H. Macy | Loser? Think Again...
an emily blunt interview
always ask me (okay, mostly my medling family...), "Why do
you slave over a hot monitor, toiling away, skipping the social
life etc., if you aint makin' bags of cash?" Simple. I adore
film - and thespians. It's a passion. So naturally when William
H. Macy - the actor's actor - who holds a special place in my
little art-loving heart, okayed our interview it was like a sports
fan getting the illusive Babe Ruth card - mint - in the original
I sat across from Mr. Macy with this nonstop silly Cheshire cat-like
grin. He probably thought I was stoned. But I was genuinely tickled
into a shade of rhubarb he would share his acting tales, and even
a great acting pointer for those in the craft, all with little
this is a big golden perk of my labors.
amazingly likeable. Instantly. And he's one of the few that looks
exactly as he does on film (less I recall the horrible reality
of the Gazoo-like features of John Cusack for example
McTalent said he's over playing losers
well till he saw this
then he said this would be it - The
Cooler's Bernie would send his
typecasting niche up in a blaze. He's right. "Bernie"
is an uber-loser, but he's also a swell guy that ultimately transforms
into a hero any gal should be lucky enough to snag.
Cooler opens shortly and is highly recommended, not just for
Macy, but also for the beautiful (and underrated) Maria Bello
who steals scenes and an intense, forceful Alec Baldwin, who is
positively menacing as a casino manager that oozes that special
coldness found in soulless folks
What a fun movie!
H: Isn't it cool?
Oh yeah. It was nice seeing you naked! [drat- damn me and my bluntness
Is that a new era for you?
H: [blushing - nervous laughter] No. On stage I've been naked
A LOT [laughter]. For some reason there was a period there where
I did nudity - seems like - once a year. It's easier on stage
isn't it? The artifice is more impenetrable. You've got that presidium
black hole their and its easier to be in your own little world.
In the movies there's people running all over the place.
How did you get comfortable?
H: You don't [laughter] you never feel comfortable- you just have
to go on. Do it anyway. It's one of the things I've always loved
must about acting-it's a powerful moments there 100 people running
around the set
there's all this chaos then
stands still. Very quiet and they're ALL looking at you. It's
your turn to you now hit the mark- shoot the gun - hit the mark
- do all this technical stuff seemingly it's easy- but it's real
easy to overwhelm you or bring you to life. Taking your clothes
off is a great test- it can be overwhelming or shut it all out.
Have courage and look at all the other people - and just go ahead
with it. It's great IF you can pull it off.
How about the emotional changes your character Bernie went through?
H: Well just telling the story brings you to life
it to life. Telling the story it lives in you. And we did some
tricks too. One? The lighting changes. Wayne had this whole green
lighting when I was depressed- it was all green and cool. When
I fell in love it got warm and red. He did something with the
lights- he made them more flattering as I fell in love. And the
costumer [Kristin M. Burke] god bless her, I started me in a 42
- I wear a 39 - I wear the same suit throughout. She tailored
so it looked like it was correct- but my little neck was floating
around [laughter] in this 16 ½ collar and the shoulders
was swimming in this suit. As I met "Natalie," Maria
[Bello], it became smaller slowly
she put me in a 41, a 40
then finally in a suit that fit me- so I seemed to grow into my
own clothes. It really worked. We did my hair dorky- then less
dorky - then moviestar [laughter].
You work with many first time directors. Is there any reason behind
it or circumstance?
H: Because I do so many little films and work with so many first
time directors - be it right or wrong - it's self defense- I always
sit them down and give the general speech
I say to them in
some form or another
" Make art on your own time! You're
a general - you will be commanding 100s of people. The day is
twelve hours long. It is NOT 16 hours long - and if it is 16 hours
long I am going to be very angry with you. It is your job to figure
out your shots come in prepared and shoot them as simply and directly
as you can. If you've got time to make art? Fine. But do it on
your own time." I said, " you better be prepared. If
you're making up stuff on the set? I'm gonna be down your throat
- 'cause there's just no time." And when we started shooting
it became clear from day one he knew exactly what he was doing.
That he had cut the film in his head and when things changed -
he was a first time director- he ran out of time a few times-it
happens - but he has an indefatigable knowledge of films- he knows
every film ever made! He kept talking about the score, "Wait
till, you hear the score!" I couldn't help but thinking,
" Dude, if you're think the music is going to save this movie
we are shit out of luck!" [laughter] It's never happened
before and it'll never happen!" Boy was I wrong. It lifted
the movie into this context and completed the whole image! That
Mark Isham score is magnificent. I see you have the cd there!
It's perfect isn't it?
I love it it's swinging! [well - it is] Do you monitor the dailies
H: It's hard to see it when you're making it and I feel - in some
respects - I feel it'll get in my way
I'm not one that runs
to the monitor to see the play back. I don't go to dailies. It's
best if I can keep my attention on the nano-seconds. Those little
tiny moments in front of me. And keep it as much in the real world-
the here and now and bring what ever I'm feeling to it irrespective
of what the results might be and to leave that up completely to
the director. So it's always nice to see what the look of the
film is after all. I've gotten a little more cagey. So I do see
a couple of days of dailies- just to see how the DP is shooting
me and the pace of the thing- just in case. But after that, no,
I don't see dailies.
So, do you gamble?
H: I don't like to gamble. But in that Bernie and I are similar
- we both stink at gambling [laughter]. But that's it. I don't
feel like a loser in life. One of my early memories is of my grandmother.
She use to look at me and say, "Billy, you are a serendipitous!"
Isn't that sweet?
H: It's true I've always been a lucky guy. I don't know if it's
Polly Anna-ish or not but I always look at the bright side I always
think half full. I am blessed in my life- good things seem to
happen to me. I've always landed on my feet. I've been shot down
many times but I always come out of it. And I feel what's great
about this movie is it talks abut the transforming power of love.
It's probably jive but I choose to believe that it's true! Bernie
thinks he's a complete loser-and worse - that he's justifiably
a complete loser. He doesn't think he deserves anymore and all
is right 'tween heaven and Earth that he is a loser. And Natalie
feels the same way. But what they can do is love. One of his great
strengths is he can put his attention totally on her and love
her like I think EVERY woman wants to be loved. Completely and
with all of his body. When he does that he lifts her up- and she
has the same affect. She sees the giant in this guy. And he sees
the beauty in her- and together they are unstoppable
I just love that story.
You are an Academy member. Do you have an opinion to share on
the whole screener fiasco?
H: I do. I think the whole notion about "piracy" didn't
hold water. I mean when the press release came out? First of all
by the time the Oscars© come out you
can rent just about every screener and they've been in the theaters
forever! It just didn't hold water. I'm not a conspirasist theorist
like some people
but I think there's an element of the studios
being tired of these little Indies walking away with their Oscars©.
But I think it's healthy for our business - it's healthy for our
business to level the playing field so people can find
these films. I say, Send the screeners out!" In many ways
they can help. Because of my kids the only way I can see most
are screeners. I get to the movies once every three weeks now.
I use to go three four times a week! Now it's a big deal. It's
even a bigger deal when I don't fall asleep during it! [laughter].
H: What draws you to a film?
The script. I have a friend that keeps saying, "You have
to work with directors- that's how you should make your decisions."
I think if it aint on the page that's it. You can screw up a great
script- it can be done. But when they stink on the page there's
nothing you can do. You can spend a trillion dollars on them they're
still gonna stink in the theater!
But didn't you pass on this and then get badgered?
H: Yeah. The badgering did come after the first time I said no!
[laughter] I had literally said to my agent, "NO more losers.
I'm acting myself into a hole here," and I was looking towards
the future and spinning my wheels
of course then I read the
script for real. I mean there's losers... Then there's THIS! [laughter.
I mean this is biblical and I
plus they made it for a buck.
Literally the movie started out for a million dollars
know what they ended up with but that was it. We found this casino
that they were going to remodel- we rented it and moved in-that's
why it looks like it does. We couldn't afford to make this movie
any other way. I had many reasons not to do it. You don't get
paid, I had a brand-new kid.. I said no MANY times
time- that's where the noodling came in. Especially Ed Pressman
[producer] - he would just not stop [laughter]. He would just
sort of smile and say, "Okay.' Then the next week THERE HE
WAS AGAIN! [laughter]. " When are we going to do this?"
Do you prepare?
H: Nope. Do none. When I first started acting I was very elaborate.
I carried a wallet with fake I.D.s and I would do a history of
the character. I could tell you everybody who lived down
the street and I'd make up this stuff. And as I got older I thought,
"I wonder what would happen if I didn't do that." I
discovered nothing happened! [laughter] In reality you can't bring
all that on stage. The older I've gotten the more I've realized
hit the mark, say the lines correctly - as they are written -
and put your attentions on THE OTHER person and get them to do
whatever your objective is. That's 100% of your attention. There's
no room for any of that other horseshit that you wanna bring in;
your history, the arc. It's just NOT doing. If you're doing it
right you're 100% engaged; just putting your attention on the
other person and doing your job.
That's what Strasberg teaches.
you go kids! An acting pointer from one of the greatest. And I'm
so glad he decided to end his loser streak with The
I mean let's face it, Macy gives great geek,
and this "Bernie's" the upper echelon of the class.
have to see this film. The work - on all accounts - is superb
and you want Macy? You got him and his "Young Will and the
twins" to boot! Ewwweeee.