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William H MacyWilliam H. Macy | Loser? Think Again...
an emily blunt interview


 

People always ask me (okay, mostly my medling family...), "Why do you slave over a hot monitor, toiling away, skipping the social life etc., if you aint makin' bags of cash?" Simple. I adore film - and thespians. It's a passion. So naturally when William H. Macy - the actor's actor - who holds a special place in my little art-loving heart, okayed our interview it was like a sports fan getting the illusive Babe Ruth card - mint - in the original package.

Admittedly, I sat across from Mr. Macy with this nonstop silly Cheshire cat-like grin. He probably thought I was stoned. But I was genuinely tickled into a shade of rhubarb he would share his acting tales, and even a great acting pointer for those in the craft, all with little old me…this is a big golden perk of my labors.

Bill's amazingly likeable. Instantly. And he's one of the few that looks exactly as he does on film (less I recall the horrible reality of the Gazoo-like features of John Cusack for example…)

Willy McTalent said he's over playing losers…well till he saw this script…then he said this would be it - The Cooler's Bernie would send his typecasting niche up in a blaze. He's right. "Bernie" is an uber-loser, but he's also a swell guy that ultimately transforms into a hero any gal should be lucky enough to snag.

The Cooler opens shortly and is highly recommended, not just for Macy, but also for the beautiful (and underrated) Maria Bello who steals scenes and an intense, forceful Alec Baldwin, who is positively menacing as a casino manager that oozes that special coldness found in soulless folks…

Emily: What a fun movie!

William H: Isn't it cool?

Emily: Oh yeah. It was nice seeing you naked! [drat- damn me and my bluntness…] Is that a new era for you?

William H: [blushing - nervous laughter] No. On stage I've been naked A LOT [laughter]. For some reason there was a period there where I did nudity - seems like - once a year. It's easier on stage isn't it? The artifice is more impenetrable. You've got that presidium black hole their and its easier to be in your own little world. In the movies there's people running all over the place.

Emily: How did you get comfortable?

William H: You don't [laughter] you never feel comfortable- you just have to go on. Do it anyway. It's one of the things I've always loved must about acting-it's a powerful moments there 100 people running around the set…there's all this chaos then…suddenly…everyone stands still. Very quiet and they're ALL looking at you. It's your turn to you now hit the mark- shoot the gun - hit the mark - do all this technical stuff seemingly it's easy- but it's real easy to overwhelm you or bring you to life. Taking your clothes off is a great test- it can be overwhelming or shut it all out. Have courage and look at all the other people - and just go ahead with it. It's great IF you can pull it off.

Emily: How about the emotional changes your character Bernie went through?

William H: Well just telling the story brings you to life…that brings it to life. Telling the story it lives in you. And we did some tricks too. One? The lighting changes. Wayne had this whole green lighting when I was depressed- it was all green and cool. When I fell in love it got warm and red. He did something with the lights- he made them more flattering as I fell in love. And the costumer [Kristin M. Burke] god bless her, I started me in a 42 - I wear a 39 - I wear the same suit throughout. She tailored so it looked like it was correct- but my little neck was floating around [laughter] in this 16 ½ collar and the shoulders…I was swimming in this suit. As I met "Natalie," Maria [Bello], it became smaller slowly…she put me in a 41, a 40 then finally in a suit that fit me- so I seemed to grow into my own clothes. It really worked. We did my hair dorky- then less dorky - then moviestar [laughter].

Emily: You work with many first time directors. Is there any reason behind it or circumstance?

Macy at Four SeasonsWilliam H: Because I do so many little films and work with so many first time directors - be it right or wrong - it's self defense- I always sit them down and give the general speech…I say to them in some form or another…" Make art on your own time! You're a general - you will be commanding 100s of people. The day is twelve hours long. It is NOT 16 hours long - and if it is 16 hours long I am going to be very angry with you. It is your job to figure out your shots come in prepared and shoot them as simply and directly as you can. If you've got time to make art? Fine. But do it on your own time." I said, " you better be prepared. If you're making up stuff on the set? I'm gonna be down your throat - 'cause there's just no time." And when we started shooting it became clear from day one he knew exactly what he was doing. That he had cut the film in his head and when things changed - he was a first time director- he ran out of time a few times-it happens - but he has an indefatigable knowledge of films- he knows every film ever made! He kept talking about the score, "Wait till, you hear the score!" I couldn't help but thinking, " Dude, if you're think the music is going to save this movie we are shit out of luck!" [laughter] It's never happened before and it'll never happen!" Boy was I wrong. It lifted the movie into this context and completed the whole image! That Mark Isham score is magnificent. I see you have the cd there! It's perfect isn't it?

Emily: I love it it's swinging! [well - it is] Do you monitor the dailies then?

William H: It's hard to see it when you're making it and I feel - in some respects - I feel it'll get in my way…I'm not one that runs to the monitor to see the play back. I don't go to dailies. It's best if I can keep my attention on the nano-seconds. Those little tiny moments in front of me. And keep it as much in the real world- the here and now and bring what ever I'm feeling to it irrespective of what the results might be and to leave that up completely to the director. So it's always nice to see what the look of the film is after all. I've gotten a little more cagey. So I do see a couple of days of dailies- just to see how the DP is shooting me and the pace of the thing- just in case. But after that, no, I don't see dailies.

Emily: So, do you gamble?

William H: I don't like to gamble. But in that Bernie and I are similar - we both stink at gambling [laughter]. But that's it. I don't feel like a loser in life. One of my early memories is of my grandmother. She use to look at me and say, "Billy, you are a serendipitous!" Isn't that sweet?

Emily: Precious.

William H: It's true I've always been a lucky guy. I don't know if it's Polly Anna-ish or not but I always look at the bright side I always think half full. I am blessed in my life- good things seem to happen to me. I've always landed on my feet. I've been shot down many times but I always come out of it. And I feel what's great about this movie is it talks abut the transforming power of love. It's probably jive but I choose to believe that it's true! Bernie thinks he's a complete loser-and worse - that he's justifiably a complete loser. He doesn't think he deserves anymore and all is right 'tween heaven and Earth that he is a loser. And Natalie feels the same way. But what they can do is love. One of his great strengths is he can put his attention totally on her and love her like I think EVERY woman wants to be loved. Completely and with all of his body. When he does that he lifts her up- and she has the same affect. She sees the giant in this guy. And he sees the beauty in her- and together they are unstoppable…and I just love that story.

Emily: You are an Academy member. Do you have an opinion to share on the whole screener fiasco?

William H: I do. I think the whole notion about "piracy" didn't hold water. I mean when the press release came out? First of all by the time the Oscars© come out you can rent just about every screener and they've been in the theaters forever! It just didn't hold water. I'm not a conspirasist theorist like some people…but I think there's an element of the studios being tired of these little Indies walking away with their Oscars©. But I think it's healthy for our business - it's healthy for our business to level the playing field so people can find these films. I say, Send the screeners out!" In many ways they can help. Because of my kids the only way I can see most are screeners. I get to the movies once every three weeks now. I use to go three four times a week! Now it's a big deal. It's even a bigger deal when I don't fall asleep during it! [laughter].

William H: What draws you to a film?

Emily: The script. I have a friend that keeps saying, "You have to work with directors- that's how you should make your decisions." I think if it aint on the page that's it. You can screw up a great script- it can be done. But when they stink on the page there's nothing you can do. You can spend a trillion dollars on them they're still gonna stink in the theater!

Emily: But didn't you pass on this and then get badgered?

The Cooler BernieWilliam H: Yeah. The badgering did come after the first time I said no! [laughter] I had literally said to my agent, "NO more losers. I'm acting myself into a hole here," and I was looking towards the future and spinning my wheels…of course then I read the script for real. I mean there's losers... Then there's THIS! [laughter. I mean this is biblical and I…plus they made it for a buck. Literally the movie started out for a million dollars…I don't know what they ended up with but that was it. We found this casino that they were going to remodel- we rented it and moved in-that's why it looks like it does. We couldn't afford to make this movie any other way. I had many reasons not to do it. You don't get paid, I had a brand-new kid.. I said no MANY times…and each time- that's where the noodling came in. Especially Ed Pressman [producer] - he would just not stop [laughter]. He would just sort of smile and say, "Okay.' Then the next week THERE HE WAS AGAIN! [laughter]. " When are we going to do this?"

Emily: Do you prepare?

William H: Nope. Do none. When I first started acting I was very elaborate. I carried a wallet with fake I.D.s and I would do a history of the character. I could tell you everybody who lived down the street and I'd make up this stuff. And as I got older I thought, "I wonder what would happen if I didn't do that." I discovered nothing happened! [laughter] In reality you can't bring all that on stage. The older I've gotten the more I've realized hit the mark, say the lines correctly - as they are written - and put your attentions on THE OTHER person and get them to do whatever your objective is. That's 100% of your attention. There's no room for any of that other horseshit that you wanna bring in; your history, the arc. It's just NOT doing. If you're doing it right you're 100% engaged; just putting your attention on the other person and doing your job.

Emily: That's what Strasberg teaches.

William H: Yes.

END

There you go kids! An acting pointer from one of the greatest. And I'm so glad he decided to end his loser streak with The Cooler …I mean let's face it, Macy gives great geek, and this "Bernie's" the upper echelon of the class.

You have to see this film. The work - on all accounts - is superb and you want Macy? You got him and his "Young Will and the twins" to boot! Ewwweeee.


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