DETAILS: You've been happily married since 1979, despite the temptations of stardom. What's your secret?
Jeff Daniels: The trick as you're standing on the cliff of all of that is just to know that you don't have a parachute on your back. I discovered early on that when you're done shooting the movie, you're done being a star. You wrap on Friday, and on Monday you're getting your own coffee. Trying to maintain that level of importance and stardom in between jobs—that's when you get in trouble. I'm a big believer in the fact that the limo you're in now, someone else's ass is in that seat tomorrow.
DETAILS: Maybe stardom scared you.
Jeff Daniels: Definitely. I ran fleeing from the idea of being really famous and a big star. I didn't understand it, didn't know how to handle it, and didn't want to know. I just want to be an actor. That's all I want to be.
DETAILS: Well, except that you're also a playwright and a singer-songwriter and you run a theater company.
Jeff Daniels: I became fascinated by the writers I was around, guys like Lanford Wilson, Woody Allen, and Jim Brooks. So I bought a building and said, "Let's create a repertory theater in the Midwest and do plays—and by the way, I've written one." Now I've written 15 plays, and I'm going to do the 16th this coming season. And I've always written songs, just as a creative thing to do with your time while waiting for the phone to ring.
DETAILS: Surprisingly, you've never been nominated for an Oscar. What's that about?
Jeff Daniels: I got lucky out of the gate with Terms of Endearment. Then the nominations came out, and a friend said, "What happened? Even the guy who combed your hair got nominated!" Here I am in this incredible movie, and I'm sitting at home in Michigan watching my castmates walk up and down the aisle. That's eye-opening.
DETAILS: Brutal. After nearly 50 movies, I'd think you'd have at least a shelf or two of statues.
Jeff Daniels: You're forgetting the AARP award for Best Actor Over 50 for The Squid and the Whale! That was after a five-month Oscar campaign—I did interviews with everyone, but it didn't happen. So I flew out to the Beverly Hilton to accept my AARP award from Shelley Berman and Angela Lansbury. What got to me most was the trophy, which is actually a golden Barcalounger, with the footstool up. But you know, I was absolutely proud to get it.
DETAILS: You seem to be making out okay now.
Jeff Daniels: This show with Aaron, I liken it to The Purple Rose of Cairo with Woody Allen—the two best gigs I've ever had. I took the scenic route, but I think I got where I wanted to go.