Billy Magnussen Strips, Kisses Sigourney Weaver, And Shacks Up With A ‘Gossip Girl’ Guy

A sort of blond Adonis, 27-year-old actor Billy Magnussen is not only chiseled to Ken doll perfection; he’s also quite a riot. Especially in his ongoing stage engagement, assuming the role of wannabe actor Spike in playwright Christopher Durang’s latest work, the poignant and amusing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Indeed, Magnussen takes Lincoln Center Theater by storm, self-described as a “bull in a china shop,” attracting laughs with the delivery of his hilarious lines and smiles—and stares—with several instances of near nudity.

Performing shirtless is nothing new to the young actor, who in 2008 joined As The World Turns, taking over the character of Casey Hughes, who just so happened to be topless a lot of the time. Between then and now, Magnussen has appeared on the big screen (think Damsels In Distress, among others) as well as on some of TV’s biggest hits, such as Boardwalk Empire, CSI, Law & Order, and In Plain Sight. Yes, this kid’s got the chops, the mug, and the bod to command jobs any up-and-coming actor would be thrilled to land. Plus, he mans the bass guitar in a rock band called Reserved For Rondee, which regularly jams in music clubs around NYC.

Magnussen has the rare honor now to call David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver his colleagues, as they, along with a wonderfully funny and endearing Kristine Nielsen (whose impression of Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith alone is reason enough to secure tickets), make up the mass of VSMS. Directed by Nicholas Martin and produced in association with the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton (where it opened in September) this touching Chekhov-esque parody has just been extended to January 20 at LTC, and I highly recommend attending. If nothing else, Magnussen’s boy toy to Weaver’s cougar presents a romantic-meets-raunchy pairing that must be seen to be believed.

Magnussen, whom I’d prefer to refer to as Billy, because we’re friends, came by for coffee last week to discuss this theatrical venture I dare say New York Magazine would deem “Highbrow” and “Brilliant.” Between sneezes (he’s allergic to my “catty-cat,” as he nicknamed the feline foster staying with me), Billy shared some fun stuff, from the story behind his wrist tattoo to the surprising ritual that sometimes takes place backstage between scenes.

Something that perhaps doesn’t adequately come across in what follows, however, is this: Billy really throws himself into this Spike guy, giving dimension to a somewhat self-congratulatory climber type. He makes despicable also attractive, redeeming even. There’s a lot of Billy in Spike, which those who know him well will agree shines through in the best possible ways. That attitude, that talent, that laugh. Billy’s bud or not, I sincerely suggest seeing this lovely little show in this intimate environment. You never know where it could be headed next.

What’s the story behind this wrist tattoo?
I was with friends out partying and they’re like, “Let’s all get tattoos!” And I was like, “Okay, let’s go.” [They said,] “Billy, you go first.” I got a tattoo and they’re like, “Eh, we’re not gonna get tattoos.”

You were the only one?!
I was the only one!

A permanent “friendship” bracelet.
I guess! At least this reminds me my friends are assholes. [Laughs]

I’d be pissed. So, onto something more relevant, how did you get involved with this play?
I auditioned. I auditioned five times. It started with just the casting director, then the director, then the writer, then producers, that kinda thing.

Were you nervous?
No, because the character isn’t nervous. He’s just chaos in the room. I remember there was a piano, and I just started playing the piano [proceeds to imitate playing piano] for no reason.

[Laughs] Was it difficult stripping down to your skivvies? I suppose not with your ample exposure, shall we say, on As The World Turns
No. Getting into shape was the difficult part. I don’t even think about [taking off my clothes] anymore. The sooner the better. Just get over that hump. Whatever.

Do you have a specific workout routine?
It varies. I was training for a triathlon for a while and that’s really advantageous to getting in shape.

Oh, I bet. What do you eat to stay fit and trim?
Raw vegetables all the time. I usually start the morning with an apple and five strawberries. Then, like, two raw vegetables for lunch and a white meat, like fish, [with more raw vegetables] for dinner. I love broccoli, peppers. If [I] get hungry [I] eat dill pickles or Wasa Crackers.

Keep in mind, protein is readily available (and absorbable) from plant-based sources. No meat necessary. Anyway, have you been hating the diet?
No. Also, I have a pretty big vitamin regimen. I love B12!

That’s too funny. I’ve never met anyone who “loves” a particular vitamin. I applaud your enthusiasm. Is it tough to learn lines by rote?
[My] job is to memorize the lines. After [I] memorize the lines, [I] have the freedom to play and do anything [I] want.

Speaking of playing, did you have to overcome some sort of professional hurdle to get intimate with Sigourney Weaver?
She was wonderful to work with. Unbelievable. I can’t be more thankful for how open, free, and fun she [is]. Everyone in the show [is]: Kristine and David. They’re all so awesome. It’s an honor to be working with them. Just learning from them. These are veterans.

What kinds of things have you taken away from them thus far?
Little things, from how to work with a line or throw a line out, to keep[ing] composure through the run. It’s a long run. Holding it together…it’s a lot. It’s eight shows a week. It really is draining.

But you love it.
I love it. It’s a wonderful project to be on. But, you get a little [exasperated] after a while. But, every show’s a new show. David and I share a dressing room, so we pep talk before and hang out, bullshit and talk about the show as it’s going on. My favorite thing is switching things up.

Such as?
Sometimes throwing Sigourney on the floor. It’s up to her. There’s a moment in the play where I’m alone with David and I get closer and closer. There was one night I started playing with his beard. The nipple thing just came out of being like, You ready? [Laughs]

That wasn’t written into the script?
No. The motorboat-ing wasn’t in the script either. I popped my shirt open in the audition, too.

Gotta love the cheek. What was the most difficult scene to master?
I would say my audition for Entourage 2. I have to be Spike doing his best audition—it’s really bad—but still be funny. There’s so many layers. That was the most challenging thing, finding that audition. It’s ridiculous. I mean, I’m talking about Entourage 2!

I know, which actually isn’t the most implausible program to exist…
Yeah, I know. [Laughs]

What’s been your favorite aspect of this experience so far?
Giving a bow at the end of a show to give thanks for the audience’s time. That’s my favorite. Just to say thank you. They went on a journey with us. They play with us. The uncertainty is what’s exciting. The audience, through [us], gets to play. You get older and you forget. You forget how to imagine. And, doing a play, the audience is the energy. They really are. They create the world.

Given this, what’s your opinion of the art of theater versus the art of film and TV? You’ve been fortunate enough to do all three.
With film [and television], it’s not a do-or-die kind of moment. You get takes. The stamina in theater—you have to be in character for two-and-a-half hours! In film, you shoot a scene and walk away.

I’ve always wondered, when you leave the stage and go backstage, what do you do?
Sundays, I’m doing the show and I go back and watch football. Then I hear my cue. Then I go back and watch the Jets lose. I play Words With Friends. I think it’s insane.

[Laughs] Wow. Does David watch football with you?
[Laughs] No! I try to get David to watch football. He’ll be like, “Oh shit, the Yankees are losing.” He has no clue. I had fantasy football and I’d tell him about my team and he’d be like, “Yes! Who?” He’s such a nice guy. I really have a friend there. All of them.

I’ve interviewed David at various events and he’s just a lovely individual to talk to.
He’s a soft, sweet guy. And he’s amazing to watch during the show. He’s always there, but he’s a stealth missile the whole play. He’s so specific all the time. It’s kind of wonderful to watch.

Absolutely. You’re all wonderful to watch. It’s a great play. So, is there something you love most about what you do?
I like playing the bad guy. Even in this I’m the “bad guy.”

Indeed! Well, you and Sigourney Weaver. Speaking of being bad, what kind of name is Hootie Pie [the name of Weaver’s unseen assistant in the play]?
When [Christopher Durang] was writing that day, Pootie Tang was on TV!

Hilarity. Ah, the wily ways of writers. That’s some interesting trivia. What’s some fun trivia about your life in NYC?
I live[ed] with Hugo Becker? He was Prince Louis on Gossip Girl. We did Damsels in Distress together. He’s back in Paris now. I miss him, man. He was so cool.

Oh la la! Small entertainment world…
He’s so funny, because that’s not him on Gossip Girl at all. He’s goofy. He’s a goof-French-ball!

[Laughs] Were you ever invited to appear on the show?
Yeah, but I was on the soap opera at the time, so I couldn’t ever get off.

Bummer. The series came to an end this week. Did you tune in at all during its six-season run?
No. Absolutely not. [Laughs]

Photos by T. Charles Erikson

Celebrate Boss’s Day Like a Boss With These Cinematic Honchos

It’s that time of year again: Boss’s Day. (What’s that, you ask? When is Employee’s Day? Everyday is Employee’s Day! Now shut up and get back to work, you peons!) (Yes, one could say I am blogging like a boss today.) To celebrate, here’s a list of the best bosses in movie history. "Best," of course, is a relative term, but hey, this is the internet and all I know is that I’m the boss of listicles today, so deal with it or you’re fired. 

1. Sigourney Weaver as Katharine Parker in Working Girl

2. Dabney Coleman as Franklin M. Hart, Jr. in 9 to 5

3. Diana Rigg as Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper
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4. Christopher Walken as Max Shreck in Batman Returns

5. Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada

6. Bette Midler as Sadie Shelton in Big Business

7. Michael Keaton as Captain Gene Mauch in The Other Guys

8. Garry Marshall as Walter Harvey in A League of Their Own

9. Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon in Dick

10. Harvey Keitel as Matthew "Sport" Higgins in Taxi Driver

11. Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker in In the Loop

12. Anthony LaPaglia as Joe Reaves in Empire Records

13. Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail

14. Maggie Smith as Mother Superior in Sister Act

15. John Cusack as Rob Gordon in High Fidelity

16. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest

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Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone Reunite For ‘Vamps’

I bet you were wondering if Amy Heckerling would ever direct a follow-up to her 2000 film Loser, right? (Ha, joke’s on you, everyone who forgot about I Could Never Be Your Woman.) For those of us who were satisfied with pretending that she just retired after Clueless, today’s a very bittersweet day. The trailer for her vampire romantic comedy ("What do the kids like? Vampires?" – Amy Heckerling, 2012) has finally shown up online. The good news! Alicia Silverstone is in it!

Vamps, which boasts an impressive cast featuring Krysten Ritter (whose brilliant comedic timing makes her my personal unsung hero), Dan Stevens, Wallace Shawn (so that’s what he’s been up to!), Justin Kirk, and Sigourney Weaver, is getting a straight-to-DVD release, which means it can’t be so great. But based on the trailer, it looks pretty funny? And like a cheesy ’90s comedy, which is actually a compliment? Eh, what can you do. It’s a post-Clueless Amy Heckerling movie. I’ll take what I can get. 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Cillian Murphy Sees Ghosts, Fights Robert de Niro in ‘Red Lights’

In the eyes of most skeptics, paranormal psychics are completely full of it, gussied-up hacks who make a living preying on peoples’ lack of confidence and need to believe in something bigger than themselves. There’s a career to be made in calling out these con artists, should you have the stones to take them on in public. In Red Lights, Cillian Murphy does just that, playing a watch dog who seeks to bust so-called psychics with the good ole powers of science and deduction. But when he comes up against celebrity psychic Simon Silver, played by a wily Robert de Niro, he finds out that — uh oh! — ghosts might be real.

From the looks of the trailer, it appears that Silver might actually have some real powers, though you shouldn’t discount the possibility of swamp gas and/or LSD being the eventual explanation. "We all got high as hell, officer, and then the old guy levitated twenty feet in the air." Oh, youth. Red Lights comes courtesy of Rodrigo Cortes, the guy who directed Buried, the movie where Ryan Reynolds gets stuck in a box for a few hours. Sigourney Weaver, who seems to be everywhere these days, plays Murphy’s partner, while Best New Actress Elizabeth Olsen is his girlfriend. There isn’t a specific U.S. release date yet, but it’ll happen soon enough.

Cavill, Willis & Weaver Clash in ‘The Cold Light of Day’

Have you ever gone on a family vacation that turned sour? (Of course you have.) But really, Henry Cavill’s got you beat — in The Cold Light of Day, he returns to a boat his family is vacationing on to find them missing, the walls and blankets covered in blood. Naturally, there’s a political conspiracy involving his secret agent dad, played by Bruce Willis. While Cavill tries to figure the mess out, Sigourney Weaver shows up as the government woman who wants to make the trouble go away, provided he can get her some information. It’s a trip and a romp through the streets of Spain, centered around the type of fast-paced intrigue you pay good theater money for.

Apparently, being really good-looking can make up for having zero experience as a secret agent and not understanding the language of the country you’re trapped in. But whatever: logic is suspended in all instances of Bruce Willis mashing faces, and this will be a dry run for Cavill’s potential stardom before his turn as Superman in next year’s Man of Steel. I’m having just as much fun looking at the tags on the YouTube trailer, which account for every possible spelling configuration: "the cold light of day" "the cold light if day trailer" "the cold light if day 2012" "the cold light if day official trailer" "Bruce Willis" "Henry Cavill" "Sigourney Weaver" "playtrailers" "play trailers" the cold light of day trailer the cold light of day trailer the cold light of day trailer movie 2012 high definition "official trailer" "the cold light of day trailer bruce willis" Nice try, but they forgot "Sigurney Weever" and "The Cold Light of Hey." Some dyslexics will never be able to see this thing.

Trailer Freeze: When Famous Actors Make Stupid Faces

You don’t realize it, but throughout the course of a movie, actors contort their faces in all kinds of freakish ways. It lasts a split second, so blink and you’ll miss it. But since we hear at BlackBook are committed to reducing the Hollywood glitterati into piles of stupid-looking rubble, here is our second round of Trailer Freeze, where famous actors make stupid faces. (That’s Sigourney Weaver up top, who to her credit, isn’t trying to hide it.)

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From Bardot to Lohan: Hollywood’s Women Drench Sarah Palin in Bile

When I asked actor Patrick Wilson for his take on Sarah Palin, he told me “I can’t go there.” Fortunately, Tim Robbins didn’t feel quite so restrained. With all the backlash Mrs. Palin has faced, it’s gotta hit hardest coming from her Hollywood idols. Okay fine — they’re my Hollywood idols, but it can’t be easy for her teenage daughters to hear that mommy terrifies Matt Damon. But Damon is one of few male celebrities to speak up against Palin, maybe because most are afraid of being branded as sexist. For the girls, it’s open season, and Palin is the moose in their cross-hairs. Here’s a run-through of some of the more potent estrogen-fueled Hollywood reactions to America’s newest “It” girl.

● Just a few days ago, Madonna had some harsh words for the former beauty queen at her New York concert. She also revealed Palin’s middle name to the world. Apparently it’s “Fucking.”

● Legendary screen sexbomb and current animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot wrote a scathing letter directly to Mrs. Palin, calling her “a disgrace to women” and more dangerous than a pit bull. Without lipstick, of course.

● The moment Palin announced she doesn’t support gay and lesbian marriage, you just knew Lindsay Lohan had to chime in, asking the question on her MySpace blog, “Is our country so divided that the Republicans best hope is a narrow minded, media obsessed homophobe?” She forgot an apostrophe.

● Democratic Queen Bee Barbara Streisand (sorry, Hilary) chose to speak directly to John McCain, who some think chose Mrs. Palin to lure Clinton democrats. “We are not that stupid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she wrote on her blog. If 19 exclamation marks don’t convince you, nothing will.

● Whoopi Goldberg wrote an article called “Sarah Palin Is a Very Dangerous Woman.” And this is pre-hydrogen bomb access.

● Sandra Bernhard called her a “goy whore.”

● Brooke Hogan isn’t quite sure who Sarah Palin is, but she encourages young people to vote, whether it be for President or for Vice President. She then said that she’s voting for God. Sooo, George Clooney?

● Maybe VP should stand for Vomit Producer. When TMZ asked Rose McGowan her thoughts on the Alaskan governor, she paused, then with a cringe said, “I’m sorry, that was vomit in my mouth.”

● Anne Hathaway, Sigourney Weaver, Sheryl Crow, and Cheryl Hines all took separate shots at Palin during the Elle Women in Hollywood awards.

● Back in early September, before Palin-bashing was quite so popular, Eva Mendes said we need to give her “the chance to have a fair say.” Chance given.

● On The View, Charlize Theron joked that she has seven kids. When Joy Behar asked if they live in Alaska, she said “yes, in a cave. And they can see Russia.” Elizabeth Hasselbeck tried not to smile.

● Cybill Shepherd inaccurately said that Palin opposes the right to birth control, but said that her being president “is one of the most frightening things I could ever conceive of.” I felt the exact same way about my Halloween costume circa 2003.

● Pamela Anderson wants Sarah Palin to suck it. I feel the exact same way, but not about Sarah Palin.

● Didn’t Tina Fey do something?