William H. Macy is never one to shy away from what he thinks. Always honest and outspoken, Macy, in town to promote the animated feature Everyone’s Hero, was also discussing the all-star Bobby, directed by Emilio Estevez, about to have its launch at the Toronto Film Festival.
Playing the hotel manager in the star-studded film, Macy, who shares some scenes with Lindsay Lohan, couldn’t hide his frustration over the actress’s much publicised behaviour, conceding, smilingly, that she was always late for work. “You can’t show up late. It’s very, very disrespectful and I think what an actor has to realize, when you show up an hour late, that 150 people have been scrambling to cover for you, and there is not an apology big enough in the world to make 150 people scramble. It’s inexcusable, nothing but disrespect, and Lindsay Lohan is not the only one, a lot of actors show up late as if they’re God’s gift to the film, and it’s inexcusable and they should have their asses kicked.” And even fired, adds the actor, vehemently.
Macy admits that those actors who misbehave tend to be those that have hit across movie fame quickly, while those who began in the theatre, such as Macy, have a different attitude. “Certainly there’s a difference between the theatre and film, and I love it when big fat movie stars go to the theatre,” Macy says, laughingly, as he recalls a particular incident. “I’d just gone backstage and a big movie star was coming out of this dressing room at the end of the show when this woman comes out and says, ‘Hey, I’m your mother? Come back, hang up your costume, what’s the matter with you?’ Back he went and hung up his costume. You don’t mess with the Broadway dressers, boy. I worry about these young kids – 15, 18, 20 years old – who in the span of one year become millionaires and powerhouses. It’s too much power for a kid that age to handle, and when these young actors are spiraling out of control, taking drugs and drinking too much I think their managers and their agents are morally bound and perhaps legally bound to do something about it, and so often the managers and the agents cover for them.”
Macy pauses, takes a breath, and then hastily adds that his comments have nothing to do with these young stars’ talent, “Lindsay Lohan is an incredible talent,” he says, whose wife, Felicity Huffman, is working with Lohan on Georgia Rules, the film that initiated the recent spate of controversy. Macy, now married to Desperate Housewives’ Huffman for 10 years, has nothing but pride for his wife’s recent success. “It’s been something. She’s doing this film Georgia Rule, doing Housewives, and she has now gone I believe four weeks without a day off – seven days a week for four weeks. And because Housewives is being so nice to her they’re compressing her days, so when she gets there she works all day. And Georgia Rule is a powerhouse of a script. I’ve read it, it’s magnificent, and she’s got some serious acting to do in this thing and she goes 12 hours. The other day I said I don’t get it, what’s keeping you on your feet and she said gratitude.” Asked to account for the success of their marriage, Macy looks at me and says, without missing a beat, “Never marry someone who’s not nice, but I’m afraid my real answer is marry Felicity Huffman.”
Bill Macy, who has now appeared in over 100 films and TV projects since his 1978 TV debut, continues to go from strength to strength, balancing fatherhood, marriage and a career. And the career shows no signs of slowing down. In the animated Everyone’s Hero, Macy voices a 1930s baseball player in the kids’ feature cartoon, which was originally shepherded by the late Christopher Reeve. “Chris had done a film that I wrote a long time ago and that was a big boom to my fledgling writing career. I knew him in New York before that and Chris and Dana’s spirit is all over this thing so pretty much everybody that was contacted said do you want to make sure this thing gets done and everybody said yeah. It’s a lovely script.” Macy says he also “Liked the simplicity and the beauty of it. Some of the Pixar films have got all those double-entendres in there for adults but this doesn’t have any of that in it. It’s so pure and clean and it’s about keep swinging and don’t give up.”
It can apply to Macy, who struggled for years as both a writer and actor, to attain the kind of recognition he craved. Now at 56, Macy is happy to work in a variety of films, whether he is the lead or not, including Bobby, an ensemble drama that revolves around the assassination of Robert Kennedy. “I play the hotel manager and I guess I’ve got the part that goes through. I think Emilio used me as a thread to take it through. It’s got a cast of thousands and everyday we shot it, it was like a Screen Actors Guild meeting, you just looked at the call sheet and think who’s on today.” Macy shares his scenes with most cast members, including Sharon Stone. “Sharon played my wife and gives me a haircut and that was an experience,” he says, laughingly, refusing to elaborate further.
But he says the reason he did the movie was to share screen time with Anthony Hopkins. “They said there’s a scene with Anthony Hopkins and I said, fine. I truly loved that, and it was great. He’s one of those guys that makes it look easy. I’ve always thought that when you act really, really well that sometimes you as the actor think that can’t be it.” As for working with director Estevez, “He brought a great deal of calm and good humor. There were a bunch of producers on this thing, and this was the kind of film that started off small and then kept growing. When people like Anthony Hopkins said he would do it then more and more actors signed on. It’s the only Indie film I’ve ever been in that got bigger. There was more money halfway through and even more money at the end, he had a lot of producers who I happen to know were breathing down his neck. He handled it with great grace and aplomb, got through it, and then he sold it to Harvey – out of the frying pan, into the fire.”
Macy now goes from a star-studded drama to a two-handed comedy, which he also wrote, called The Deal. “It’s a romantic comedy that I wrote with Steven Schachter, who is going to direct it. It’s me and Lisa Kudrow and we go to Bucharest in three weeks. It’s based on Peter Lefcourt’s novel of the same title, and it’s an outrageously good script – even if I do say so myself.” And talking about going into the fire, Macy will also direct a feature which he has discussed for a while now, starring Salma Hayek, which he hopes to start shooting in November. If that’s not enough, Macy is still set to still co-star in House of Re-Animator.
In addition to his frenetic schedule, he still plays dad to his two children, yet without altering his own perceptions of what films to choose on the basis of fatherhood. “I was pleased to realize that I didn’t have to make a huge change in my career. I’ve always been pretty allergic to stupid violence and I like to do films that say something about the human condition and that aren’t overly violent. I’ve always thought that the writers can put as much violence in a film as they want but I would like to hold them to being truthful about it. What’s always offended me are these films where in downtown L.A. somebody takes a machine gun and kills 14 people and there’s nary an ambulance or a siren to be heard, they apparently walk away and there’s never even an investigation. That’s just trash and I don’t want any part of that. I can’t stand it when the hero gets the crap beat out of him by four brawny types and then in scene 2 he’s making love.”
He says he wants to be a hero to his children, both on and off the screen. “They’re just getting into the movie age, and there are not that many of my films that they can see for a while, so I’d love to be a hero to them. I do the narrator on the Curious George TV series. We’ve done a trillion of them, and they’ll start watching those, and we read the books all the time, but there’s something great, because my kids don’t get it, and still don’t know what I do for a living.”