31 December 2002
Happy New Year!
VISITORS ON SET
Q: Can you send backstage tickets when filming a movie? Actually letting people watch you film? or is it like a restricted area where no one can enter except for people who are involved with the movie?
A: In the early days of silent movie-making in Hollywood, the public paid to watch the cameras turning, corralled behind fences and seated even in bleachers. These days, where on-set etiquette is strictly observed, only trusted friends and family of the cast and crew are allowed to observe shooting. So I'm afraid, unless you know someone involved, visiting a movie stage is much more difficult than gaining admission to either The White House or Buckingham Palace during the tourist season.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
From: Mathew Green firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I have always admired (and enjoyed) the fact that you seem to balance "important" films like GODS AND MONSTERS with "lighter" material like X-MEN. I wonder if you seek the same balance on the stage. I have marvelled at your CORIALANUS and MACBETH, and it makes me wonder if something like THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST appeals to you, as an artist?
A: Much the most important element in any actor's career is luck but I do aim for a varied one, balancing movies and theatre, with new work and classics, comedy and high drama. I was asked recently to play Lady Bracknell and, not being able to think of any reason why I should (other than to spite the women queuing up to play her,) I refused. Maybe Canon Chasuble one day. I regret I missed playing Algy and Jack Worthing just luck.
Q: In response to one of your posts, the Library of Congress does not have any of your Broadway plays. However, the New York Public Library does have the Theatre On Film and Tape Archive, and their collection does include "Amadeus", "Acting Shakespeare" and "Dance of Death". They don't have "A Knight Out". The NYPL allows only limited access (one has to be a researcher) and only allows viewings at the library during scheduled appointments. I don't know who owns the rights to these videos, but perhaps you could arrange for these plays to be made more readily accessible to your fans. I am sure I'm not the only one who would like to see more of your work.
A: Thanks for clearing up the details. No one is paid and it is agreed that these recordings of live performances are absolutely never to be shown publically. So no one owns the rights.
Q: I would just like to thank you so much for coming to the Seattle AIDS Walk. My daughters and I did raise $550 for the cause as we knew Gandalf would be watching. We have decided to make the walk an annual even for us until there is a cure.
A: Thank you and bravissima!
Q: I'm an Italian admirer of yours and I was particularly impressed by your interpretation of Gandalf. From then on I watched all your movies and plays. My question is: will you soon play in a piece that I could come and see?
A: I am planning to appear on the London stage earlier rather than later.
[Webmaster's Note: Dance of Death starring Ian McKellen and Frances de La Tour begins previews 20 February 2003, in London.]
A CORPSE ONSTAGE
Q: Hello, I played Macbeth in a school play when i was 16. On the second night during the Banquet scene, when Banquo's ghost appeared disaster struck. As lady macbeth was trying to rouse me (as Macbeth) out of one of my fits her hair-piece fell off, right in front of me. This bought me into such a state, trying to suppress my laughter, which in such a dramatic scene was quite difficult. I failed. My speeches became mumbles and my face was red and tearful with giggles appearing from all over me. Has such a terrible tragedy ever befallen you?
A: Your story sounds dreadfully familiar, reminding me of a still-shaming corpse during Caste at Ipswich in 1962. "Corpse" is the technical term ironical of course because the last things stage corpses should do is laugh. Inadvertent laughter on stage, as in church, becomes all the more hilarious because of the occasion, and for the actor it's even worse, unable any longer to inhabit the character and wondering what on earth he's doing, appearing in front of a paying audience. Faced with that, all the most serious-minded actor can do, on occasion, is to corpse.
From: Teri Kronberg email@example.com
Q: I have been researching the theatrical career of John Castle. In fact, I've been putting a website together on his career. I know that you were in "The Promise" with Mr. Castle. Was that the only time you worked together, and not on stage? I was wondering if you have any thoughts to share about working with him?
A: John and I became immediate friends when we filmed The Promise and it's unlucky that we haven't worked together since then. We share a sense of the ridiculous and laugh a great deal when we meet. He is adept at Shakespeare and the classics (a wonderful step-father to Daniel Day Lewis's Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre) but is equally at home in new work onstage or onscreen.
From: Dan Dagwood firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Have you done any Voice-Overs for cartoons? Like X-Men, Batman Beyond, He-Man, Justice League, The Simpsons (especially The Simpsons)?
A: Like no, no, no, no, no. I once auditioned unsuccessfully at Buena Vista studios for a Disney animated film which seems to have been abandoned.
Q: Are you a fan of the American T.V. Show "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"? It is one of my favorites, and one of the few to feature openly gay characters (Willow and Tara) in prominent and positive roles. I have found that this show generally attracts only viewers of the most highly refined, intellectually gifted, and tasteful variety, all three of which fit you to a tee. Also it has some ties to Theatre, as one episode featured Hinton Battle, the only living three time Tony Award winner (and a great performer). Keep up the good work!!!!
A: I used to marvel at Hinton Battle's acrobatic dancing on Broadway circa 1980. Although Jack Plotnick (who stripped for me in Gods and Monsters) has been a Simpsons regular and although I concur (just a little) with your compliments, I am still not a signed-up fan of the show. I've a feeling that I ought to be.
From: Georgia Donovan email@example.com
Q: For many years I have been looking for a video of two of his most fabulous performances: "Dying Day" from PBS series MYSTERY and "Acting Shakespeare" from 1982 TV special. If anyone knows anywhere that these are available or has a copy PLEASE let me know.
A: Dying Day is not available as far as I know. Acting Shakespeare (recorded in a New York television studio) still exists on a master video tape which may yet be released for public consumption.
[Webmaster's note: Dying Day occasionally appears for sale on E-bay.]