Urban Cinefile
"It's a coming of age film for someone at 30, not 15. Bit tragic, but that's the reality"  -David Caesar on his film, Mullet
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday December 3, 2019 

Search SEARCH FOR AN INTERVIEW
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

MACY, WILLIAM H.

TURNING INSECURITIES INTO ACTING
From E.R. to Fargo, William Macy is a Hollywood character actor with leading man status, always providing audiences with complex characterisations. None more so than the tragic porn director he plays so deftly in the critically acclaimed Boogie Nights or ER. For this exclusive interview, PAUL FISCHER spoke to him in Los Angeles.

Some actors would do anything to research a role, though veteran William Macy, an Oscar nominee for Fargo, says he doesn't usually believe in research. Take Boogie nights, the sardonic film that examines the highs and lows of the American porn industry in the late seventies. Here, the versatile actor plays a porn director, so to help him understand that world, he went on the set of an actual porn flick.

"Of course, I told everyone that was simply part of my research, but actually I just wanted to see a bunch of naked women," he laughs. And indeed he did - three in fact, frolicking around in a hot tub. "It was astounding and totally bizarre", he recalls. "It was just like a porn flick; incredibly titillating for about two minutes, then for about two minutes you think: isn't this odd? Then after that it's boring." He further remembers "smoking cigarette after cigarette, being nervous as hell, until I got bored." In Boogie Nights, Macy's wife in the film is played by real-life porn star Nina Hartley, who was with the bemused actor on the set of this real-life porn movie." She actually explained to me how you can tell which women actually have orgasms." He couldn't remember the details.

"Everybody knows what humiliation is, and he's the guy that's humiliated by his wife, over and over again."

He describes his own character, a tragic figure continually embarrassed by the openly nymphomaniacal behaviour of his wife, "as being terribly sad" and a figure with whom he could easily identify. "Everybody knows what humiliation is, and he's the guy that's humiliated by his wife, over and over again." Macy says that he owes a lot to the film's writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. "He wrote the character that way, and I just had enough brains not to get in the way of it."

Boogie Nights is set in the late seventies, and revolves around Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a seventeen-year-old busboy at an LA nightclub. Spotted by adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) for the generous bulge in his pants, Eddie is lured into the world of making porno films. He meets Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Jack's part-time lover and full time porn queen, along with others in the industry such as actor Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), crew member Little Bill (Macy), the films' investor known as "The Colonel" (Robert Ridley) and a woman constantly on roller skates known only as Rollergirl (Heather Graham). With his natural physical "gift," Eddie becomes a big star in the adult film industry and changes his name to Dirk Diggler.

Working hard and playing harder, Amber introduces Dirk to the world of cocaine, and soon he becomes hooked. While doing so, he starts to hang out with Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), his adult action film co-star, and his friend Todd Parker (Thomas Jane). Years pass and life is good for Dirk until Jack finds a new young actor who make take Dirk's place. Soon Dirk's drug addition gets in the way and his star in the porno industry fades. As they enter the more conservative 1980's, Dirk and the others find the industry, and their lives, changing in ways they had never imagined.

"Ultimately, what (Boogie Nights) is about, is family values, and about where you go to find solace in this life."

Though Boogie Nights is set in the world of adult erotica, Macy believes that the film is not about the porn industry, but the notion of family. "Ultimately, what the film is about, is family values, and about where you go to find solace in this life. The character of Dirk Diggler is kicked out of his own family, so he has no place to go. Therefore, he creates this new 'family', which just happens to be around pornographic films, and they are as loving and as complete as any other family you can find. This a movie about family values, trust and honouring your family."

An accomplished veteran of stage, screen and TV, the Florida-born Macy is perhaps best-known for his collaborations with playwright-director David Mamet, whom he met whilst at college. "He was the one who helped shape my own insecurities and turn them into acting. I was this shy, gawky kid until then." After years of bit parts or supporting roles in films and TV, Macy finally registered with audiences for his role as Joe Mantegna's acerbic partner in Mamet's Homicide (1991). Other screen collaborations with Mamet include House of Games (1987), Things Change (1988) and Oleanna (1994), in which he recreated his acclaimed stage role. Macy has gone on to appear in Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog (1991), Benny & Joon and Searching for Bobby Fischer (both 1993). He was a doctor in The Client (1994), a school vice principal in Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) and a man who plots his wife's kidnapping in the Coen brothers' Fargo (1996), for which he earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. "I guess that was the film that kinda did it for me," Macy now recalls.

Apart from his slew of films, TV audiences best know Macy for his recurring work on E.R., as head surgeon Dr Morganstern. Macy turns up in the first episode of the new series, which was beamed live to its American audience last September. "That was quite a buzz, almost like a nose full of methedrine. The air was thick enough you could cut it with a knife. It was great fun doing it live, though I must say it was more of a gag than worth doing, because the audience doesn't realise they're seeing it live. If you do it well enough, then they forget." Macy will crop up a few times throughout the year on the show, and will be shooting three episodes in a row next month. "They've created a specific story for Morganstern, which I'm excited about. After his heart attack, he looks at surgery through very different eyes."

"I have one rule of thumb, these days: do the good stuff and don't do the bad stuff."

Meanwhile, the busy Macy will next be seen on the big screen, in another David Mamet-scripted project, the brilliant political satire, Wag the Dog, which stars Dustin Hoffman as a powerful film producer hired by a political aide to mount a phoney war as a diversion for problems encountered by an American president. Macy is hilarious as a CIA operative. "It's such a smart film, and one that says as much about Hollywood as it does about American politics."

Macy is riding a wave of success, gratified to no longer face auditions, and tackle roles in a variety of diverse projects. "I have one rule of thumb, these days: do the good stuff and don't do the bad stuff." He also feels that "the time is right for me to carry a film. I see myself as the leading man type; may those that matter agree."

Email this article

________________________

________________________

"It was astounding and totally bizarre" on being on-set of a porn film, as research for Boogie Nights

________________________

"That was quite a buzz, almost like a nose full of methedrine." on E.R.

________________________

"It's such a smart film, and one that says as much about Hollywood as it does about American politics." on Wag The Dog

________________________

See our reviews of BOOGIE NIGHTS

________________________







Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019