The Fretts on Film Interview: “Boardwalk Empire” Edition
The gang was all there at last night’s swanky Boardwalk Empire premiere party at NYC’s Cipriani restaurant. I caught up with three of my favorite cast members from HBO’s mob drama (returning in bloody good style for its third season on Sept. 16): Jack Huston, who’s heartbreakingly great as one-eyed WWI vet Richard Harrow; Michael Stuhlbarg, so cool in every way as calculating gambler Arnold Rothstein; and Michael Shannon, whose on-the-lam fed Nelson Van Alden takes a surprising new career path in Season 3. They’ve all been moonlighting in movies, and I chatted them about some of their more promising upcoming cinematic projects.
JACK HUSTON The grandson of John and nephew of Anjelica is keeping the family business going—and he’s joined a new family as well. Boardwalk Empire exec producer Terence Winter, a Sopranos vet, recommended him to David Chase for a lead role in the proto-HBO mafia drama creator’s first film, Not Fade Away (premiering at the New York Film Festival next month). “Terry is so lovely—he and David Chase have totally made my life and career,” exulted the charming Huston, in a disarming British accent. The actor, who stars as one of the members of a 1960’s rock band in—where else?—New Jersey, spent three months learning how to play the guitar for the film, which also features James Gandolfini. “I’ve seen a very early cut of the film,” says Huston. “I think you’re going to love it.” I hope so—I just shelled out $50 for a balcony seat to its NYFF premiere!
MICHAEL STUHLBARG The star of the Coen Bros’ 2009 Best Picture nominee A Serious Man plays roles in two likely Oscar contenders this year as well. In Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, he’s a lame-duck Congressman wrapped up in politics with Daniel Day-Lewis’ ill-fated President. “It was amazing to watch Spielberg work,” says Stuhlbarg, who spent three and a half weeks on location in Richmond, Va. “It was such a privilege to be there.” Meanwhile, he crossed paths with another Hollywood icon, Anthony Hopkins, who embodies the Master of Suspense in Hitchcock. Stuhlbarg costars as Lew Wasserman, a legendary agent who became the head of Universal Studios (and, coincidentally, Spielberg’s mentor). “I read the biography The Last Mogul to prepare,” says Stuhlbarg. “Then I just stood next to Hopkins and tried to give him what he needed.” If Day-Lewis and Hopkins end up competing for Best Actor this year, whom would Stuhlbarg vote for? “I’m not an Academy member, so I don’t get to vote,” he says. Now that’s a politically correct answer!
MICHAEL SHANNON The enigmatic character actor has a typically diverse slate of films coming up: He stars in The Iceman as a real-life contract killer, plays the supervillain General Zod in Man of Steel, and has a cameo in Mud, the new film from his frequent collaborator, Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter). Here’s a transcript of our chat:
I just saw the trailer for The Iceman, and it looks amazing. You’ve played a lot of dark characters, but how did it feel to play such a cold-blooded killer?
Well, I guess the rest of the world might find this bewildering, but I don’t really think of him that way, as a cold person. I actually think the way he acted was because of a lot of hurt he had suffered in his own life and a lot of rage he had accumulated over the years. I don’t think he’s a sociopath because he has empathy for other people. He has a family that he loves very much and tries to protect. So if he would’ve been just some stone cold-blooded character that didn’t care about anybody, I wouldn’t have been interested in playing the part. The thing that intrigued me about him was the dichotomy of his personality.
Then how about General Zod?
Yeah, how about him? Terence Stamp was terrific [as him in Superman II].
Are you prepared to have people kneel before you?
I don’t know if they’ll kneel. There’s no guarantees that people will kneel. I was very excited to work with Zack Snyder. I think he’s one of the most exciting directors we have in American cinema now. His style is completely unique. There’s no one who makes movies like he does, so that was the main draw for me.
And I guess you like working with Jeff Nichols, too?
We’re like brothers. I have a very small part in Mud, because I was shooting Man of Steel at the time. I play one of the boys’ uncles. It’s not like Shotgun Stories or Take Shelter. But I think I’ll be back starring in his next movie. It’s very early on. I just talked to him on the phone today and we’re looking forward to getting together again.
You do all these dark movies. Are you waiting for someone to pitch you a romantic comedy?
I don’t know. I see the humor in everything. There’s humor in The Iceman, there’s humor in Boardwalk Empire. I guess things that a lot of other people find funny, I don’t find funny. Most of what’s on TV right now I don’t find terribly funny. I have a different sense of humor.
Who’s your favorite Boardwalk Empire character actor? Post a comment!