Gary Busey Takes a Moment to Explain Hobbits

Gary Busey is a national treasure—if you’re the kind of person who believes that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Busey has always put me ill at ease, to the extent that once I saw him on the street and actually crossed to the other side to avoid him. There’s just something about him that seems like I may be harmed if I’m in his close proximity, athough I certainly think the man’s got a good heart. Take this video, for example, in which the actor takes a moment to sit on a lawn and wax poetic about the magical nature of hobbits. He knows so many facts about them! And the man, God bless him, really does have a heart of gold. When he says, "If you people out there have had past-life regressions and feel like you might have been a hobbit in past life, let me know it," he means it! He really does care! 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter

It’s Your Fault You Saw A Crappy Movie

If I’ve ever spoken with you about film, I may have divulged this incredible talent I have: the ability to tell if a movie will suck simply by watching the trailer. I didn’t always think my capacity for avoiding cinematic turkeys was so special, but that was before Facebook made it normal to say things like “Why didn’t anybody warn me how terrible The Hobbit is? There goes three hours of my life!”

Buddy, that’s your amygdala’s job. The part of your brain associated with emotional learning and memory modulation—the part that should have been screaming, “OF COURSE IT’S TERRIBLE, IT’S A GODDAMN COMPUTER-GENERATED PREQUEL ADAPTATION OF THE FIRST THIRD OF A CHILDREN’S BOOK.” Could you have honestly expected anything even vaguely entertaining? The mind reels.

This is just like that time I bet my friend that the Watchmen movie would be unwatchable. When he lost that bet, he went double or nothing on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and I think we all know how that went. (Wait a minute—now that I think of it, there totally wasn’t a kingdom in that?) Point is, you should only be shelling out $14 to see this garbage if there’s a good chance a friend will have to buy your ticket to pay off a wager. Otherwise, please confine your unjustified indignation to IMDb message boards.

Stage and Screen Actor Lee Pace Talks Shop

Lee Pace had me at “Hello.” Or, rather, the film equivalent, which was 2006’s The Fall. Spectacularly strange and visually arresting, that movie made an instant devotee out of me. Though the tall, dark, and handsome actor had been in the biz for a few years prior to this weird and wonderful discovery, I’ve followed the 33-year-old’s trajectory ever since—and re-watched The Fall more than a few times.

Fast forward to 2012, which has been especially packed for Pace, featuring roles in Lincoln, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he’s had a good year, especially considering all three titles hit theaters (for all intents and purposes) simultaneously. This triple whammy of sorts simply must bode well on the success scale. 

From indie flicks like A Single Man and Ceremony, to blockbuster franchises, this guy’s got that special something that attracts casting directors and keeps crowds captivated. Beyond the big screen, New Yorkers can currently catch Pace as Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini in Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, a play directed by Walter Bobbie with performances through January 13 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Age audiences are granted a backstage pass to listen in and look on, taking in behind-the-scenes goings-on during opening night of Bellini’s last opera, I Puritani, at the ThéâtreItalien in Paris. Part comedy, part drama, the two-and-a-half-hour-long performance paints a living picture of what it might have been like to be there. 

The charming and approachable Pace was sweet enough to take time before taking the stage recently to talk about a few things. From his privileged yet hectic career to memorable moments, from his stance on New York to his “heartthrob” status, Pace provides a refreshingly sincere look at his life. 

So, you’ve had a super busy year…
It has been a busy year. I’m really feeling it now that the year’s coming to an end. These movies came out this past month and now we[’re] doing eight shows a week [for Golden Age]. It’s been a lot of work, so I’ll to be looking forward to a quiet new year. But, it’s been great. It’s good to be busy. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. Good characters to play and good people to work with. There’s been a lot of that this year, so I couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there any reprieve during the holiday?
Theater schedules through the holidays are relentless. I guess I figured we’d still be doing eight shows a week, but it’s tough. There’s so many shows. But, it’s good. It’s a privilege to be able to do the show for people. That people want to come is awesome.  

Given your recent roster, are there any standout moments of 2012?
Shooting scenes with Steven Spielberg in the Congress (sic) [for Lincoln], that was pretty incredible. Big scenes, lots of extras, a couple cameras moving. You really feel like, Wow, I’ll remember this. It kinda doesn’t get better than this. Then, I went to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit for a couple months. To be on those sets, which [were] equally incredible, and to collaborate on and play a character that is the product of so many people’s imaginations—Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and the costume designers—[was] very, very special. 

Any funny stories that you recall?
Funny things happened, but I always forget them. I am such an idiot. 

[Laughs] Okay, any instances on stage where you feel compelled to burst out laughing?
We really like each other a lot. All of the guys [in Golden Age] shar[e] a dressing room. We have so much fun during the half hour, talking. Ethan Phillips is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he keeps us going all through the half hour, so there are times I’ll look at him on stage and remember a joke he told and I have a hard time not laughing. 

I can imagine. What’s it like portraying a real life character versus a fictional one?
Both Fernando Wood [of Lincoln] and [Bellini of] Golden Age are based on real men. You want to have a certain respect for who they were. You want to find a connection to the real person. Understand them from an actor’s point of view, which is different from a historian’s point of view and different from a writer’s point of view. 

For sure.
In Golden Age, it’s a character. It isn’t a biopic of Bellini. This is a work of art. Terrence McNally is using the character to tell a story. I see it as my job to connect the dots between Terrence and me and Bellini, who wrote this beautiful music. I tried to figure out what it was about him, who he was, the details. There’s so many things that go into making a character.

I bet. Your Bellini also displays distinct mannerisms, tending to twitch and putter a bunch…
[Laughs] Twitch and putter. I’ll remember that tonight when I’m twitching and puttering. [Laughs]

It’s not intended as an insult!
No, he is very twitchy and putter-y. Where I started with my research was listening to the music and really trying to understand that music and believe that that music was coming out of me, that I’d written it. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to create something like that, to write music as complicated as this music. Just trying to get myself into that headspace, being backstage listening to it, that’s where I really started working out the physicality and how I moved. It kind of grew from that, so that the nervous energy finds its way into keeping the beat with the opera. He’s not a neurotic man. He’s concerned about how this artistic effort is going to be received by a discerning audience of people that he respects. He wants to do something that will be meaningful to them. It’s all about the music. He takes this opera that he has created extremely seriously. 

As you do your own work…
On the good days! No, I do. When you work with people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, you see how they take it seriously. It’s meaningful. They’re so talented. On set with Steven Spielberg, everyone felt how much that story meant to him, the story of the 16th president. Everyone on that set felt it and [was] inspired by it. And that’s how we all found ourselves on his page, because he’s inspiring. 

Wish I could have been there! So, theater versus film? Is there one you prefer?
They’re very, very different. I can’t say I prefer either one because I love both for different reasons. In film, you have very little time to get it right. And it’s not even about getting it right, because it’s important to let go of that way of thinking about it. You get what you get and move onto the next setup, onto the next scene. On stage, George C. Wolfe, who directed me in [the play] The Normal Heart, called it the actors’ revenge, because you have to step onstage every night and tell the story yourself. You just have to do it yourself. 

In a movie, you turn over your performance to the director and the editors to edit and to layer in sound and everything else that makes the performance emotional or funny or whatever. In theater, you have to land the jokes yourself. You have to understand what’s funny about it. You have to kind of feel the audience. What they’re about on any given night. With a movie, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. In The Hobbit, we can’t feel what the house is going to be like before we do it. 

Of course not. So, onto something still loftier, what’s been the greatest challenge of your career?
If I could name a challenge, it would be laughable compared to the challenges so many other people face. It’s the “funnest” job in the world. I guess the biggest challenge I could say these days is just taking it seriously. When you’re in your thirties, the parts get good for men. You get really interesting characters. That’s what I’ve noticed. Complicated men dealing with complicated things. Seeing that there’s so [much] more to investigate about the way people are, and communicat[ing] those things to an audience, that’s the challenge. You want [the] stories to be good and you want them to be truthful and that’s a challenge. 

Seeing as this is an NYC-centric outlet, where exactly are you based?
I’ve been living here while I do the play. But, I live outside the city now. I live up in the country. It was a new move. I’d lived [in New York City] for a long time, since I was 17. 

How do you like living off-island?
I like it a lot. I love New York City. I’ve spent my adult life in New York City. I have a really complicated relationship with New York City, as every New Yorker does. You can’t go through almost 15 years [here] and not have a complicated relationship with it. Part of that relationship is, I’m going to take a little break and live in the country. [Laughs]

I hear that. Lastly, any thoughts on being considered by some to be heartthrob, a sex symbol?
Oh god no. What does that mean? I have no comment about that. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s news to me. 

50-50 Chance New Zealanders Will Give Peter Jackson the Middle Finger

Yesterday, all hell broke loose in Middle Earth when thousands of Kiwis took to the streets wearing elf ears and capes and waving Elvish banners. Hobbit aficionados and prideful New Zealanders took it rather personally, it turned out, when Peter Jackson announced he might take his next Rings installment overseas. The rally was meant to demonstrate national enthusiasm, stressing that New Zealand is where Middle Earth was born and should therefore stay. I have a feeling it also might have something to do with the $1.5 billion loss for the country should Warner Bros. take production elsewhere. (A recent report also implicates the US-NZ exchange rate.) Either way, we’ll see how effective their protestations are considering Facebook, of all things, removed the marchers Fan Page today. Is this getting out of control?

I think yes. Peter Jackson’s original plan for filming a two-party adaption of The Hobbit was compromised when union workers protested about working conditions. Fucking extras. Anyway, approximately 2,500 people gathered in the capital of Wellington—in addition to Auckland and Christchurch—to prove that they’re die-hard fans of the J.R.R Tolkien movie adaptations, and to convince Peter Jackson to do the right thing. We say blame the evil wizard Saruman.

Peter Jackson to Direct ‘The Hobbit?’

Apparently bored with the set-backs and snafus caused by MGM’s endless turn on the auction block, director Guillermo Del Toro backed out of his gig directing the long-gestating, two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, leaving many to wonder who might take his place. Given the unprecedented box office track record of the Lord of the Rings series, a planned budget of 150 million dollars, and LOTR director Peter Jackson on board to produce—an enterprise worthy of that shopworn canard, “too big to fail”—it’s easy to imagine there’s a long list of would-be Hobbit directors chomping at the clichéd bit. So who’s likely to get the deed to this directorial goldmine? In what I’m sure will be happy news for Frodo fans everywhere, it turns out Jackson himself might be stepping behind the camera.

The New York Times writes that Jackson hasn’t ruled out the possibility of getting his hobbit on once again. He’s got a lot of other commitments right now—among them two Tintin movies he’s producing for Steven Spielberg—but Jackson’s hinted that he’s not necessarily out of the running. “If that’s what I have to do to protect Warner Brothers’ investment, then obviously that’s one angle which I’ll explore,” he told The Dominion Post. Good news, methinks. By chance (and largely out of boredom) I watched the entire LOTR series last week. While I came away thinking of them as a lot of hokey landscape porn (the subtending message of the films is “Visit New Zealand!”), I nevertheless like the idea of a singular vision providing continuity across the many installments of the series. Jackson and his dare-I-call-it legacy will be a heavy burden for anyone else to have to shoulder anyway, so it seems like a natural choice for the (once quite tubby but now shockingly skinny) director. At this point he’s the goddamn ring-bearer.

Revenge of the Nerds!

The nerd revolution has been in full-swing for, like, ever now, but it was especially felt this past weekend. First, we sat down for the two-hour season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy,” in which Chandra “Dr. Bailey” Wilson sheds her tough veneer—again—for an unlucky schlub who jumps into a pit of drying cement for the woman he loves. During the surgery-to-end-all surgeries—again—Bailey calms her patient with references to Han Solo and “The Force.” For the record, though, I don’t think any amount of science fiction camaraderie would help me forget that I was encased within tons of toxic armor that threatened to burn me, poison me, and kill me. Just saying.

Also over the weekend was an online chat (nerdy on its own merit) between Tolkien fanboys and directors Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro. It was all done in the name of finding out more about this movie adaptation of The Hobbit. When asked if Gollum would return in a big way, del Toro wrote, “Yes! As all of you know, Gollum has a rather fascinating arch to go through and his alliance to Shelob or his period of imprisonment in Thranduil’s, etc.” Of course. As we all know.