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William H Macy

King Billy

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Paul Dale meets up with the mighty William H Macy to talk mid life crises, minors and David Mamet

William H Macy interviewed by Paul Dale

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Let’s call it the GooGoo Gaga Syndrome. It’s what happens when edgy actors have children and then want to start appearing in films that their younglings can relate to. The result is usually a line of liquid excrement leading from their trailers to the cinemas on Sunset Boulevard. Ask Eddie Murphy and now, having recently had a second daughter with desperate housewife Felicity Huffman, you can ask William H Macy. He’s agreed to meet me in a Paris hotel to talk about the awful but successful family comedy Wild Hogs. I would rather talk to him about Edmond (pictured), a film adaptation of David Mamet’s viciously nihilistic 1982 one act play about a white collar worker’s fall from grace, directed by Stuart Re-Animator Gordon, which finally reaches these shores after sneaking out on US screens last year.

Macy, who had turned 57 a few days before we meet enters the room. Wearing an ugly double-breasted suit that makes him look slimmer than I had expected, he takes the highest backed armchair in the room. We try to find a compromise. He talks about how a few years ago he became bored of the roles he was being offered so he decided to branch out. The result has been the broadest of comedies (Wild Hogs), an upcoming romantic comedy with Meg Ryan called The Deal (based on Peter Lefcourt’s novel and adapted for the screen by Macy) and gestating directorial and producer debut Keep Coming Back about a teenager’s crush on a local stripper, which ran into money problems last year. I point out to him that this burst of creativity may be the offshoot of a midlife crisis. He laughs and then announces slowly in a voice that is equal parts Ned Flanders and Gulf Stream warmth (Macy grew up in Miami), ‘Well, I’m definitely more than middle aged but my body seems to be holding up. I do work out a lot but my mind skips out a lot too. That scares the shit out of me. I don’t know whether I had a midlife crisis but there is a Porsche and a Harley Davidson in my garage so after the fact maybe I did.’

Moving on to talk about his teacher and mentor Mamet, he begins to relax. ‘When I was in my 20s Dave taught me acting; he was the guy who told me that it is a noble profession, that the task of the actor was to bring truth to the stage. To my mind Mamet is the writer of our generation but I gotta say that Edmond was the hardest job I’ve ever had, I found it difficult on so many levels. We shot the film in 18 days, and this is Mamet so you had to memorise huge chunks of difficult dialogue. Plus I knew I had to be spot on because the play had been done by so many actors and they’d all be sitting there with the script making sure I was letter perfect.’

So what did Mamet think of his performance? Macy traps me with that famous hangdog expression that’s part grimace, part plea.‘Oh,’ he answers slowly. ‘He was quite complimentary.’

Edmond is on selected release from Fri 13 Jul. See Also Released.

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