Q: Annie Hall. The Deer Hunter. Pulp Fiction. And now . . . Hairspray. Youíve been in some real masterpieces. And youíve also been in a few non-masterpieces.
A: Iíve madeI think about a hundred movies. And thereís a good number of them that Iíve never seen. Never.
Q: With something like Gigli
A: Which in fact I never did see, because it came and went so quickly.
Q: . . . do you ever get the feeling that, Hey, Iím working on a really bad movie?
A: Movies are terrifically optimistic enterprises. If you come into the makeup trailer in the morning and you say to the hair person, ďDid you go to the dailies?Ē Iíve never in my life heard anybody say, ďThey werenít very good.Ē Itís always, ďOh, my God! Itís electrifying!Ē
Q: In Hairspray you play John Travoltaís husband, and you two seem genuinely smitten.
A: Youíre right. I think that we had a nice, as they call it, chemistry. I was very taken with him.
Q: You broke through in the seventies, a time when unconventional actors like you, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Gene Hackman could become stars.
A: I certainly have never been an actor who can play the Everyman guyor, I donít tend to get those parts. Iíve tended to play eccentrics. Iíve played a lot of villains, of course. I think the fact that I grew up in show business had a real effect on my personality. If you were born in New York during the golden age of television, and you grew up on Broadway, that marks you. And strangeness can translate into a little bit scary. Also, Iím very pale. Iím an indoors person. And the way I speakIíve never really been able to play . . . people. Itís always somebody whoís a little off-center. Those are people, too. But not your guy next door.
Q: Youíre known for your distinctive cadences and rhythms. Has a director ever tried to make you change that?
A: Itís very rare, and itís not a happy thing. You know, I get along very well with everybody. Always have. But occasionally somebody will say, ďCould you read that line another way?Ē And I just tell íem, ďIím sorry. I have no idea how to do that.Ē And the interesting thing is that the other actors, when that happens to me, they all gang up: ďWhat? Leave him alone!Ē
Q: I understand youíre a great cook. Do you tend to take care of dinner at home with your wife?
A: I do. You know, it seems to me that a lot of men do the cooking. Iím not a terrific cook, but Iím good at buying things. If you buy really good stuff, and you donít overcook itif you cook simply, good fish and good vegetables and things, itís healthier. I donít know why people eat so badly. I could eat pasta all the time, but it really is fattening. And I love ice cream, but I canít do that. There was a time, until I was in my mid-forties, when I could eat a whole pizzaand really, no effect.