I'll Do Anything

Ian McKellen Video Online

Words by Ian McKellen

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of the seminal sitcoms with which James L. Brooks set the standards that others have tried to match, basing their situation and their comedy on a group rather than on a star performer. So when he asked me to join Nick Nolte and Albert Brooks in a scene of I'll do Anything I was elated. I had only three lines and—I must check this sometime—a fart, I think.  [Webmaster's note: no extraneous noises are evident on the film's soundtrack.]

I was playing an Australian action-movie director slumped on a sofa watching producer Albert auditioning actor Nick. It was a funny scene which James L. viewed in a room adjacent to the set, surrounded by friends whose laughter sometimes penetrated the intervening wall and made retakes necessary. More often the audience's silence was more disruptive to Albert, who had the brunt of the comedy. If he was funny, retakes were needed. If the audience was silent, he was judged not to be funny. This no-win situation carried on for three days and I just slumped further, grateful that I didn't have more to do.

Originally there was to be music by the artist still best known as "Prince" but it didn't survive the final cut of the movie, which is one of director Brooks' few flops. Nick and I merrily remembered all this during the 1998 Oscar season, when we were both nominated as Best Actor. — Ian McKellen, June 2000