Busy Character Actor Makes Time for "Everyone's Hero"
- Friday, September 08, 2006
He has a name everybody recognizes, but can’t quite place in a film. That’s probably because William H. Macy is best known for his “character” roles – ones that round out a cast, in varying degrees, after the blockbuster stars have already been cast.
Not that Macy hasn’t been busy. He’s appeared in more than a hundred films and television episodes, written another handful and even directed and produced a few more. Some, like a 1986 episode of “General Hospital,” are hardly worth mentioning. Others, like his 30 episodes of “E.R.” (from 1994 to 1998, as Dr. David Morgenstern), propelled Macy to the forefront of viewers’ consciousness.
But Macy’s career really went into overdrive after he played Jerry Lundergaard in the 1996 independent film “Fargo.” He received numerous honors for the role, including an Oscar nomination and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor. This led to a series of banner years. In 1997, Macy appeared in three highly successful films: “Air Force One,” “Wag the Dog” and “Boogie Nights.” The next year, he followed up with “Psycho,” “Pleasantville” and “A Civil Action.”
Since then, Macy has kept busy writing, directing and producing. Some of his recent credits include “Seabiscuit,” opposite Jeff Bridges, and “Cellular,” opposite Kim Basinger. His latest venture is an animated children’s film called “Everyone’s Hero,” which tells the Depression-era story of a young Babe Ruth fan who longs to become a baseball player, but who can’t even hit the ball. Macy plays Lefty, a Chicago Cubs player who becomes the boy’s nemesis after stealing Ruth’s bat. Also starring the voice talents of Rob Reiner (as a baseball) and Whoopi Goldberg (as Darlin’, Ruth’s bat), “Everyone’s Hero” is a film with an encouraging message about can-do thinking.
I recently met with Macy and other reporters in Los Angeles where he was promoting “Everyone’s Hero,” the dream child of the late Dana and Christopher Reeves. With a welcome forthrightness and more than a touch of humor, he talked about what it was like to work with Lindsay Lohan, Sharon Stone and Anthony Hopkins; the changing nature of the film industry; his wife, Felicity Huffman; and the brand new passion that’s been revving his engine. …
What made you want to do “Everyone’s Hero?”
Chris [Reeves] had done a film that I wrote a long time ago. That was a big boon to my fledgling writing career. I knew him in New York before that. And Chris and Dana’s spirit is all over this thing, so pretty much everybody that was contacted was asked, ‘You want to make sure that the thing gets done?’ and everybody said ‘Yeah.’
It’s a lovely script. I like the simplicity of it and the beauty of it. Some of the Pixar films have all those double entendres for adults and ehhhh … some of the jokes. This [film] doesn’t have any of that in it. It’s so pure and clean, and it’s about keep swinging and don’t give up.
Are you a baseball fan?
I’m one of those guys that comes in during the playoffs and pretends that he’s been watching all year, and tries to memorize all the names and fake his way through it.
You have a long history in voice work, right?
Pretty much. When I got into this business I financed this habit by doing commercials. I was never big for the on-camera commercials – nor were they big on hiring me. But I did voice-overs, and I’ve been lucky.
Can you do THE voice-over for us?
Uh, no. I do Microsoft now.
Okay, let’s hear it.
Wow, that’s great (sarcastic). And I’m sure they pay for that.
They pay me very well for that. I did Secret deodorant, too.
That’s the one I wanted to hear!
‘Secret: strong enough for a man …’ then some broad says, ‘But made for a woman.’
Some broad, yeah. No, I didn’t do the second part. That paid for New York. When I moved to New York from Chicago, that paid for the first three or four years.
Wow. So when you do them, do you find that you’re asked to do ‘a’ voice or ‘your’ voice?
Uh, both. Ummm, on the animation, usually there’s something on it. Like Lefty, in ["Everyone's Hero"], has a Chicago, fast-talking urban voice. Voice-overs for commercials, usually it’s you. It’s either the bright you or the sexy you or the quiet you or the intelligent you, but it’s you.
Which one is closest to you?
Well, I’m a very sexy guy.
You’ve got a role in the upcoming independent feature film, “Bobby” [written and directed by Emilio Estevez]. Who do you play in that?
The hotel manager. I’ve got the part that … I haven’t seen it, actually, but I go all the way through the thing and I think Emilio used me as a thread to take it through. It’s got a cast of thousands. Every night we shot it, it was like a Screen Actors Guild meeting. You looked at the call sheet and wondered who was on that day.
Who do you have scenes with?
Christian Slater – I have a bunch of scenes where … pretty much everyone.
Sharon played my wife. She gives me a haircut.
What was that like?
That was, that was … umm … that was an experience.
You have to elaborate.
No … oh, and Anthony Hopkins. That’s pretty much why I’m in the movie. They said, 'There’s a scene with Anthony Hopkins and …’ and I said, 'Fine!' I truly loved that.
Did he live up to your expectations?
Yes, he did. He’s a complete gentleman – really smart, really funny, so generous. Oh, I’d love to act with him again.
He’s one of those guys who makes it look easy. I’ve always thought, when you act really, really well, that sometimes, you as the actor think, ‘That can’t be it. All I did was tell him he was a selfish b-----d. I mean, that scene – there’s gotta be more than that.’ And so often, it isn’t more than that. That’s it. You did it. Go home. You’re finished. And he’s one of those actors who makes it look so off-the-cuff and so simple. And yet, when you see the film, it’s full and it’s all that’s required.
Did you have any scenes with Lindsay Lohan?
One scene. One scene.
Was it hard? She’s working with your wife, too, right? [on the set of “Georgia Rule”]
She’s completely charming. Felicity said she’s a huge talent – that girl can act. Ummm.
Uh, you can’t show up late. It’s very disrespectful. I think what an actor has to realize is when you show up an hour late, 150 people have been scrambling to cover for you. And there is not an apology big enough in the world to make 150 people scramble. It’s inexcusable. It’s nothing but disrespect. And Lindsay Lohan is not the only one. A lot of actors show up late – as if they’re God’s gift to the film. And it’s inexcusable, and they should have their a---s kicked.
Was she really that late?
You’ve been in the business a long time. You’ve done theater, voice-overs, film. Do you feel like there’s a difference between those who’ve paid their dues and those who find stardom at a younger age?
Certainly there’s a difference between theater and film. And I love it when big fat movie stars go to the theater. I happened to witness one, one time. I’d just gone backstage after one of the stars and a big movie star [came] out of his dressing room. This woman comes out and goes, “Hey! I’m your mothah? Come back! Hang up your costume! Whassa matter with you?” So he went back and hung up his costume. You don’t mess with the Broadway dressers, boy.
I worry about these young kids – 15, 18, 20 years old – who in the span of one year become millionaires and powerhouses. It’s too much power for a kid that age to handle and when these young actors are…spiraling out of control and taking drugs and drinking too much … (clears throat) … I think their managers and their agents are morally bound and perhaps legally bound to do something about it. And so often the managers and the agents cover for them.
What’s the solution, though?
But in a system that’s become increasingly like that …
Like what happened with Tom Cruise?
He’s not late.
No, but he’s just being … you know …
I know the announcement [that Paramount was dropping him] was really funky – and perhaps cruel. But more than that, the business is changing. It’s just changing. And I think Tom’s deal at Paramount had to change because of the nature of the business. That’s really what was going on. These blockbusters don’t make money like they used to. It costs too much to make movies and the pie is getting divided in a lot more slices these days.
Has it been a problem seeing Felicity, with both of you working so much and being so successful?
Success is really not a ‘problem.’ But it sure has been something. She’s doing this film called ‘Georgia Rule’ and ['Desperate Housewives’], and she’s been doing it for a month. And she has now gone, I believe, four weeks without a day off. Seven days a week for four weeks. Because ‘Housewives’ is being so nice to her, they’re compressing her days. So when she gets there, she works all day. ‘Georgia Rule’ is a powerhouse of a script. I’ve read it – it’s magnificent. She’s got some serious acting to do in this thing, and she goes 12 hours. The other day I said, ‘I don’t get it. What’s keeping you on your feet’ and she said, ‘Gratitude.’
How does that affect your girls?
We’ve just been blessed. I was working on a film in New Mexico, and I got back pretty much the day the "fit hit the shan" with her shooting schedule. So I’ve been there for the kids. I’ve been taking them to school, and it’s been so lucky. I’ve had a lot of kid duty these days.
What’s coming up? Are you going to be doing any directing?
I’m about to go into high work situation. I produced a film – actually produced it i.e. raised the money. It’s called 'The Deal,' and it’s a romantic comedy that I wrote with Steven Schachter, who’s gonna direct it. And it’s me and Lisa Kudrow and we go to Bucharest in three weeks. It’s based on Peter Lefcourt’s novel of the same title, and it’s an outrageously good script, if I do say so myself. A great role for her, and a great role for me, too.
After then right after that, I’ll start preproduction, which will be in November, for 'Keep Coming Back' by Will Aldis. I’m directing and Salma Hayek is the only one who’s attached.
Will you do more kids' movies?
Are you finding that as your girls get older you’re wanting to do more movies that connect with them?
Well, they’re just getting into the movie age, and they’re not that many of my films that they can see for awhile. So I’d love to do some that they can see. I’d love to be a hero to them. In ‘Curious George’ I do the narrator on the television series. They’ll start watching those, and we read the books all the time. But my kids don’t get it. They don’t understand what I do for a living.
Do you find that having kids changes your perception of this industry and what is happening?
A wee bit. I thought about it. I was pleased to realize I didn’t have to make a huge change in my career. I’ve always been pretty allergic to stupid violence. I like to do films that say something about the human condition and aren’t overly violent. I’ve always thought that the writers can put as much violence in a film that they want but I would like to hold them to being truthful about it. What’s always offended me are these films where in downtown L.A. somebody takes a machine gun and kills 14 people and there’s nary an ambulance or a siren to be heard and they apparently walk away and there’s never an investigation. That’s just trash, and I don’t want any part of that. I can’t stand it when the hero gets the crap beat out of him by four brawny types and in scene two he’s making love. I say, beat the crap out of him if you want, but he’s got to stay beat up.
What were you doing in New Mexico?
I was shooting a thing called ‘Wild Hogs.’ Four middle-aged guys have sort of a crisis and get on their Harley Davidsons and drive to the coast.
Did you have to ride your own bike?
I do now, man. And I’m hooked.
Oh, yeah. I used to ride. I rode little bikes when I was in college, to get back and forth to class. First time I lived in L.A., I had a little Honda. But I was never a Harley guy. But now I am.
Be careful. You know they call them “donor cycles” in the hospital.
I’m hip. I’m hip. They’re two kinds of people – those who’ve had a wreck and those who are gonna have a wreck.
You and Felicity seem to be doing well, despite the fame and all the temptations. What makes a good marriage, in your opinion?
Never marry someone who’s not nice. I’m afraid my real answer is, marry Felicity Huffman. It’s Felicity. I got lucky. I got lucky – that’s what it is.
How many years so far?
Eight, but we go back a long, long way. I’ve known her for a billion years.
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, “Everyone’s Hero,” starring Rob Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg and William H. Macy, opens in theaters on September 15, 2006. The film is rated G.
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