash can lids
for shields, and
cardboard and rusty wagons for chariots.
The next week we'd see THE LONGEST DAY and now my legion was
transformed into a platoon, with army helmets, plastic machine guns, and
rubber hand grenades. The reenactments were heavy on dirt clods, brave
frontal assaults, and heroic and glorious death tumbles down a sand
hill. Stealthy night maneuvers were carried out after dinner and aided
with signals from Oscar Mayer Wiener Whistles and flashlight blasts, and
they usually ended up with a hapless neighbor's mailbox lid getting
blown off by a sapcharge cherry bomb.
But when I became a young man, I put away childish things. Sort of. I
up with the normal interests of sports, girls, science, and rock and
roll, not necessarily in that order. When it came time to select a
career I chose doctor. My dad was a doctor and I was fascinated by
medical science so once in college, I ensconced myself in premed. I was
a better than average student,
but somewhere along the University line I lost my focus and my passion
for medicine. Oddly, what I did discover was the drama department. And
whereas taking drama was originally meant to supplement my grade point
average, I found that I was much more comfortable on a stage than in a
I don't begin to fathom why that is, or was, due to the fact that I
always considered myself a bit shy. Maybe it was a therapy of sorts,
in front of people, on stage, to sort of bring myself out, make contact.
if I'm to be honest with myself, I must say my interest in girls had no
small part in it. On more than one occasion a pretty young thing would
approach me postproduction and say, "Nice work in that play. I didn't
know you were so "sensitive." "Thank you," I'd mumble humbly. "Would
you care to go out
for coffee and talk about me I mean talk about the play?"
But I think it was more hiding than anything else. One could get lost
character, in the safe little enclave of a play. And something else,
something scary, when I think about it: it was a great way to avoid
responsibility. It's the character, it wasn't me. I didn't do those
things, say those things, have that fit like that, it was the play, it
was the character. What great license I had found! Ah the delicious
debauchery of behavior it sanctioned. To be an actor. Virtually
anything was permissible because it was all ultimately done in the name
of art. I feel rather like a magician committing the ultimate taboo and
breaking the code by revealing all the closely guarded trade secrets,
but hey, I'm sorry it goes with it.
To be an actor is to give yourself all the excuses you've ever dreamed
of to misbehave. Ask Jack Nicholson, ask Robert Downey Jr. ask any of
them, and if they're honest with themselves they'll agree with me. We
get away with an awful lot in the nebulous name of 'ART'. Ah, drat
I've broken the
actor's code! NEVER TELL THEM WE'RE HAVING A BALL!! They might not pay
us as much as they do. Not that acting is easy. NOOOOOO, in fact it's
rather difficult. It may look easy to the untrained eye, but to do it
and do it well, to make it appear effortless, that requires tremendous
amounts of skill,
patience, and stamina. Because what you are asked to do as an actor is
nonsensical and illogical and antithetical to every human instinct,
especially, the instinct to protect.
As an actor you are required to open, to reveal, to make yourself
vulnerable. And here is clearly an irony: those of us who pursued this
an effort to hide from ourselves, are ultimately obligated to explore
reveal ourselves. And beyond that, and even more essentially, we are
compelled to create. We are required to create an oxymoron: imaginary
reality which in and of itself demands copious amounts of
relaxation all while large numbers of strangers stand around and wait
for you to tear your guts out, nail the scene, do it and do it right so
we can break for lunch already. And that's just the doing of it,
executing under the pressure to NOT BLOW IT as the slate comes in and
you hear "Action!" That's pressure enough, but on top of that you have
to remember each performance your career is basically on the line.
The public is fickle, and so is the industry. They may forgive a turkey
or two, but then they can turn on you. Hollywood doesn't offer many
second chances, so I learned early on that when you are in front of the
camera, make it count. Don't chew up the scenery, less is usually more,
but if the scene requires
emotional blood, give them quarts. It takes courage to make strong
decisions and choices under professional conditions, and if there is one
attribute an actor should wear proudly, it is courage.
What can you share about your creative process?
Well, it's always changing for me. Which doesn't bother me, in that my
is always changing, as is my approach to the 'business.' I emphasize
different aspects of myself now than I used to; I have different goals,
hold somewhat different values. Career used to be the top dog with me,
but that has slipped
behind family, friends, God. But I believe the rearranging, the house
cleaning I've done in the past five years has only enhanced my creative
process, because it's enhanced my life. Given me more to draw from,
more to express. Because that's your canvas as an actor, yourself and
When I approach a play or film, and new role, a new scene, I think about
how I can bring up the juice, inject more extreme stakes sort of up
the ante. If I want something, I REALLY want it. If I love someone, I
REALLY love them. (This approach, of course, can become a problem on a
personal level, especially with one's wife, hence the cardinal rule
always leave the work at the office.
Never let the character come home with you. He may be a rude sonofabitch.)
In acting, I've always thought it a good thing to K.I.S.S. Keep It
Simple, Stupid. And to Practice Stillness. Less is usually more
(except for those times when more is more). In addition, one mentor
early on said something that has stuck with me: "Each day look for at
least five things that are beautiful. Reflect on these, digest them,
bury them deep within. Then when you act draw upon them. Beauty can
be found in the most simple and obvious of places. Always when you act,
look for the beauty."
If fear of flying is really fear of smacking into the ground, then
of acting, or stage fright, is really the fear of being embarrassed.
It's the fear of falling on your face in front of crowd. I've always
felt acting works best when you're not afraid to make a complete ass of
yourself. My friends tell me I've succeeded on that front splendidly.
What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
Dress warmly and drink plenty of water. Seriously though. I would
the greatest obstacle facing the colonist, after the immediate problems
breathable air and atmosphere, water, food, warmth, etc. were settled,
assume secure dometype city pods would be one of cosmic cabin fever.
It's one thing to be snowed in, where one cannot take a long walk
snow drifts are too high. It's quite another to be domed in, where if
talk a long walk, it had better be in a pressurized suit or you explode.
your skin starts to bubble from the solar radiation. Or your lungs
from the mercuryiridum in the toxic atmosphere (I made that up).
Plus I know folks on the west coast who get so homesick being away
from their east coast relatives for a few months imagine those same
people who are separated by a span of hundreds of thousands of miles.
Yes, the Russian
cosmonauts have been spacebound for years at a stretch, but these are
trained and disciplined soldiers. The common man may not fare as well.
Psychological counseling services for Mars Colony would be my choice for
stock market investing in the new millennium. Also, recreational
distractions such as MarsGravity Golf and Upper Atmosphere JetSkiing
would certainly come into fashion, as the locals would soon tire of the
overdone Mars Dune Buggy excursions.
I would love to see total freemarket entrepreneurialship on the Mars
colony. National lines of demarcation would be/should be a moot
point. I imagine, rather the American sector, or Russian sector, or
Chinese sector hey, I like the notion of the Disney sector, or the
Universal tours sector or the Six Flags sector. Rather than yet another
piece of real estate Earth countries battle over I say, whoever gets
first gets to put up their hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks.
give Disney high odds at being first they've always been the quickest
recognize profit potential. Who better to serve as international,
interplanetary ambassador for peace and prosperity in the twentyfirst
century than Mickey Mouse? Mickey on Mars. It's about time.