Sunday, March 31, 2013

Excerpts from Fresh Air interview with Frank Langella

Frank Langella gave an interview at Fresh Air from WHYY August 2012.  It happened to be on the radio the other day, and I was fortunate to catch the tail end of the interview.  I found Langella's interview to be very moving.  I had to go back and listen to the whole interview.

Before listening to the interview I was not familiar with Langella's work.  I found out that he starred in Robot & Frank, Frost/Nixon and other films.

Instead of paraphrasing his comments, I want to share his quotes talking about how he learned to be more tactful in sharing his views with others, and how transient everything that we once claimed as ours.  I just cannot help but be humbled by this 75-year-old man reminding us that we are all passing through our lives.

Following is the excerpts from Frank Langella's interview with Fresh Air:

"Yes, I was. I made the mistake of believing - as so many young actors do, and many young men do, and women too, I suppose - that because you feel you're right about something it gives you the right to behave badly, or stubbornly or arrogantly to make your point. I think it's a function of youth and I give a wide birth to young actors who are like that these days. The notion that what you feel is the right way to do something or how to do it is the correct way, can make you walk around with blinders on and give you very little understanding into the feelings of the person opposite you, who has their own point of view and their own way of expressing themselves. And so I was, I was a very forceful young man, very strong minded and very strong-willed, and I've moderated that over the years a great deal. I'm not entirely free of it, but I'm still strong minded, but I think I'm a lot more tactful about it now than I used to be." 

"Yeah. I like very much the story of an actor that nobody remembers anymore called Cameron Mitchell. I made a television film with him and we discovered halfway through the making of the movie that I was wearing a jacket that he had worn when he was a young leading man some 25 years before in a major movie. And now he was doing a terrible television show.

And the story is longer than this, but the makeup lady, the costume lady, picked it up off my chair and said, Cameron, look at this. Frank is wearing a jacket with your name sewed into it from a movie of 25 years ago. And Cameron was now an overweight, I'm afraid, heavy drinking actor who had really rolled, sadly, to the bottom.

And she pushed the jacket onto him and it didn't fit him. It was three sizes too small for him. So he started dancing around kind of like a silly clown and I could see in his face that he was in agony about this; that his youth was gone, his career had fallen apart, and I felt a tremendous wave of compassion for him.

And everybody else thought it was funny. And I just walked up to him and told him I needed the jacket for the next shot and I took it from him and put it on. And when his name came up in the memoriam section at the Academy Awards that year that he died, a number of years later, there was a little spattering of applause.

And somebody else's name came up and they got a bigger hand and somebody got nothing, and even in death there was this rating system to the performer. And what I wrote was that it was a room full of people at the Oscars believing that whatever jacket or dress or gown or tuxedo they were wearing that night was going to fit them forever. And I think that that's the one that resonates with me most because I think it's true of a lot of us.

You know, we kind of believe at the top of our game that it's always going to be like this. And we have to keep reminding ourselves that it isn't, for better or worse. Sometimes it gets much better. Like this is the best time of my life. But it can get terribly sad for people who keep trying to hold onto the thing they were initially loved for. So that - that story means a lot to me."

You can hear the full interview with Frank Langella at this Fresh Air page.

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