Stanley Tucci Goes on a Blind Date


tucciblinddate.jpgStanley Tucci has become one of the most sought after and recognizable actors when it comes to both comedy and drama, although every few years, he puts back on his directors’ hat, the last time being eight years ago with Joe Gould’s Secret. His new movie Blind Date just had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and like Steve Buscemi’s Interview from Sundance ’07, it’s adapted from a Dutch film by the late Theo van Gogh.

Tucci stars alongside Patricia Clarkson as a married couple whose marriage has fallen apart with the only way for them to reconnect and fix things is by setting up a series of fantasy blind dates where they meet as if for the first time and work out their problems. While it’s clearly not the most accessible film in the world, being very dialogue-driven, it’s a fascinating look at a troubled relationship trying to repair itself that sticks with you. had a chance to sit down with Mr. Tucci during a crazy day of interviews down on Main Street in Park City. I’m assuming this isn’t your first film at Sundance.
Stanley Tucci: No, third one.

CS: This is sort of a follow up to Steve Buscemi’s movie “Interview” last year being the second adaptation of a Theo van Gogh film. How did they approach you to direct it?
Tucci: Steve told me about it. He said, “You know I’m doing this movie” and I said, “Oh, that sounds interesting. I’d be interested in doing one of those.” So I talked to the guys and they said, “Pick one” and I picked this one. The idea was that we were going to make them all in a row. We were going to make them two years ago in New York, seven to nine days shooting days each and I was to go first, Steve was next and Bob Balaban was going to do the third one which was “1-900”.

CS: Were you going to do them all on the same set?
Tucci: No, different sets, but all in New York and the Dutch crew came over and all the money fell apart. I had rehearsed and were two days away from shooting or something. Tony Shalhoub was doing it originally; I was directing Patty and Tony. So then a year and a half later, the guy said, “Just go get the money from somebody and we can shoot this anywhere. We can shoot this in Amsterdam if you want if that’s cheaper. We can do it, it’s one room, we can find a bar, build a bar, whatever you want.” So they found this space and I said, “Let’s build a bar in it and use this other thing for the bumper car scene.” And it all worked out, so we just did it this summer.

CS: Was there an issue with the financing for the movie you picked? Did they give you a selection of any of Theo’s movies to adapt?
Tucci: No, there were three movies that he wanted to do and they stuck to that and it was “Interview,” “Blind Date” and “1-900”. Steve had first choice and I had the second choice.

CS: When they approached you to do this, you’re obviously a very busy actor, so to take the time off, you must have a good reason to do a movie. Were you familiar with Theo’s work when this came up?
Tucci: No, I didn’t really know his work at all. It just sounded so interesting and then I watched the films and thought, “Oh, this is great, I’ve always wanted to make movies like this.”

CS: What made do you think of Patty to star as the woman? You’ve obviously worked with her before.
Tucci: I just love her, she’s great, she can do anything.

CS: You’ve obviously worked with Tony for a long time. How would it have been different if he played your part?
Tucci: Very different. I watched him rehearse and he was awfully good, but I never did see it come to fruition, but Tony, as far I’m concerned, can do no wrong.

CS: You’ve acted in all your other movies, but this one is pretty heavy-duty, where you’re pretty much in ever scene as well as directing. Is it harder to do that stuff, while also working with the Dutch crews?
Tucci: It was hard, but they all speak English really well, and I certainly don’t speak Dutch. The communication, I have to say, wasn’t any worse than it is on any movie set. They speak English, French, Flemish, they can speak anything, but the crew was mostly Dutch and they were Theo’s crew, and this guy Thomas Kist, who shot it, anyway just wonderful people, so imaginative, and inventive, and kind and hardworking, really hardworking people.

CS: I know that Theo used to use three cameras at once while shooting.
Tucci: That’s what we did. That was the whole point, that you do it in the same way that Theo did and that’s the way they worked with him and that’s the way they did it.

CS: It’s different than “Interview” in that you used more stationary cameras than Steve did.
Tucci: Yeah, Steve did a lot more hand-held stuff, but I didn’t want to. I wanted it to be a little more static and sort of create these tableaus and have the people move in and out of the space, only when dancing, for the most part, did we do the handheld stuff.

CS: You mentioned doing rehearsals. How much rehearsal was involved and how much preparation?
Tucci: We rehearsed as much as you can, given our hectic schedules, and we squeezed this in, but we rehearsed about a week in Holland, maybe for about three, four days or something. We did it like a play. We read through it a few times in New York and then we would rehearse a few hours a day. There’s only so much you can rehearse before you lose the spontaneity of it, and it’s not like a play where you have to know every single little (word), because you’re going to go out there and you can’t stop, but here you can stop and go, “Oh I can’t remember that. Should this be more angry?” And you can do, “Okay let’s do another one where you’re more sad, let’s do another one where you’re more happy, let’s do another one faster.” So you can do that. But you do want to have a very strong base from rehesarsal, which is what we did. I shoot all movies like this. I rehearse it like a play as much as possible in a sense that we sit down and read through it, I don’t like to do a read-through of the whole script because that’s just boring. We would read it through and put it on its feet and then we move into the space and do like a dress rehearsal with props and stuff like that and the next day we shoot it.

CS: You’re both skilled actors, but in this, even though you have the script, you have to make it sound like it was improvised since these are two people who know each other pretending that they don’t, so you can’t make it sound too natural.
Tucci: No, no, there’s not a lot of ad-libbing in this. But that’s what you do in every movie really.

CS: Normally you have to make written script feel natural, like you know each other, but in this one you have to do the opposite.
Tucci: And then that façade just drops periodically in the middle of the thing.

CS: I haven’t seen the original movie, so did you follow a similar blueprint or section?
Tucci: Absolutely, but this is a very different movie than that movie in the end.

CS: Did a lot get changed because of the location?
Tucci: No, no… His is in a bar and the bumper cars are actually in the bar, but I decided to move it out. We never go outside, but the palette of this film is very different. The look of the bar is completely different, and the way it’s shot is very different, and I changed a lot structurally.

CS: What about the dynamics between the characters being Americans rather than Europeans?
Tucci: They are similar, but they are still quite different—Patty and I are very different actors. The fellow—it’s a brilliant performance the guy who did it. He’s an older fellow who is a great, great Dutch actor. He actually plays the guy at the beginning with the cards. He’s more manic and odd and off, and you don’t quite know… I think this one is maybe more romantic.

CS: What about the influence of silent film from the opening magic sequence and a few later scenes where we hear the music but none of the dialogue or sound effects? Is that something you wanted to instill into this?
Tucci: It’s not in the original. I just got to the point where Patty comes in looking for me in that scene and I had the dialogue and it was jut minimal dialogue a few lines and I just said, “Let’s just take that sound out and put the music over it and let’s just see what this is like.” It gives us a little rest because there’s so much talk it gives us a rest, and it makes us sit up a bit and pay attention more and you just see the faces and the gestures, and it makes you know people more I think. It tunes you in in a different way.

CS: Do you consider this a love story?
Tucci: Absolutely. They are absolutely in love with each other. I mean I think he’s incapable of making love to that young woman in the bar–again another silent piece– he can’t do it.

CS: What are you working on now? Are you still shooting “The Lovely Bones” with Peter Jackson?
Tucci: Yeah, I’m still shooting “The Lovely Bones.” I leave on Thursday or Friday to go to New Zealand to finish it. We had been shooting in Pennsylvania and then I come back in about a month and then I do this movie with Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep. (“Julie and Julia,” about the life of celebrity chef Julia Child.) I can’t wait. She asked me. She said, “I want you to play my husband.”

CS: How has the writers strike been affecting you and the things you’ve been working on?
Tucci: Luckily, you know what? It has not affected me yet, and I feel very lucky because I had these jobs lined up which doesn’t normally happen. Nora’s script was finished, “The Lovely Bones” was finished, and we were in production I think already by the time they struck, so I feel very fortunate to know that I have these jobs. Last year, that was not the case, so I feel very lucky, but being in every guild, I hope that they come to some kind of agreement soon.

Blind Date opens in New York at the Cinema Village on Friday, September 25.