State and Main interview - The State of Macy
William H. Macy/State and Main Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
WILLIAM H. MACY SPEAKS ABOUT WORKING WITH INDIE DIRECTOR DAVID MAMET ON THE HIGHLY PRAISED HOLLYWOOD COMEDY STATE AND MAIN, BECOMING A NEW DADDY AND HIS NEXT BIG VENTURE IN JURASSIC PARK 3.
William H. Macy is always a chirpy fellow to chat to. In a Los Angeles hotel to promote yet another new flick, this 50-year old darling of Indie American cinema is sporting a weird hairdo. "Oh this? Yeah for some new role, cute huh?" Macy looks nothing like his 50 years would dare suggest.
Born in Miami, Macy says he always wanted to perform. At the youthful age of 22 he set out for Chicago where he co-founded the St. Nicholas Theatre. And after spending many years on stage he began landing guest spots on numerous 1980s TV shows before jumping to the big screen in small character parts. But not until the 1996 critical and box office hit Fargo did he finally get the recognition he so richly deserved. Playing car salesman Jerry Lundegaard put Macy on the map, so to speak. For his performance in Fargo he earned his first Academy Award nomination and accolades. These days, he says, Macy has been "busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest." So in between battling dinosaurs in the would-be blockbuster Jurassic Park 3, Macy re-teams with his mentor David Mamet in the ensemble comedy State And Main, written and directed by Mamet. "He was my first teacher, the man who really showed what it was to act", he says smilingly.
"You've never seen a happier fellow than Dave working on a movie," he adds. "There's no place he'd rather be. He just loves it. I've seen that guy say hello to a dozen extras at 7am and then 13 hours later he will say goodnight to them by name! He is the only walking, talking genius I know." Macy, who admits to having an inkling of a craving to direct, says the best advice he got from Mamet was, "If anyone uses the term, 'it would be more interesting' never listen to that person again. Your focus should be on clarity and simplicity, not interesting. "
The premise of this deft Hollywood satire is that the peace and quiet of Waterford, Vermont is shattered when a Hollywood film crew descends on the town to shoot would-be blockbuster The Old Mill. The production has recently been turfed out of its original New Hampshire location (a scandal involving the leading man and a minor), and is losing money by the minute. Trouble looms large from the word "action" when the film's addled director Walt Price (Macy), ruthless producer Marty Rossen (David Paymer) and introvert screenwriter Joe White (Hoffman) learn that the town's mill was destroyed during a spate of suspicious fires back in the '60s. Not to mention the lead actor (a very funny Alec Baldwin) is back to his old tricks again. Macy relishes the growing relationship with Mamet whose influence on Macy is evident.
"Most actors are so crazed about David Mamet that they come to set way prepared and they've learned every single syllable. He's loose as a goose about it. I've seen him on more than one occa
sion when you mess up a line three or four times in a row and he'll say, 'Hold on we'll change the line. There must be something wrong with it or you wouldn't be having such difficulty.' His feeling is if the rhythm is off or if the meter is off it's harder to memorize. Which is true. Bad writing is the hardest thing to memorize. And great writing is the easiest thing to memorize. We didn't ad-lib but he did. He came up with gags and jokes every day."
Macy, who has written for television and briefly dabbled in directing in the eighties, wants to continue to develop, and he thrives on being an able student. "It's the worst job in the world," says Macy. "And it's at once exhilarating and the hardest job in the world. And of all the people who attempt it the majority of them are not cut out for it." But is Macy sure he is cut out for it? "I'm not convinced," admits Macy. "Don't print that part." Becoming a parent with actress/wife Felicity Huffman last year put a lot of things in perspective for Macy. He says he "loves being a papa" but admits to housing several nannies. Macy even jokes, "We are thinking of getting the nannies." And to pay for all those diapers, formula, clothes and ALL of those caretakers, Macy says, although it's clear his heart belongs to the independent world of movies, that's where the big budget films are more of an asset to him than the small ones.
They can't get any bigger than Jurassic Park 3. Though in earlier interviews he criticised the film's "lack of script development", but today he remains more circumspect. "It's a great, big, kid's movie, pure and simple, and movies like Jurassic are huge fun to work on. You learn so much about the Hollywood system." Besides, these dinosaurs allow Macy "to go off and do a movie for a nickel."
Macy is happy juggling life as a dad with that of one of America's busiest actors. He looks forward, he says, to work with Mamet again "in a heartbeat" and will also be seen as a hitman undergoing therapy in the upcoming Panic, "another example of great writing."
Whether he is starring with the big boys of Hollywood or the Indies, Macy concludes with his favourite joke. "Did you hear about the Polish actress? She slept with the writer."