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Greg Kinnear | Can Ya Hear The Purr?
an emily blunt interview
Photo by Jeff Vespa - © - Images courtesy



Greg Kinnear is a sweet and talented guy. I remember when I first spotted the mansteak oozing his charms on E! Oh, sure he's a big celebrity now and doesn't want to think about the "early" days. But I tell you he single handily brought millions of viewers to the "new" cable station to see his bit during Talk Soup. He wasn't just cute he was legitimately funny.

Thankfully he was noticed and moved on to film, where he excelled again. Someone Like You, As Good As It Gets, Nurse Betty and The Gift to name a few tasty tidbits. Now he's heading the cast in Auto Focus. The often-brutal story about Bob Crane of Hogan's Heroes fame. Wow. It's really a role suited like a custom Armani for the talented Joe. Like Crane he started in communications and has that mid-America charisma fastened to his being. Slurp.

Unlike Crane, Kinnear seems well balanced, happily married and pretty together. Recently we had a chance to sit and chat. It's no secret to those that read regularly, I'm smitten with this palooka and if he weren't happily married to some gorgeous gal I'd have flirted but I have some respect believe it or not. He was cruel....smartly dressed and gregarious...I nearly swooned. But enough about my overtly obsessive desires, let's jump into the cinnamon bun sweet world of uber cutey Greg Kinnear shall we?

Greg: Good to see you! You're late ![with a giggle and a wink]

Emily: No, no... I was in the girls room

Greg: I doooon't think so. I been here for...what twenty? [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah okay. Look I was right behind you in the hall see! You leaped in front of me - you watch it handsome!

Greg: I should get [laughter]

Emily: Good idea. Um, wow! What a performance young man! I understand you watched the "real" tapes of Bob Crane's sexual escapades to , er, get into the character of Bob?

Greg: Thanks. And yeah. Paul [ Schrader] educated me - in what didn't take a very long time - in the dark seedy world of " Bob Crane's World of Home Movies." And a little goes a long way. It's not like you have to go, "Oh, there's that," and, "Okay there's that…" and, "Oh and …I'm getting it." You know the most startling thing about Bob's collection was less about the sexual nature of it, because it was what it was, but it was the volume of it! There's just reams and detailed documentation and chronology of all of these events! It was quite amazing.

Emily: How'd you get involved with Auto Focus? This is pretty risky stuff here!

Greg: I was pretty stupid I think. [laughter] My own naivety worked out quite nicely. I didn't realize till afterwards when people started saying, " Hey, pretty risky" I started to go "Huh, …oh, yeah…yeah… I know that…" [laughter - gosh he's swell when he does these impromtu impressions…] I didn't give it a great deal of thought I thought the script was good. And the story was something that I was interested in and dealt with issues and subject matter relevant to today. I have done comedy and dramas and this struck me as a contemporary tragedy. I thought there were elements I thought were sadly funny and disturbing and other at times just sad. You're always as an actor trying to find new roles and challenges. This was a little scary, but that's not always bad! Most of the jobs I've taken the more thoughtful I've been about the project ahead of time the more satisfied I've been with the work.

Emily: Was this an easy role for you since you are similar in backgrounds?

Greg: Well, you know I think there are big differences between…although Bob had a transitional period. Bob went from radio to television and I guess I went from television to film to a certain extent. But the bigger issue in terms of a comparison that people have about us is the awareness that people have about him not me. Which was so staggering. He was a radio personality first. He was enormous. He was kind of a Rick Dees meets Howard Stern type guy. A lot of big stars went on his show. He was known around the country as making groundbreaking work. And when he went on to the TV show he might as well have been one of the "Friends." George Clooney! [ he says well knowing my adoration for Georgie] That's how big it was. I was working at 1:35 in the morning before I started film work and it's not like I'm setting the world on fire [laughter]. I've done some movies that …a few that have done well but it hasn't been the same level of exposure. And it was that level that was the significant thing for him. Because it was his fame that in some ways derailed him and also his fame that allowed him to indulge in the lifestyle he may not have indulged had he not been famous. He did and a nature of addiction took over and it worked out the way that it did.

Emily: Good point. Geeze celebrity doesn't have enough pitfalls huh? And I tell you people know where you come from…

Greg: Oh they DO don't they [laughter]

Emily: Paul Schrader [the director of Auto Focus] said it was because of your E! days he thought of you. And he felt, or knew, you could handle the role because of the diversity he'd seen on film as well as that E! persona which was Bob-ish. See, it's not always bad to be "known."

Greg: Maybe that's true. My first introduction to the movie was actually Scott and Larry who did Man on the Moon and Larry Flint. They were the ones that initially called me about this role. I read it and was blown away and I thought it kind of caught the spirit of this guy. I was "attached" - I love saying that [giggle] Nobody's ever really attached till a movie's done of course. Paul heard about it,and me "attached" and thankfully was agreeable to direct it. Because I did think we needed somebody like Paul that understood the dark nature of that kind of persona to do this kind of study of this kind of character. You needed a guy who'd been down this road and of course he's been down it many many times over. Comedic elements of the movie? Hasn't done a lot of comedy, Paul, but I was encouraged that he just understood Bob in a way that even I couldn't and he definitely helped me through the role.

Emily: You're kind of a celeb do you get these offers like Bob…I mean all the free video equipment and stuff of course?

Greg: [wink] Oh yeah, equipment…women [hearty laughter]. Um, seriously ya know as a celebrity yes sometimes…there's a lot of people around that can enable you. A lot of times "celebrity" can magnify who the person really is. If you're a jerk you'll probably be a bigger jerk! And if they are trying to do something good, you can raise money and awareness…your celebrity will allow you to do more. Who knows though? It's a tricky thing. I still don't understand what it means.

Emily: What's next Gregory? I can't wait to see it [oops I batted my lashes! Flirted. Damn my evil ways ]

Greg: I don't know.

Emily: Well, I am still swirling with delight from this last project for you! I can't think of anyone who could have done "Bob" better! You came up with so many little mannerisms and ticks that really exuded Crane to us.

Greg: I had a lot of help from Bob Crane Jr. He was wildly helpful. He was twenty-five or so when his dad died and knew his dad really well. He provided a lot of smaller details and filled in the blanks on who Bob was. Because mostly it wasn't like we were doing Nixon- you just know that person- the only way you know Bob Crane is from Hogan's Heroes. Who he was off camera is much more interesting to me than who he was on camera. I looked at things Bob Jr. had; albums and an amazing log book his dad kept of the families water polo ball games. Bob would keep these detailed ledgers on which kid made what shots and how many goals each kid made, who was guarding who, what the win/loss ratio was…they were so fascinating and detailed that it was clear to me this guy had an obsessive nature about him. In terms of his vocal quality there were hints in his radio works Bob Jr. shared with me. Very langiush and had this [Greg does a Casey Casem voice] show business patter to him. There were not a lot of middle grounds for Bob it was either up here or down here.

Emily: You think the sad and violent end of Bob Crane's life was inevitable?

Greg: No I don't. I think that Paul and I have differed on this issue. He believes that Bob was always the guy that he was the hypocrisy just fell away once Hogan's Heroes went away. He just couldn't fake it anymore. I believe that he was sinking. And your lifestyle choices have ramifications. I think that some of the choices and what he decided to participate in had real consequences. I do believe that by taking some of those earlier steps that he took it probably led him into deeper and deeper water. And eventually your trying to swim [ he pauses and get a serious serious look] But ya know Emily the truth is nobody really knows. There's no answer for it.

Emily: You think he was in the wrong profession for his addictions?

Greg: Oh yeah. Absolutely. It's like an alcoholic working as a bartender. He was absolutely in the wrong profession.

Emily: Was it harder or easier to play a real person? To keep it honest?

Greg: There's a burden of authenticity when you're doing a non-fictional character…you can fill in the blanks. When you're playing a real person there's evidence of who that person is. There are choices that you are not free to make. They have already made them and you need to pattern certain aspects of your performance. They have to tie into these choices. So in some ways it's more difficult. On the other hand you have stuff to view. In Bob's case I was able to watch hours of Hogan's Heroes, his movie work, read letters he'd written and listens to his radio broadcasts and get a sense of the guy. It helps in forming performances that you otherwise can't get. I think it's tough whether they are fictional or not and they have each have their own unique challenges. Coffee?

Emily: Yeah.

We stopped - he was exhausted from all the chatter. I went in semi-smitten and emerged firmly smitten (platonically speaking) and deeply respectful. Greg's smart and witty - just the way I love them. Ah, but in all honesty his wife is great too. They're a handsome couple and a lucky couple. They fit. Greg's man heroin looks and charms aside, under all that weight of raw grade A manmeat is a true talent that has, with each role he delivers, been steadfast in its growth. I said it before and I'll say it again - this guy's got it! Go on go see Auto Focus, or rent As Good as it Gets, indulge in the one they call Greg.


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