Quote, Unquote 2001
|Bridget Freer FHM May 2001
|Article||Bridget Freer FHM May 2001
Q. You play a US politician in your new film, The Contender. Ever had any real-life presidential encounters?
A. Not so far, no. I was invited to Bush's inauguration but I couldn't go; that would have been quite exciting. I dare say I'll end going to one of those functions at the White House.
Q. You were unhappy when you saw the final cut of The Contender. What didn't you like about it?
A. I'd seen an earlier version at a screening that I personally felt was working, but somewhere along the way it was altered. I'd been working closely with Rod Lurie, the director and writer of the film, as a sort of creative team, but then he got some new friends - bigger, richer, more famous friends - and made changes to the movie that I was not a part of. In the early cut I saw, I was a complex character in a very ambiguous movie; then suddenly there was scary music playing every time I appeared. It came off the rails a bit.
Q. There was talk of you getting nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for The Contender - were you gutted you didn't make the list?
A. I cared, yes. An Oscar would have been nice - it would have got me closer to what I want to do, which is make more films. But I didn't care for very long. The nominations come and if you're not on the list you go, "Oh well," like I've done a lot of times before.
Q. You've played a lot of movie villains. Do people think you're a bad boy in real life?
A. It's true, because I play villains so convincingly some people do feel I must be unhinged or something. A producer might say something like, "He's a good actor but he's a bit crazy, isn't he?" That gets a bit boring. I did make a comedy, Nobody's Baby, last year, but it's like trying to turn the Titanic on a dime.
Q. Have you ever scared a small child?
A. I don't scare kids. Although, years ago, I was staying with a friend, Doug, who has a little boy and one day one of his teachers took Doug aside and said, "Your son has a very over-active imagination - he thinks that Beethoven and Dracula are living at your house." So Doug says, "Yeah, they do." The teacher stepped back about four feet. If he'd said Lee Harvey Oswald as well, we'd have been in big trouble.
Q. Your directorial debut, Nil By Mouth, wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs. Would you like to make a silly, throwaway comedy next?
A. No. I have written another script, set in New York, which is lighter than Nil By Mouth, but it's not silly. I'm trying to raise money for it, but it's incredibly difficult to get a film financed unless it's star-driven - which is why an Oscar would be good. An Oscar carries some weight.
Q. You recently said you were surprised that more people in Hollywood don't get murdered. Did you have any candidates in mind?
A. No! It's just that there's so much two-faced backstabbing in the industry I'm surprised more people aren't bumped off - but I said it with a twinkle in my eye. If I didn't need to do it, I'd walk away from this business in a flash, because of the horrible people - liars, cheats, people who renege on deals...
Q. When you played skinless freak Mason Verger in Hannibal, you wanted your role to be uncredited. Why didn't you want your name on the movie?
A. I'm unrecognizable in the film because I have no face, so we thought we'd have fun with that. I'm a man with lots of faces, so we thought we'd give no name to the faceless man and see if people worked out who it was.
e spoiled it now....
A. Well, you did ask.
Q. You like to collect art. Is it all on show, or do you keep your canvases locked away?
A. It's mostly movie artwork - I have an incredible selection of Cassavetes posters and a big French thing, 400 Blows - the Truffaut film. And a couple of Lautrecs and a Picasso pencil drawing. I might put the Picasso over the mantelpiece.
Q. Have you ever given in to any artistic yearnings yourself?
A. I've worked with Julian Schnabel, the abstract expressionist. One weekend, we painted a couple of pictures together on his tennis court, on these big old canvases. It's just fantastic, the feeling. I kept thinking about what I'd done, so the next morning he said, "Let's go take a look", His were rather good, but mine... I'd only put four big sploshes on and by the fourth bit of paint I'd already buggered the thing up. Julian just said, "Oh don't worry. I can salvage that," and he did something to it and sold it.
Q. What's the best thing you've acquired from the set of one of your movies.
A. The BAFTA award Joe Orton was given for Loot in Prick up Your Ears. They'd had a few made up and I said to the props guy, "Can I have one of these?" So he gave it to me. I really like it.
Q. You're the king of accents. Is there one you can't do?
A. I can do a rough approximation of virtually any accent. I've always done them; as a kid I used to do the Beatles as a party piece. When I was with the Royal Court Theatre we used to piss around and people would say, "I bet you can't do Zimbabwe," so I did it. The accent on The Contender - Illinois - was the hardest I ever had to do, because there's no melody to catch on to. Most accents have a music to them, but Illinois is a very flat, unimaginative thing.
Q. Apparently, you snipped out a tabloid story about you headlined "Boozy Randy Horror". Have you got any other favourites you snuck into your scrapbook?
A. Yeah, I kept that one for a while. Then there was the story about me beating up Robert DeNiro who I've never actually met. But it's the Internet that bothers me. I recently ran into an old sparring partner of mine, Winona Ryder, and we had our photograph taken. It was all very chatty, very pleasant - but on the net it was billed like some secret, romantic thingy, headline: "Gary and Winona back together." We were never together in the first place!
Q. When you were a kid growing up in south-east London, you wanted to be a concert pianist. Did you get the piss ripped out of you by the local toe-rags for that?
A. Oh yes - until you sit down and play Elton John. That shuts them up. But I kept the idea of wanting to act quiet because it's not something you do, is it, in Sarf London?
Q. When you auditioned to study drama, somebody asked you what you had to fall back on and you said, "thieving". What was the biggest thing you ever stole?
A. Um, I dunno, I can't talk about that. It was bits and bobs - all harmless fun, all part of growing up and being British. Everybody did it/
Q.What do you want to be doing when you're an old man?
A. I have a romantic notion of me with the grandkids, sort of like Picasso or Peter O'Toole or someone. I may look better than Peter though. Maybe I'll go back into theatre. And of course I'll have written my book and've fucking nailed everyone - really given it to them.
Q.You've gone though a bit of a drink problem. What was the first thing you noticed when you came off the booze?
A. How much other people drink - way more than they'd like to admit to. I don't hanker after it because I know where it can take me. I don't ever want to go back to that.
Q. So you're teetotal now?
A. I had to stop completely, yeah. It's not difficult - the obsession lifts, but you have to work on it. Putting down the drink is just the beginning.
Q. Finally, if you were given the chance to live forever, but were unable to ever have sex
again, would you go for it?
A. Yes. No hesitation. I could watch.