Eric Roberts Interview

Eric Roberts: One of Hollywood's edgier, more intriguing characters running around and about for decades, Eric Anthony Roberts started life in Biloxi, Mississippi, but grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He began his acting career at age 5 in a local theater company called the Actors and Writers Workshop founded by his late father, Walter Roberts. After his schooling at Grady High, he studied drama at age 17 in London for two years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, then returned to the States and continued his studies at the American Academy in New York. He made his NY stage debut in "Rebel Women" in 1976 at age 20 and appeared in regional productions, once playing the newspaper boy in a production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring Shirley Knight and Glenn Close.
After appearing in such daytime soaps as "Another World" and "How to Survive a Marriage", his career began to shift fast forward when he copped a leading role in a major film. In King of the Gypsies (1978), based on Peter Maas' best seller about a fracturing dynasty of New York City gypsies, he made his debut alongside an intimidating roster of stars including Judd Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, Shelley Winters and Sterling Hayden. Young Eric held his own expertly (winning a Golden Globe nom) while his burning intensity and brooding charm marked sure signs of star potential. After this he won the lead opposite Milo O'Shea in the 1980 stage production of "Mass Appeal". He suffered serious injuries in a car accident during his nascent film career but lost no fans by the time he returned to co-star with Sissy Spacek as a small-town stranger in Raggedy Man (1981). It was, however, his stark and frightening portrayal of two-bit hustler Paul Snider, the cast-off boyfriend who slays Playmate-turned-movie starlet Dorothy Stratten (played by Mariel Hemingway) in Star 80 (1983) that really put him on the movie map and earned him a second Golden Globe nomination.
A wide range of fascinating, whacked-out roles were immediately offered to him on a silver plate. He played another dangerous streetwise hustler type in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) opposite fellow rebel Mickey Rourke; a cocky soda pop sales exec in the Australian comedy The Coca-Cola Kid (1985); appeared with more charm and restraint opposite Rosanna Arquette in the offbeat romantic comedy Nobody's Fool (1986) and topped his prolific period off with an Academy Award nomination as a young prison escapee hiding out with Jon Voight aboard an out-of-control train in the ultra-violent, character-driven action adventure Runaway Train (1985). Good things continued to happen when he was a replacement lead in the original run of "Burn This" and won a Theatre World Award for his 1988 Broadway debut.
A risky, no-holds-barred actor, he was often guilty of overacting if given half the chance. His film career began to slide in the late 1980s, appearing in more quantity than quality pictures. A series of missteps led to unheralded appearances in such bombs as the karate-themed Best of the Best (1989); the NY urban thriller The Ambulance (1990); the action western Blood Red (1989), which took three years to release and is now solely remembered for being the only film Eric and superstar sister Julia Roberts appeared in together; and Rude Awakening (1989) when he filled in as a burned-out hippie opposite a Chong-less Cheech Marin. More underappreciated "B" filming came with the 1990s (Freefall (1994), Sensation (1994), The Nature of the Beast (1995), etc.), while also chewing the scenery with a number of mobster types in TV-movies, including one as Al Capone. He soon began appearing as flashy secondary villains and creepies that showcased other stars instead, such as Final Analysis (1992) starring Richard Gere, Heaven's Prisoners (1996) toplining Alec Baldwin, and The Dark Knight (2008), part of the "Batman" series with Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger.
Eric's undeniable, unconventional talent would occasionally mesh with the perfect role. At the Sundance Film Festival in 1996, he received critical applause for his starring role as a man dying of AIDS in the uplifting and emotional film It's My Party (1996) and earned more honors as a writer marked for murder in the mob-themed story La Cucaracha (1998). He was also perfectly cast as one of the cold-blooded killers in the Emmy-nominated TV adaptation of Truman Capote's chiller In Cold Blood (1996) (TV). Eric continued to appear sporadically on TV in such dramatic series as "Law & Order", while sometimes showing a fun side as well in comedy ("The King of Queens"). His own series work included "Less Than Perfect" (2002) and, more recently, and in the cult program "Heroes" (2006/II) where promise for a longer participation ended with his character's death.
Recovered from a long-standing cocaine problem, Eric wed, for the first time, actress/writer Eliza Roberts (nee Garrett). They have appeared in such films as Killer Weekend (2004) and Junior Pilot (2005) (V). His daughter from a former relationship, _'Emma Roberts', is a newly popular and fast-rising "tween" actress from the series "Unfabulous" (2004) and has played youthful supersleuth Nancy Drew (2007) on film. Eric's unpredictable, volatile nature which works so mesmerizing on screen has also led to troubling times off camera; his relationship with younger sis Julia Roberts has been seriously strained for quite some time.  - imdb

 


HT: Thanks very much for being here.
ER:  Sure.
HT:  It really means a lot to me, because your performance – especially in “Runaway Train,” back in college – it really meant a lot to me.  Can we start by, if you could talk to me about your childhood acting background. Because you started acting very young, didn’t you?
ER:  I started acting at 4-1/2 years old. I played a mute clown in my first play, so it was all safe.  And I grew up in the theatre.
HT:  Your dad was an acting teacher?
ER:  He ran a young people’s acting school called The Actors and Writers Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia.  And that’s how I grew up.
HT:  Your mother, wasn’t she in acting --
ER:  She answered the phone under the pseudonym of Betsy Davis, so it sounded like we had a secretary, which we didn’t. And that’s what she did.
HT:  And this was all in Georgia?  Smyrna, Georgia?
ER:  No, Atlanta, Georgia.
HT:  Atlanta, Georgia.  Okay.  And um, your dad died fairly early in your life.
ER:  He died December 3rd of 1977.
HT:  So he never got to see you on film.
ER:  He missed – I started my first movie about eight weeks after he died.
HT:  Right. Obviously it was the greatest loss in your life?
ER:  Obviously the greatest loss of my life?  At the time that’s how it felt, sure.
HT:  Were you guys very close?
ER:  Uh, I thought we were, yeah.
HT:  So he pretty much mentored you in the acting? See, because a lot of people  -- because you’ve done so many films and you’ve had a long career now. And a lot of people don’t know that you’ve done so much theatre before you even got into TV and movies.
ER:  Who cares?
ELIZA:  No there are people – that’s what this is about. You know, and it’s a whole new generation who appreciates you now, because of the show.
ER: Ahh, okay.
HT:  But you don’t take that part of your life very – look back at it very fondly? Or…
ER:  Here’s kind of what I think about talking about myself and my training and my past, is, I find when I read about other actors, I’m always bored with it.  So I’m always bored with myself when I hear myself talking about accomplishments or past deeds. I understand it’s great for “information” --
HT:  Mmhmm.  Because people want to know.
ER:  -- But as far as talking about it, I find it, like, very uh, very uh, self-interested.  And I’m not.
HT:  Really?  And you’ve always been that way?
ER:  No.  When I was young I was very self-interested.
HT:  But now you’re in a different stage of your life.
ER:  Yeah, sure.
HT:  Which we’ll talk more about. Now, you went to RADA, right?
ER:  Sort of. Yeah.
HT:  Why?  Just, you (inaudible) kind of thing?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  What made you, why did you decide to go there instead of Julliard or --
ER:  As a child, uh, I grew up doing lots of Shakespeare.  Because of the association of great actors like Laurence Olivier and what have you, RADA was considered to be the best acting school in the world.  So of course that’s where everybody would want to go.
HT:  And were you thinking at that time of having a career in acting?
ER:  I had my Academy Award acceptance speech all ready to go at eight years old.
HT:  Oh yeah?
ER:  Yeah (sound of spoon dropping)  That’s okay, don’t worry about it. We can share spoons. (To waiter) Give him a spoon and I can share a spoon with here.  There you go.  Thank you.
HT:  So you always had the movies and the big work in mind.
ER:  Well, when you’re a child, uh, the great actors, the great movies stars are in your mind. Because that’s who you have access to.  I mean, I had like known about Helen Hayes, I had known about people like that.  But I had never seen them.
HT:  Oh really?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  So it wasn’t like you were this big theatre guy and “oh I want a career in theatre.”
ER:  I was a big theatre guy because I had done like a play a month for like six to eight months a year for ten years of my life.  So I love the theatre.  But I was also aware very early that there, there is no, is no money in the theatre.
HT:  And you’d done Broadway several times.
ER:  Only once.
HT:  “Burn This”?
ER:  Yup.
HT:  Yeah.  That was about ’88 wasn’t it?
ER:  ’89, ’90.
HT: Because when I first went to New York, after I finished college, I studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Sandy Meisner --
ER:  Uh-huh.
HT:  -- and the buzz about town was, you know, Eric Roberts in “Burn This.” I mean, it was a great production, too! Malkovich, Roberts and Scott Glenn.
ER:  Well, like, Malkovich wasn’t in my production.
HT: But he was before you.
ER:  Right.
ELIZA:  He actually was in it (inaudible)
ER:  Was he?  Okay.
HT: Yeah, so I mean, yeah, that was such a great play, that Malkovich did a great job and Eric Roberts was amazing also. And then Scott Glenn came in – it was, you know, just a great buzz about town, you know, that you were doing that. Any, any memories or anything about that particular production?
ER:  Uh, all I remember is I was at my personal low during those times.
HT:  Hmm.
ER:  So, uh, uh….
HT:  You lived in New York during that time.
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Was the city life catching up to you?  Because I know you had, you lived the ‘80s pretty hard.  Did you not?
ER:  Uh, uh, uh.  Let me see.  What, what was the question? What was the question?
HT:  Well because you were telling me about you were at your personal low?  Is that what you’re talking about?
ER:  No, I’m talking about life and relationships and what have you.
HT:  Right. Um, and then, uh, well that was ’88 wasn’t it? Now let me just go back…you started doing soap operas – you were on a soap opera before you got into movies in a big way?
ER:  Yeah. I forgot which year it was, but I think it was --
ELIZA:  Before “The King of the Gypsies,” right sweetie?
ER:  I know that. But I think it was ’86 or ’87.  And, I was only on the soap for about six months, and they fired me.
ELIZA: Wasn’t “King of the Gypsies” ’77?   
ER:  I’m sorry, it was either ’76 or ’77.  I’m sorry.
HT:  It’s great having Eliza here --
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Setting the record straight.
ER:  Uh, they fired me because I was so bad. (ELIZA laughs)
HT: So you did the starving actor thing in New York?
ER:  What?
HT:  You did the starving actor thing.
ER:  Yeah.  And I starved, yeah.
HT:  Uh-huh. And you were just going out for plays and whatever, play and movies?
ER:  I worked for Joe Papp several times. Did the soap opera. Got fired from that. It took about a month, and then I got my first movie.
HT:  And were you waiting tables and all that kinda stuff?
ER:  Yeah. I, uh, worked at a place called Barbara Ann’s owned by – you know the restaurant “Charlie’s” don’t you, in New York?
HT:   On Columbus?
ER:  No, it’s on Restaurant Row.
HT:  Ohhh, okay.
ER:  Charlie’s? Have you heard of it?
HT:  Yeah.
ER:  Well it’s a very famous place in New York and, uh, his --
HT:  It’s in the whole Broadway neighborhood.
ER:  Right. And his daughter owned a (inaudible) place called Barbara Ann’s.  And that’s where I worked. As a waiter.  I was a terrible waiter.  (ELIZA laughs.)
HT:  Um, I saw in my research that you had a pretty severe car accident.
ER:  That was in ’81.
HT:  Before or after “Raggedy Man”?
ER:  That was, let’s see, just before “Star 80.”  So that would be after “Raggedy Man,” yes.
HT:  But that – what kind of effect did that have mentally and physically?  Because --
ER:  Well, I was in a coma.  I suffered what was called “brain trauma,” when you have swelling of the brain, and then it goes down and you get blood in between your, between your brain and your skull. And uh, I uh, they didn’t give me a lot of hope. But I got lucky and I got predominantly well. I had lots of memory problems for a long time.  
HT:  Oh yeah?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  For several years?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Mmm.  And, um, I imagine you weren’t in a financially comfortable position yet.
ER:  No.
HT:  And handling all that stuff too…it was definitely tough times, early in the ‘80s.  Um, and in “Raggedy Man” you were terrific, obviously.
ER:  Thanks.
HT:  Did, did, you know, stuff like “Star 80” and stuff follow fairly soon after --
ER:  Mm-hmm.
HT: -- your performances after --
ER:  Lemme see, I had the wreck, I had the wreck on June 4th of ’81, and started production on “Star 80” February of ’82.  And in the interim I did a play in Boston.
HT:  That was a, you know, I mean everyone’s raving about “Chicago” – that was a Bob Fosse-directed film.  
ER: And he also wrote it, too.
HT:  Yeah. Um, I’d imagine it was quite competitive getting in on that show, too.
ER:  I had to audition, and I did. And he gave it to me.
HT:  What kind of research – I mean that’s one of your famous roles – how deep did you go to portray a guy that’s dead but – that’s a pretty meaty role, obviously.
ER:  I knew everything about him that you could possibly want to know.
HT:  Really? So you, how about the uh – how did you go about the manners and the speech and the whole --
ER:  From just, from just talking to people.
ELIZA:  As a matter of fact, did you do physical things like him?  Because I never thought about that.
ER:  You should watch the movie. It’ll blow your mind.
ELIZA:  I’ve seen the movie 20 times, I just have never seen him.
ER:  Oh.
ELIZA:  So I wouldn’t know if you did any, did any (inaudible) – seriously.
ER: Yeah!  
ELIZA:  I never thought about that.
ER:  Lots. He had a whole way of talking that was – he almost had a lisp.  
HT:  Um, now something like “Star 80,” um, was a pretty obviously dark role. But to actors, it seems like it might be fun to play, but from what I understand, you – it was so dark that you didn’t have a particularly good time.
ER:  It wasn’t a fun part to play. The fun part about it was that Bob Fosse rewrote every day. So the fun part was keeping up with him.
HT:  Mm-hmm.
ER:  Kind of a contest every day to, uh, to keep up with Bob Fosse.
HT:  Are you one of these people that immerse themselves so into the character that it really, you know you sort of become the guy – that, you know, it’s disturbing when you’re playing a guy that controlling and disturbed.
ER:  So what’s the question?
HT:  The unpleasantness of --
ER:  Well, uh --
HT:  -- of that experience.
ER:  Of the experience?
HT:  Of playing the man.  Paul Snyder.
ER:  I don’t quite know how to answer your question.  Except to say that, when it calls for it, you have to go all the way.
HT:  Mm-hmm.
ER:  And that means when you get up in the morning, you have to basically shave that character’s face. It’s uh, it’s it’s it’s it’s no longer your face. If it’s really hard, like that part was.  Like the “Pope” was. Like the movie I made a couple of years ago called “La Cucaracha,” like that was. When they’re like really extreme characters and you don’t want to play a caricature, you have to, you have to become them. Or else you look like an actor who’s up there acting.  
HT:  Right. Well that was a terrific job.
ER:  Thank you brother.  Thank you so much.  
HT:  And, you know, and you, you know it plays and it still holds up --
ER:  But all humbleness aside, I owe it all to Bob Fosse.  ‘Cause I could make up a question to ask him, and he would have a legitimate answer.
HT:  And it sounds like he was obviously deeply involved.
ER:  Oh yeah.  He was it.  He was the guy.
HT:  Um, now, you mentioned “The Pope of Greenwich Village.”  Which was again one of your great memorable parts. What was that experience like?  Working with Mickey
and --
ER:  Well, I’ll tell you a little story, which I’ve told before so it’s not the first time I’ve told this. But I think it’s kind of an interesting story.  He was written as a thug, kind of a dumb, kind of a (taking on the voice) “c’mon Charlie, I’m tryin’ to do this, I’m tryin’ to do that.”  But that had been done to death. I’d seen it a hundred times, so have you, right?  So I went down to Little Italy and I looked around and I hung out with the guys down there and I got to know them.  And they all have one thing in common – they’re all mama’s boys. Across the boards.  They all worship their moms.  They’re, they’re moms are their reason.  So I decided to play a great big mama’s boy. And uh…so, but I decided that I wanted him to be a walking spaz attack.  So I lost weight, and I permed my hair, and I showed up for the job.  And after a couple of days of rehearsal, the director asked me to stay after rehearsal.  So I did. And he said, “why did you lose all this weight?”  And I said, “’cause I wanna be a walking spaz attack.”  He said, “Why’d you perm your hair?”  I said, “Same thing.”  And he said, “Spaz attack.  What is that?”  And I said, “John Belushi if he were skinny.” And he goes “Ooooh.  Well I don’t see the part as that. I see the part as tough.”  And I said, “But he’s an idiot. And, so, it’ll be something that we’ve already seen before if he’s tough and dumb. It’ll be something that we’ve seen a lot. And he said, “But that’s how it’s written.”  And I said, “But I, I wanted to try a different approach.”  And he asked me to resign. And I said, “Oh, wow. Let me think about this.” So I walked around the hotel. And I thought about it, and I felt terrible. So I went up to Mickey’s room, and I told him the story, and then he and I got on the phone and we called the producers, and they fired that director and brought in Stuart Rosenberg who directed a great movie.
HT:  I see. Now, you know, I mean I know some of these questions might be – you tell me you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself and, you know, whatever, but you know if you could.  But this early on – you’re obviously a good-looking guy, you got the ability – were you thinking that you don’t wanna play, you don’t want to get stuck in the stereotypical good-looking guy – you were looking for more areas – you know, whenever possible you were looking to create characters you could really get your teeth into?
ER:  Well, character actors work forever. Leading men work while they’re handsome.
HT:  Right. Well you certainly left your mark on all of these pictures.
ER:  Thanks.
HT:  Um, and talk to me about Mickey.  That was one of the early films that really got him into the A list.
ER:  He was, he was a star after “Diner.” He was a star after “Diner.”  And that was two movies even before “Pope.”
HT:  Mm-hmm. And you guys recently worked again – that was fun, right?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Did you actually – I haven’t see the film yet, but do you guys actually have scenes together?
ER:  You’ll have to see the movie. I can’t give any of it away.
HT:  Okay, alright.
ER:  You’ll have to see the movie.
HT:  Well, that’s good that we mentioned it.  But I heard it’s a terrific film.
ER:  It’s a great movie. This, this moviemaker --
HT:  It was very popular in Sundance, right?
ELIZA: Yeah.
ER: -- is gonna blow your mind.  This guy is so talented, this moviemaker. Jannes.
HT:  Jannes Salkerland?  (sp?)  Yeah. He’s, uh, visually brilliant too, isn’t he?
ER:  He’s a great guy, too.
HT:  Right. Yeah, because I – Mickey was one of my first interviews, about four years ago.  And he gave me a great interview.  It was kinda dark but, you know.  You  know I really appreciated his honesty.   You know, he was talking about how, you know, quite frankly he was on the top of the hill at one point, and he was an asshole to everybody and, you know, he wouldn’t blame anybody for not ever giving him a chance again. But he’s trying to make things better.
ELIZA: Make it better, yeah.
HT: Are you guys staying real close over the years?
ER: We were never close.
HT:  Really?
ER:  We worked together and it was fine. Then we didn’t see each other for 15 years and worked together again. No, we saw eachother once. We were in the same movie almost once, but ended up not doing it.  And then, uh, and then we did “Spun” (sp?) together.
HT:  Right. Well, that’s interesting to hear that because you know, when you’re involved in the projects that are so memorable, you know, people one day, if you and John Voigt are close or if you and Mickey are close --
ER:  I would say John and I are closer than Mickey and I.
ELIZA:  But you and Mickey are very friendly now with each other, right?
ER:  Yeah, sure. We like each other.
ELIZA:  He really, uh, has so much respect for you. That’s very nice.  
HT:  Now, um, staying on that theme of you wanting to do something different and worthwhile for you, character-wise, um, “The Coca-Cola Kid.”  Was that a good experience for you?
ER:  Yeah, that was great.  And I got to see Australia, which was fabulous. I love Australians.
HT:  Right. Because the critics were very mixed on your performance. Some said it was great, some said --
ER:  Don’t talk to me about critics, please. Don’t talk to me about critics.
HT:  Okay. Um, Greta Scacchi, I remember reading years ago she hated doing that movie and so forth.  You had a great time working?
ER:  Yeah. I was fine with it.
HT:  Now, let’s talk about “Runaway Train.”  I mean I think, as great a movie as it was and always will be, I still think it’s underrated how (inaudible) it was.
ER:  Interesting thing about that movie, if you watch that movie, and you watch the control room stuff as one movie, and the stuff with me and John as another movie – the stuff with me and John is a really good movie. The stuff in the control room is really bad. And if you watch it with that in mind, you realize that when you have somebody whose first language isn’t English, and they’re directing and English film, uh, you’re actors are going to make or break you. And the control room stuff I find embarrassing.  The stuff with me and John?  I’ve never been prouder of anything.
HT:  Right.
ER:  So it’s an interesting film. I’m told all the time what a great movie it is. And I always think that, well, thank god for John and I.
HT: Exactly.  Well, I mean, just for that. I mean, you know, that’s why actors can enjoy films that people go “oh that was a horrible film.”
ELIZA:  Right.
HT:  And they can’t understand why you liked it so much but you like the performance --
ELIZA:  Right.
HT: -- performances, so much, that it ends up being one of your favorite movies, you know?
ER:  Wasn’t John unbelievable?
HT: Oh my god.
ER (Laughs)  I know!
HT:  You know, and this was – when I interviewed John, and this was on the record, I said “as great as you’ve been in ‘Coming Home’ and you know, so many movies,” I said “that has to be your best performance.”  And he took a moment and he said, “yeah, I have to agree with you.”  I said, both you guys should have won the Oscar for it. You both got nominated, which is great.  And he said, “yeah, I agree. Eric and I should have won.”
ER:  And we both lost to lesser actors.  (ELIZA chuckles)  I want to go on record saying that.  
HT:  Wasn’t Morgan Freeman nominated that year?
ER:  He didn’t win.
HT: He was nominated for, um, “Street Smart,” right?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Um, who won, who won you’re category that year?
ER:  Don Ameche.  For “Cocoon.”
ELIZA:  Once you’re that age, it’s kind of the body of work that (inaudible)
HT: Yeah, exactly.  But it’s a shame that it has to happen --
HR: Yeah, but that’s not how it’s supposed to be, though. It’s not supposed to be and
like --
ELIZA:  No, it isn’t.
ER: Don Ameche, he never gave an Academy Award performance in his life. So the fact that they gave him one over Klaus Maria Brandauer and myself, is really, it really casts a bad shadow over the whole meaning over the whole thing.  ‘Cause if you’re going to give Don Ameche a trophy over Klaus Maria Brandauer, somethin’s wrong there.
HT:  He seemed surprised getting it.
ELIZA:  Yeah, he did seem surprised.
ER: He should have been surprised.
HT: It was like, woooh! Thanks a lot! You know I really, you guys are great for honoring me this way. But --  
ER: Yeah.
HT: -- you know, it wasn’t the best performance of the year that won it.  Yeah, because John said, yeah, you know, I have to – because he’s very humble – but he said I have to agree with you, both Eric and I, we deserved the best performances that year. The acting craft doesn’t get much higher than that.  
ER:  Even worse,  is when you do a performance like “Star 80,” and you don’t even get nominated.  So it puts it all in perspective about it – it isn’t about the best. It isn’t about like the biggest surprise. It’s about, it’s about BS and ass-kissing.
HT:  Well it’s about marketing and campaigning –
ELIZA:  Yeah.
HT:  Especially now, it’s all about campaigns and, you know, who spent more money.
ER:  Well now, yeah.  Up until the ‘90s, I think it was about how much ass you kissed.
HKI:  Right.  And “Runaway Train” was an Akira Kurosawa script. Now, were there a lot of changes in the script?
ER:  Well the script by Kurosawa was almost 400 pages long. And Eddie Bunker made it 98 pages long.
HT:  Now was he the sole writer of that?
ER:  Eddie Bunker?
HT: Yeah.
ER:  Yeah.  Well, he doesn’t get sole credit because it was a Kurosawa script. But it was nothing – you wouldn’t even recognize it except for the fact that it had a runaway train in it.
HT:  You had the edge because he wrote it, too, didn’t it?  Well he wrote “Straight Time,” didn’t he?
ER: Yeah, Eddie Bunker did.
HT:  He died recently, didn’t he?
ELIZA:  What?  No.
HT: Is he still alive? So we’ll strike that one right away.  (ELIZA chuckles).  Because John was saying, he worships Kurosawa.  And for him to be part of that movie, really meant a lot.  It must have have been a terrific experience, just working with him.  :
ER:  It was great. Every day. Yeah.
HT:  Now, how did you – what’s the genesis of that character?
ER:  Well, that character was also supposed to be a tough thug.
HT:  Boxer.
ER:  And I said, that’s great but we have to make him vulnerable or else he’s just a, kind of a copycat of John’s character. John’s like not vulnerable, so we have to make that guy vulnerable> So that there’s some kind of a difference – some kind of a way in there. And they asked me how I wanted to do it. And I said if I could just change the accent, just make him southern. So like (imitates voice) when he talks about stuff, I can actually make my voice higher and sweeter.  So it’s like, he’s nice kid, you know?  But he’s also tough. .
HT:  So he was in there for, for the right reasons. But he’s kind of out of place, too.
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Among real hard criminals.
ER: (chuckles)  Yeah.
HT: ‘Cause, you know, your accents, you know  -- it was a southern, black, you know, kind of accent.  You were doing that kind of stuff.  You appreciate it now with all these white kids talking black and stuff, how deep you were 20 years ago with that character.
ER:  Mmmm.
HT:  Now, you mentioned Eddie Bunker – and he was terrific in the film, too. Did you – you guys shot in a real prison?
ER:  Yeah, we shot in a real prison. And we shot all the exteriors in Alaska, and all the interiors on a stage here.
HT:  Really.
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  So you guys actually felt --
ER  We froze our asses off, brother.  It was miserable.
HT:  And they were all actors, who played all the older – you guys – was it an active prison, or was it just a (inaudible) prison.
ER:  About – anybody behind bars was a prisoner, and anybody outside the bars was an actor.
HT:  So they were really doing time in there?
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  So what was that like?  Being around them.
ER:  It was fine, brother. They’re all fine.
HT:  Really?  Because, you know, I’ve talked to other actors who’ve done these prison movies. And prisoners try to play with actors’ minds and they say stuff behind --  
ELIZA:  Really?  Wow.
ER:  So?  What do you expect?
HT:  Right. It uh probably helped you with the, the character, didn’t it?  If nothing else.
ER:  They were good to me.  They were good to me.
HT:  That’s good, because that’s kind of the way your character was, too. You were sort of like the golden boy in there.
ER:  Yeah. Everybody liked him.
HT:  Did you get to see John – did you get to rehearse at all in that film?  
ER:  Not to speak of.
HT:  Really?  So when, by the time the cameras got rolling you guys were both ready with your characters.
ER:  Mm-hmm.
HT:  Because you know John, I mean, whenever he plays characters like Oscar Manheim in “Runaway Train” or even – he spent like about a half hour to me talking about his character in “Anaconda” even.
ELIZA:  Oh yeah.   Really yeah.
HT: Which is really, uh, nothing you’d wanna see --
ELIZA:  Right.  Yeah.
HT: -- but just to see him perform.
ELIZA: Yeah. I wonder about “Zoolander,” if he put a lot into that character.  Did you see him do “Zoolander”?  
HT:  Yes I did, yeah.  
ELIZA:  I bet he did. I thought he was great in that movie.   
HT:  John’s a great actor.
ELIZA:  I thought he was really funny.  He’s such an odd guy.
ER:  He’s a great actor.
ELIZA:  I liked him in “Table For Five..”  I mean he’s been in such a range of things.  So diverse.
HT:  Yeah. Even like that Nazi film, “Odessa File”?
ELIZA:  Yes. That’s right.
HT:  Because you know he was one of the guys that wanted to play Schindler, Oscar Schindler, years ago. You know?  He still campaigned to play it. He would have been terrific in that.
ER: Yeah, he would have been.
HT: Um, in the film – that was a real moving train, right?
ER:  All the stuff on the outside, that was a real moving train, we were really on it. All the stuff on the inside was just doing this – it was a fake train.
HT:  Oh really?
ER: Yeah.
HT:  So what about all the moving – was that just --
ER:  It was uh, projected screen.
ELIZA:  Process.
ER: What?
ELIZA:  Process shots.
ER: Process shots, right. Exactly.
HT:  Um, so, I mean – you know, you got your Oscar nomination, and deservedly so. You probably should have won.  Um, now --
ER: Well, either I should have won or Klaus Maria Brandauer should have won.   One of us.  
HT:  Okay.
ER:  It should have been one of us.
HT:  Would you consider it a big disappointment when you think back to it?
ER:  At the time I didn’t. But now that I look back, it was a downright theft.  Yeah.
HT:  Do you take the awards and so forth very seriously?
ER:  How can you?  How can you?
HT:  Right. Yeah.  Um, do you – now, we mentioned those parts: “Star 80,”  “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and “Runaway Train,” where you played, uh, pretty surly characters – brilliantly played.  Do you feel from such strong performances from those three films, do you think you were sort of pigeonholed as the --
ER:  Not at all. All those guys are wackos, but they’re completely different wackos.  And only one of them is surly, and that would be Paul from “Star 80.”  The other two guys are great guys. They’re stupid, but they’re great stupidheads.  They’re likeable, they’re funny, and they’re dumb.  Paul from “Star 80” was not dumb.  The other two were idiots .
HT:   Now, um, you know, because the movie is the movie business, and you got an Oscar nomination --
ER:  But that’s only three percent of all my work, though.
HT:  Mm-hmm.  I know, you’ve done like tons of films.
ER: And I’ve done like some really good performances, and I’m proud of them.
HT:  Mm-hmm.
ER:  Like “It’s My Party.”  Do you know “It’s My Party?”
HT:  Oh yeah, absolutely.  I saw it.
ER:  So proud of that movie.  It’s such a good movie.
HT:  But after the Oscar nomination, and you’re stock was rising – did you or the people that represent you, did they try to push you to getting, you know, the big leads?
ER:  I haven’t ever had any real professional guidance, up until 1992 – I didn’t have any professional guidance. And I didn’t know what I was doing.
HT:  Do you regret that?
ER:  How can you?  You just have to let it be what it is.  If you have regrets, you nurture bitterness.  And we try to stay out of that neighborhood.
HT::  Because, you know, an actor of your ability and your versatility and good looks, you know, you know people like, you know – I often read you know people saying that oh he’s great you playing these sort of stranger characters.  But you know I know that you can pretty much do it all. You could have been up for “Batman” or something like that even.
ER:  Thank you, brother. That’s nice of you to say.
HT: Do, uh, I mean, I think it’s a shame, but again, you can’t – as far as you’re concerned you just don’t have – look back and regret any – you just have to move on.
ER:  I’ve had a great journey.
HT:  What character do you think is closest to, to you?
ER:  Uh…partly – oddly enough, partly “It’s My Party.”  About 20 percent of that character is me, and about 40 or 50 percent of the character in “La Cucaracha” is me.  
HT:  Was “Cucaracha” ever (inaudible) released?
ELIZA:  For a minute.
HT: Last year?
ER:  No, the year before last.
HT:  So it’s available in uh --
ER:  Yeah, it’s a Paramount video.
HT:  I’m gonna watch that.  
ER:  It’s a good movie.
HT:  And another thing, you say it’s one of your best roles, definitely worth seeing.
ELIZA:  If you can’t get it at a store – Amazon.com.
HT: I’m just curious, have you um been snobbish about “I’m a movie actor” – (ER laughs) – I’m not gonna do television.
ER:  Well, if you see my resume, you would, you would see how much, how much TV I’ve done – tons! Tons!  I’m not a snob about any of it.  It’s all – it’s like, it’s like being a great athlete, but you’ll only do one thing.  That’s not good. You gotta be willing to try anything.
HT:  So this combination of you love to keep up the work, you love to act – you know, actors act.
ER:  Yeah.
HT:  Is it also business – you gotta keep working to uh --
ER: Well work breeds work. Work does breed work. But, uh, if I weren’t working, I would feel disconnected.
HT:  You know, for instance, someone like a Michael Caine has openly said “I just work a lot because I get paid” and uh if something good comes along it’s out of his control, whether it’s accepted or not.  But he know, he goes, he said something like, he goes for more of the instead of shooting with a gun to a target, he shoots machine guns.  (ER laughs loudly).
HT:  Would that be similar? You love to work, and you get paid.
ER:  I suppose so. Only I’m not trying to hit a target, with a gun or a machine gun. I’m just, I’m just working. I’m just working. I just love to work.
HT:  Really?
ER:  Yeah.
ELIZA:  One thing Eric said before, just to remind you.   We read that – we love Michael Caine, because he’s really straight up about it. Two things.  One, you can never tell.  Some of the projects that you think have such potential come out really funky.  And some of the ones where you’re just like, I don’t see this, come out really charmed.  And also, there hasn’t been one thing that Eric’s ever done where there hasn’t been something that came from it that he thinks, wow, I can’t imagine my life without that. One relationship, one scene, one something.
ER:  Yeah, my, my uh, my wife and I were have this exact same conversation about a month ago. We, we were making fun of some of my movies that night, and we were laughing about this one and that one. And like, “you remember in this movie how I met so and so, and how we got to go to thus and such, and—yeah!   Well that’s why we made that movie, remember?  Yeah! And there’s always something good that comes out of every one of them.
HT:  Really.
ER:  Even the really stupid ones that I make only for money.  Something good comes out of it.
HT:  Yeah. Um, when did you guys meet?
ER:  1989.  We met on an airplane.  And we started kissing in ’91 and got married in ’92.
HT:  And you’ve been together ever since. You guys are inseparable, right?
(ELIZA giggles)
ER:  Yeah, we are. We’re together all day, everyday.  And at work. I can’t tell you how, but it works.
HT:  (To ELIZA)  Do you still work?
ELIZA:  Yeah.
ER:  You should see a movie called “Love Is A Gun.”
HT:  “Love Is A Gun.”
ER:  Write that down so you don’t forget.
HT:  Alright.
ER:  “Love Is A Gun.”  And I won’t tell you why, but you have to see it.
HT: Okay. “Cucaracha” and “Love Is A Gun.”
ER:  And that also can be gotten on Amazon.com.
HT:  And you guys have worked together on several occasions.
ER: “Love Is A Gun” is a great example.
HT:  Mmhmm. Okay.
ELIZA:  That was fun.  
HT: (To ELIZA) And you were an actor when you guys met on the plane?
ELIZA:  Mm-hmm.  Yeah.  Yeah, we were both --  
ER:  Actually, she was an executive when we met on the plane.
ELIZA:  But I was also an actor.
ER: She was running the company that John Travolta’s manager then had.  Uh, then she left the company and it went under, probably because she left, and uh, so like, she was an executive when I met her. But had acted, was going to act again.
HT:  Right. So, um, if I may ask, Eliza, so what was it like – um, you know, ’89?
ER:  Cool buckle!  Lemme see that.  That’s great looking, man.
HT:  Yeah, it’s pretty nice.
ER:  Yeah nice man.
HT: Uh, so what was it like meeting Eric?  ‘Cause Eric was already the Oscar-nominated --  
ELIZA:  Right.
HT:  -- brilliantly talent --
ELIZA: Well for one thing, part of what I did as an executive was casting. I was used to actors. But I did think of him as being one of the real exceptional talents. Not just an actor. Um, and um, I realized in that moment that your preconceived notions about somebody never apply. I thought of him as being a very tough guy, very dark.  And when I met him he had his cat, whom he’d named “Tender,” yeah, sitting in a box in his lap, ‘cause he wouldn’t check the cat or anything.  And I thought, “Oh!”  And he was drinking a big bottle of water, and I thought of him as being this big gentle – not anything what I had thought of him as. He was really helpful and polite, and you know, moved my tray for me and all that.  So it --   
ER:  I thought she was cute.
ELIZA: -- it blew up, it blew up the whole image.  I didn’t realize he thought I was cute, and he didn’t come on strong or anything. Um, so that was, that was good.   We kind of avoided shop talk.  Um, but I did, but later, and not much later, one of the questions that I had for him was – because I have some of the same favorite movies you do, and some of these characters, you’d think a person would have to live ten lifetimes to really be able to capture that character’s experience. Like “Star 80.”  And I – he was like an interesting specimen.  It’s almost like he channeled these characters through himself. And I would ask him, where did you get this amazing instinctive dead-on knowledge of this guy?  Like when he first walks into Heff’s house – that feeling of wanting to fit in or whatever? And you know, I’ve always wondered, as a casting director, as an actress myself, as a director, is that unconscious?  Is that subconscious?  What does that come from?  And so I could ask him those questions. Which he never has answered. (Laughs)  I don’t know, I don’t know if there is an answer.
HT: Because you know, you might be embarrassed talking about this stuff, but when you do great work, I mean, people wanna --
ELIZA: Want to know the process.
HT:  Like myself.  I’ve been wanting to know about, you know, your approach to…acting
ELIZA:  It’s magic.  It’s like wanting to know the magic trick.  How it happens.
ER:  But when you talk about acting, it’s like talking about sex. You can explain the mechanics.  But it’s not explaining what you go through when you’re doing it. You can’t really explain that. And if you try to, you’re going to sound like a pretentious bunch of bullshit.  So I try not to.
HT:  Now, in the film work, I mean, do you um, are you one of these people who think oh, usually my first take’s always my best or do you just keep experimenting take after take?
ER:  It’s not one or the other.
HT:  Oh yeah?
ER:  It’s just --
HT:  Because I’d imagine, you know, because you’re so, you’ve developed these characters and you’ve, you know – I’d imagine each take you know you just really just live in it, each moment, each take differently.
ER:  That’s true. That’s true.  I don’t really think of it as, I’m gonna be quick or I’m gonna take my time. It either happens or it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a one-take day, and sometimes it’s an eight-take day.
HT:  And you can’t control what your partner’s – how your partner’s rhythms are gonna be.
ER:  Right.
ELIZA:  Right.
HT:  So, when you met Eliza, did you feel like you first – she’s a real cool lady and I wanna really become friends?
ER:  I thought she was hot. I thought she was smart.  And I have a real thing about red hair. And uh, and uh, I find anybody with dyed red hair to be a big disappointment, because I can’t help it, I have a, I have a perfect image. I instantly think when I see red hair, “does their carpet match their drapes?”
HT: Right.   
ELIZA: (giggles)  He was really curious.
HT:  But you didn’t get to see her ‘til ’91.
ER:  Right. Took a while. (ELIZA giggles)
HT:  So you were just – were you close friends for a while?
ER:  Yeah.  Yeah.  For a while.
HT:  Because it seems like, I’ve seen you guys on Stern and stuff, and it seems like you guys have a great best-friend relationship and --
ER:  Oh we like each other, yeah.
HT:  And you have a great family, too.
ER:  Thank you, brother.
HT:  Um, you know, we talked about Hollywood business and the bullshit that’s involved and so forth. You know, you can’t control it.  But you see like Travolta making a huge comeback, you know, especially today through people like Tarantino – Robert Forster makes a great comeback. Pam Greer. And David Carradine, who might be in the same issue – um, you know, he’s going to be in the next movie, replacing Warren Beatty.  You know, do you think about those things much or, again, this is something you just go day by day and if it happens it happens.
ER:  I’ll leave that for you to think about.  You know, ‘cause everyone wants to equate coming back with John Travolta. He was the biggest star on the planet. Then he took a big dive.  Now he came back and is the biggest star on the planet.  That’s his own journey. Nobody’s had that journey but him.  I mean that’s a big deal what he did and didn’t do. I mean he – and uh, so I wouldn’t dare equate myself with John Travolta. I mean like here’s a man whose movies make hundreds of millions of dollars.  If you add up all the receipts of all my movies you might get a hundred million dollars. And I made a hundred movies. So, you know (ELIZA chuckles), that’s not saying much. So no, I have infinite respect and little bit of awe for John Travolta. I am not John Travolta. And, I’m not anybody.  I’m just Eric. I’m just an actor. And I like what I do.
HT:  But ambition-wise, is there like a scenario that you’d like?
ER: I’ve never been ambitious.  I love what I do --
HT:  You’re just happy to be working.
ER:  -- and I do it well, and I’m proud of it and it makes me happy.  And it’s made me a living, and uh --
ELIZA:  But you know what?  There are, um – just in terms of the way the business works? Getting that shot to kind of blow everybody away with your capabilities again, really comes from a marriage of a director and actor.  And the ones that you mentioned who were kind of associated with other people coming back?  Usually they’re directors who are so unestablished that they don’t have to answer to anybody in terms of the studio. So they can take a risk, and then if it…You know, look what happened with Robert Forrester.  And you know, you get lucky and it’s fabulous and everybody appreciates what you did.  Or it’s someone with so much power they can say, I know you’ve got your list.  We’re not going off that list.  I want this actor.  Like when Eric did “In Cold Blood” for Jonathan Kaplan. However, there are certain directors you talk about wanting to work with, just because creatively – like Andrian Lyne – who we think “Unfaithful” was brilliant and incredible innuendos and stuff, and um, and Quentin --
ER:  Why wasn’t that nominated for best picture?
ELIZA:  Because I think that people – the same reason they don’t nominate comedies a lot of times.  If it’s too much fun, there’s laughs or whatever – people feel that, they think that comes easy, when actually it doesn’t.  It’s very hard to accomplish. They think it’s cheaper. If it’s a journey and an epic and difficult to watch  (ERIC laughs) – “Pianist” or whatever – then it gets an Oscar.  It’s a wrong prejudice. Woody Allen he’d love to work with.  I mean there’s certain directors – it doesn’t matter if it put him into a certain position out there or not.  The experience of it would be so fabulous. And um, so I think that there are those quite ambitions as to what the results would be, but what a wonderful experience that would be.   And that’s something that we talk about.  I see every movie the day it comes out. And I’m constantly thinking – Todd Haynes approached Eric to do “Velvet Goldmine” to play Jonathan Rhysmeyer as a guy in his 40’s --
ER:  As a grown-up.
ELIZA:  Because he looked so much – Jonathan looked so much like Eric did in “King of the Gypsies.”
HT:  Right. Right. I know.
ELIZA.  Brilliant idea.  Todd Haynes was just starting out then. It would be wonderful if there could be another time for them to work together.  I mean are those -- .
HT:  So he was unavailable?
ELIZA:  He wasn’t available, he was doing a TV series. We tried so hard to become available.  It was shooting in England and it was just --  
HT: You would have been good in that Dennis Quaid part.
ELIZA:  Yeah, that’s right.  So maybe that relationship would have started that, gotten him to that point. So I think there’s definitely, not in terms of a career strategy, but there’s definitely still lots of plans.
HT:  Right.  I mean there’s something to be said about directors who have taste, like Tarrantino, who remembers the great performances of Robert Forrester back in the ‘60s or whatever.  Or Travolta – how great he was in “Saturday Night Fever.”
ELIZA:  Right. And then they put them in those.
HT:  And then, you know, he turned down Miramax’s insistence of casting Danny Day Lewis, you know, and puts Travolta in there.
ELIZA:  Right.  And then he looks like a genius. And they’re saying it was their idea.
HT:  Right. (ERIC laughs)  And because of that, you’ve left so many memorable performances that --
ER:  Well, thank you brother.
HT: -- that that stuff might come around.
ELIZA: That’s why in interviews like this, Eric used to say “let’s stick with the more current films.”  I don’t object at all to going back to the incredible, quintessential – when films were great – work, because it will trigger somebody now going, wait a minute, you know, that was wonderful.  There hasn’t been anything like that since. I think that stuff is very important. Don’t you agree?
ER:  Mm-hmm.
HT:  What are some of your most memorable jobs? You said you know you thought “It’s My Party” is probably closest to you but…
ER:  It’s a seven-way tie. There’s “King of Gypsies, “ “Star 80,” “Miss Lonelyhearts” – not “Lonelyhearts,” that’s another movie I made – but “Miss Lonelyhearts,” I made it for AFI actually; “Runaway Train,” “It’s My Party,” “La Cucaracha” – and I’m leaving one out.
ELIZA:  What about “Raggedy Man?”
ER:  Uh…
ELIZA:  Not as well, as much as I did?
ER:  Anyway, yeah.  
ELIZA:  He has your resume there, if you need to look at it. (Laughs)  It goes in reverse chronological order, from the most recent first or, maybe not…
HT:  Um, are there people who you’d really like to work with, be it actor or director?
You know, Eliza has mentioned a few.
ER:  Well, I made a big mistake one year. You know –
ELIZA:  Yeah. You did!
ER:  When I heard they were making “Last Temptation of Christ” I did everything I could to go out for that. And I got out for it, and I screen-tested on video with Harvey Keitel, and I got the part.  And then I turned it down. I said, “why I’m turning this down is being I want to come to your attention” – what’s his name?
ELIZA:  Scorcese.
ER:  -- “I want to come to your attention, but I’m not gonna play Jesus. I’m gonna fuck it up. And I also see – “
HT:  It was low budget, too, at the time.
ER:  “ -- and I also see a like no-win situation for anyone who plays this part.”  Well, he won’t give me the time of day ever since. And I can’t blame him, I guess, you know?
HT:  I mean because that went through several – I mean it was DeNiro first, and then Andrian Quinn was cast like ten years later or something, but then he couldn’t do it, and then – then, uh, it went to Willem Dafoe.
ELIZA:  I didn’t know that whole story, that’s interesting.
HT:  Yeah. Apparently so.  And you probably turned it down before all of them.
ER: No no no.  It had already gone through Robert  DeNiro when they first loved the project together – that was years before me.  Then, uh, Aiden Quinn there was talk about, but that wasn’t working out.  And I got the part, I turned it down. And then it went to –
HT:  Willem –
ELIZA:  Dafoe.
ER:  Willem Dafoe.
HT:  It ended up being a very controversial film that got a lot of attention.
ELIZA:  Yeah.
HT:  Yeah. And I think it probably still would have been a great project for you to do.  
ER:  I think so too, now.  But I was scared of it and I’m –
ELIZA:  He didn’t have any advice.
ER:  And unfortunately --  I had no advice at all – and unfortunately, I made what I guess is sort of an enemy out of somebody who’s an idol to me.
HT:  So he’s somebody you’d really like to work with?
ER:  Oh,  are you kiddin’?!
HT:  Anybody else you’d like to mention?
ELIZA:  You got the ones I mentioned?
HT:  Todd Haynes. Adrian Lyne.
ELIZA:  Woody Allen.
ER:   Who’s the guy who does, who does….Soderberg. What a director!  What a winner.  Yeah, I’d love to work for him.
HT: I could see you in “Oceans Eleven” or any of those movies.
ER: And Jack Perez is an upcoming film director who I worked with in “La Cucaracha” who I’d love to work with again.
HT:  Now you’ve done so much work, so many movies. Um, and you’ve worked with so many people, that people – that people, unless you start looking at the cast lists of a lot of these movies, people don’t realize the directors you’ve worked with, even actors – like Rod Steiger. You know, from Rod Steiger to completely the other end of the spectrum of Stallone and Richard Gere.
ER: One of my favorite directors that I’ve worked for that I’d like to work for again is Jonathan – what’s his last name?
ELIZA:  Kaplan?
ER:  Jonathan Kaplan.
HT:  Good director.
ER:  Oh my god!
HT:  He directed “The Accused.”
ER:  He’s an actor’s dream! Yeah.
HT:  Okay.  And you’ve worked with Henry Jaglom too, right?
ER:  Yeah.
ELIZA:  And Phil Joanou. He loved Phil Joanou, right?
ER:  Oh, Phil Joanou is a masterpiece.  He did – what film?
ELIZA:  “State of Grace.”
ER:  “State of Grace”!  Wasn’t that a great movie?  Yeah.
HT: With  Gary Oldman.
ER: Sean and Gary, yeah. And, uh, I love Phil.  I’ve made two movies for Phil.
HT:  You know, personally I really enjoy watching you – you know regardless of what people say about you’re great at playing these kind of parts of whatever, I really enjoy watching any performance of yours when you get so deep into it.
ELIZA:  Mm-hmm.
HT:  Because you appreciate how much work you put into it –
ELIZA: Yeah.
HT: -- that Eric put into it.
ER:  Thank you, brother.
HT:  And um, you know – you appreciate it when you and John are working, and you were saying that, you guys were just hoppin’ – that’s pretty rare, you know?
ELIZA:  Yeah, that chemistry is great.
HT:  Or you and Mickey.  I mean are there like people, other actors you think you’d really like to work with close and really have a great experience with.
ER:  Oh sure. Do, do you want me to name a bunch?
HT:  Yeah, why don’t we.  This is always fun.  
ELIZA: Yeah.
HT:  Harvey Keitel…
ER:  Harvey.  I love Harvey.  Uh, Jason Schwartzman. There’s a whole new crop of young actors who I just think is great. For a while there, in between my generation and this new generation – all the new actors sucked. And now they’re coming out with some real winners. Like Jason.
ELIZA:  And Giovanni Ribisi you love.
ER:  Ah, Giovanni!  Aaaah!  What a guy!  What an actor!
HT:  John Voight said he was just great.  Yeah.
ER:  His is great.
HT:  And he’d only then done a couple of movies. I was wondering then when John saw him. Because Angeline was doing a movie with Eric at the time?
ER:  Yeah.
HT: (inaudible)  Now, I read somewhere that you said “Film work is like a restaurant and TV is like fast food. And I love fast food.”
ER: No, I was just trying to explain the difference, when they said “what’s the difference.” Or when you make a movie it’s like when you go to a restaurant and you eat.  You get to decide and look and I want this first, this second, and bring me this later. Bring me coffee with that, okay?  In that order. Thank you very much. And then everybody’s very nice to you. You take your time, they serve you well. Cook your food just like you want it. If it’s not cooked perfect you send it back, get it again, blah blah blah.  Take your time.  Eat. As where like the TV is like a drive through in-and-out burger. “I want this this and this thank you okay bye here’s your money see you bye!” That’s what it’s like. That’s the difference, yeah.
HT:  And were you – considering how TV where it got any point – for – it took to be – because a series like “Less Than Perfect” right now, you could quite easily be involved in it for seven, eight years or something.
ER:  Wouldn’t that be sad?
ELIZA:  Noooo, it would be great!
HT:  Would it be?
ER: No, it would be fabulous.  I always loved me life.  I always said I had a great life. And then I got this show, I had now idea – I now have a great life. In that I work 30 hours a week.
HT:  You get to stay around your family all the time.
ER: I see my horses almost every day. I get to chase my wife whenever I want to. I get to see my kid.  It’s great. And I never got to do those things –
HT:  And the arc of your characters are long term, too.  You know, it’s not like just this script – you’re continuing to develop the character too.
ER:  Yeah, it’s neat.  It’s lucky.
HT:  Yeah. And it seems like, um, you’re really happy with the people that are involved, the creators –
ER:  It’s a great group.
HT:  -- and the director, and the actors.
ER:  It’s a great group.
HT:  I mean Andy Dick – he’s a hilarious personality whenever you see him. He’s kind of uh – you never know what you’re going to get from him. But in the TV setting he really is very effective.
ER:  He’s a great guy.  Special man.  And my friend.
HT:  Have you always been a fan of sitcoms?
ER:  No. In fact, I’ve only liked about a half a dozen sitcoms, from like “Leave It To Beaver,” to Lucy, to Seinfeld.  It’s only about a half a dozen of them.
ELIZA:  You like “Mad About You.”
ER:  Love “Mad About You.” Oh, and there’s a new one I like, called “Yes, Dear.”  I’ve only seen it twice.  But I laughed both times all the way through it.
HT:  “Cheers”?
ER:  “Cheers”?  “Cheers” was a little too smug for my taste. It was a little too taken with its own self for my taste.
HT: Right.
ER:  I shouldn’t say that!
ELIZA:  Well you  what was funny on “Cheers” and who also was brilliant in “Deconstructing Harry”?  Brilliant.  Nobody talks about her. Um, Kristie Alley.  She was really, really great in “Cheers” and she was a replacement.
ER:  I, I’m not a fan
ELIZA: Me neither, but in those two performances --
HT:  Travolta said she’s like the most hilarious woman ever.
ELIZA:  Well ‘cause yeah, I cast “Look Who’s Talking.”  So, she’s also great in that. And they were great together.
ER:  Yeah, she was good in that.
HT:  So, it seems like you really like to mix it up now. You know, these videos and --
ER:  Sure.
ELIZA: (inaudible name, like “Jarole”)
HT:  Yeah, who directed that?
ER:  It was the head of Island Def Jam – Irving Gotti or whatever his name is.
HT:  Irv Gotti, yeah.
ER:  Irv Gotti, right.  That’s his name. He’s a sweet guy.  
HT:  Yeah, Morgan Freeman once said, you know, because he used to be on “Sesame Street”
ELIZA:  And then “Electric Company” -- ER:
HT:  And then he started doing movies --
ELIZA:  He was on “Electric Company.”   Yeah.
HT: Yeah?  And then he really got people’s attention when he gave that terrific performance in “Street Smart” – and now every movie he’s just brilliant in.
ELIZA:  Yeah, loved him.
HT:  He said that TV still is the biggest star-maker, just for sheer numbers.
ELIZA:  Yeah.  Accessibility.
ER:  Yeah, sure.
ELIZA:  Absolutely.
HT:  But, you like to do, continue to pursue movies off season or…
ER:  I just like to act. Whatever comes up, I’ll probably go do it.
HT:  Right. Um, talk about your kids. I have a step son, Keaton Simon, he’s 25 years old --
ELIZA:  24.:
ER:  He’ll be 25 in June, he’s just about to do  --  
ELIZA:  July.
ER:  He’s just about to do (to ELIZA)  gimme a break! --
ELIZA:  We don’t, we really – Maverick wants to be really careful about his age.
ER:  Gimme a break, hun. Gimme a break. He’s just, he’s just finishing up his first album with Maverick Records. And he’s going to be a superstar.  And I have stepdaughter named Morgan, who has her own catering company, is a chef.  And then I have a daughter named Emma, who’s twelve, whose screen debut is playing Johnny Depp’s daughter in blow. (coughs)  She’s now making a movie for Miramax with her and an ape. A chimp. And uh, and she too is going to be a superstar.
HT:  Okay.  Well that’s great.  That should do it.  Anything else you want to –
ELIZA:  Do you want to say what you’re eating these days? Because of Morgan?
ER:  I want to thank you for being so prepared, and so nice, and so together. Thank you, brother. I appreciate it.
ELIZA:  Say that good stuff that Morgan’s packaging for you.
ER:  Well you know, I like to stay in shape.  And so I decided I’m going to drop all my body fat and get really skinny – oww!  Wow that hurt!
ELIZA: That’s why you’re elbow – because you have no padding.  Maybe not.
ER:  And then slowly put all the muscle back on, so I have no body fat.  I’m going to try that experiment for a year.  And my stepdaughter is cooking for me. And she does a whole week’s worth of meals.  And then she puts them in plastic and she freeze-dries them and freezes them.  So whenever I want to eat I go home and I just, I boil it up, it takes like 20 minutes and I have a great meal.
HT:  Wow. Okay.
ER:  It’s really something. With no fat or anything. It’s great.

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