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Lathe of Heaven - Interview with Kevin Conway #3

Guest Author - Host Wanted

This is part 3 of a an interview with Kevin Conway. Start with Page 1

.Jenn> Will Smith has been known to wistfully refer to "The Matrix" as "the one that got away." Do you have a role you desperately wish you had gotten that slipped away for one reason or another?

.KevinConway> It's true and when ... I have to confess that to me the films I love best are the old ones from the 30s and 40s because even though the star system was in place, and of course writers were treated like slaves by the studio but still out of that studio system came a lot of great, and literate movies, which I have to say is hard to find by my taste. To me it worked better then than it does now despite the higher salaries and so called creative control that some people have over their films

.KevinConway> That's a good question

.KevinConway> I hate to admit it but I'm drawing a blank

.KevinConway> There have certainly been movies I've seen where I'd wished I was in that movie

TRISOLDE> such as...

.KevinConway> I would like to be in a movie, or a TV show, that was in some way groundbreaking.

TRISOLDE> like Lathe? ;)

.KevinConway> that I think is something that would really be something to remember in your career.

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> Lathe, indeed.

.KevinConway> I've done a fair amount of movies, some good, some not so good, but I can't really point to a film or a character that I would put in terms of something that would be a part of film history. I have to say that objectively. That's great that you feel Lathe is, Lathe is the closest to that I feel. I love Lathe, and love doing Haber, but I'd have loved to have been in some of the early John Ford movies, Double Indemnity, by Billy Wilder. I'd have loved to be in Best Years of our Lives, or Citizen Kane, something like that.

SITCOMSHOST> Of course, to be true film history it has to withstand the test of time...and your work hasn't had the time yet...

.KevinConway> The beautiful thing about being an actor is that it's still liable to happen. Because you get old, it could be the combination of role and actor could happen any time. I still hold out hope but I have to be honest I'm thinking more and more about producing my own stuff. I have my own material, I juts hate going around hat in hand to get the money. I give people credit who can sell themselves and raise money at the same time, I'm leery about doing that. But I would love to find a terrific part either in an existing role or brand new one, if a writer comes up with a character that I feel gets under my skin and I can do him. It would be great

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> You have your own material already? Now I am salivating!

TRISOLDE> Would you be interested in a dinner party with just a couple of chatters, and do bits of it for us? :)

.KevinConway> I think that's certainly true (re aging creating great movies) and it's kind of unfair to compare movies that were almost anytime anyone made movies in the 30s they were pushing the envelope, except for the formula garbage, but anytime someone did an ambitious film they were breaking new ground. Nowadays it's hard to find subjects that haven't been done to death and if it's successful it's copied a million times and that dilutes the power of the original. You never know over time what will be left standing. Where I sit now, I look at a substantial and every once in a while a little bit more than that body of work but I don't see, in all honesty, 'Red River' in there, or "Psycho" in there, that kind of stuff, I can watch Casablanca every night of the week. It happens to be that kind of film that works for me, it never fails to get a response out of me.

TRISOLDE> (but you do see Beachcombers!)

.KevinConway> there are many others like that, but I don't think I could watch Paradise Alley over and over again, even though I do look cute in women's underwear. I did do Elephant Man for television, for ABC, maybe that's the next campaign to try to get that back on the air because everyone thinks of the movie, the David Lynch film. But there wouldn't be a David Lynch film if not for the play. We did a version on tape, and in Canada, even though it was me and not that other guy. So that's one that I was very proud of, the way it came off given that it was taped and true to the stage version there was no makeup, he was just a good looking guy.

SITCOMSHOST> Hah! You did do Beachcombers while you were in Canada!

.KevinConway> and we left it to the audience's imagination, I frankly think it worked better.

.KevinConway> I confess

.KevinConway> What was the Canadian group with John Candy?

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> Trisolde, say "Antwerp!"


TRISOLDE> antwerp!

.KevinConway> I should just give up and move to Canada I think. Actually you people have given me a great idea to do a screenplay, about a guy who goes to Canada and kills the actor and adopts his screen credits as his own.


Jenn> Do you have a favorite director?

.KevinConway> There have been a couple of movies I've done, like I did a movie "Flashpoint" that I'm not terribly proud of, it wasn't a good movie but I didn't add to it. I'd like to go back and fix the mediocre performances, it's not so much a mediocre performance, it's a scene or two that got away from you, and you think "I was pretty good in this scene or that scene, but in this other scene I look like I got hit on the head". It's lack of concentration or you feel rushed by the director to get done, and be professional and get it done to show that you're a real trooper, and sometimes when you do that you really don't know what you're doing, and there have been any number of films. Almost every film I've done there's a moment or two I'd like to have back. I don't think that's unusual, every actor I've known moaning about a missed opportunity in this moment or that.

TRISOLDE> sorta hard to strut and fret your hour on the stage if it's taped for everyone to see later...

.KevinConway> There's been a couple of TV things ... Slaughterhouse 5, that was my very first film, I didn't know what I was doing, I was supposed to die of gangrene in that film, so I prepared, I went to the doctor's and found out exactly how gangrene progresses through the body and what actually kills you when gangrene kills you. I'd never done a film, the day they called me for that scene, I woke up and began to die, even before I took a shower, even in the trailer I keep dying, to get this truthful moment when they called me. Needless to say they never got to that scene that day. When we got back to the hotel, this was in Czechoslovakia, I was exhausted. It crossed my mind that Henry Fonda didn't do that. He had some technique to be totally believable and totally in the moment and get the information across without having to die all day long, for 18 hours. It's those kinds of not so little things you learn when you start doing film, that it's a technique as well as a reserve of emotion and behavior that you have to draw on. It's a different process, so I can look back on every movie I've done and say, I didn't use my technique here, I was pushing here, I wasn't clear enough, I was rushing, or taking too long. It's just a way, I'm sure this is common in every profession. I once gave a speech in the SAG about this - actors are really three things. One is that you're a union member, you're a worker, you're hired by a producer, a film company or studio, and you have to show upon time, you have to come to work, like anyone who works in a factory must do. Secondly it's called the Screen Actor's Guild, it's a profession, it's a skilled (theoretically anyway) type of work, like making barrels in the old days, being a watchmaker, any kind of skilled individual who does something very specific, and then if you're lucky the third thing every once in a while you're an artist, it's not in every scene of every film, but once in a while in a stage or film you'll transcend the material and give a performance that is extraordinary. There are a number of actors who have done that, juggling those three things is in a way a difficult part of being an actor. Unless you are a very powerful movie star who can only dwell on the third thing only insist about being brilliant all the time without worrying about the other people. You really have to be all of those things, the first two things really allow you to be the third, I think. I'm not saying there isn't something called inspiration, that's something I'm really talking about. Something that people who are untrained have it, the camera loves them, it's a gift. For the most part, to make a living as an actor you have to have a technique, a kind of respect for the work and then under the circumstances that work can become a kind of art, and that's what you have to aspire to all the time otherwise it can get really depressing. I am proud of all the good things I've done. I'm talking about what I can improve, there are many things beyond acting we could talk about. You look back on your life and see all the things you did right, or wrong, or half-heartedly. As you get older you want to reduce that and do things that soar a little bit, fly ... Next?

TRISOLDE> Would it be better if the actors could see the dailies with the director and say, "hey, can I do it over?" (or do they already?)

.KevinConway> Well, it's a judgment call. Some directors really hate it and don't permit it. Some directors allow anybody to see dailies or selected actors. I used to go to dailies all the time and evaluate my performance and have said that on a few occasions, let's do it again. For the most part it's not possible to do it again unless you're shooting on a set. If you're on location you usually only have it for set amount of time, once you're gone, you're gone. In certain films, Woody Allen for instance always budgets he's going to reshoot 20-25% of his movies. He knows when he gets it done he's going to want something different or more or less. I'm not a big fan of Woody Allen but a lot of directors do work like that. As far as really good directors, they'll listen if you've got a really strong reason to do it over. If they agree with you, if they can do it over they will.

.KevinConway> re: the strut and fret, the main attraction about film is its longevity, warts and all. For all the high blown talk about acting, there is a certain gene I think that most actors have where they do want to be seen and want to be remembered for their work. If I were to paint a wonderful painting I could then jump off the Brooklyn Bridge but I'm thinking that in 50 years someone will find this painting and realize I'm a genius.

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> I think we can reassure you that you will be remembered.

.KevinConway> There are some great stage actors who people have never heard of, because when they died, their work died, and the people who saw their work, when they died, the memory of that work only becomes legend but not real, whereas with film and tape, you do at least have that longevity if you will.

TRISOLDE> and you don't have to jump off a bridge...

.KevinConway> I don't know how important it is, but it is there. Philosophically I don't think I'll be floating around somewhere 1000 years from now and say "look, they're having a film festival of my movies". When I'm in the 'home' sitting by the window, being fed by somebody, instead of clippings and scrapbooks I can pop a video in so that's one advantage of being taped. Nobody's asked me to run for president yet, I don't know why.

.Jenn> 'Cause then you wouldn't be able to perform for us!

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> Hey, an actor in politics? Unheard of!

.KevinConway> You're kidding surely, given our past presidents.

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> Kidding very much.

.KevinConway> I think all politicians are like some bad stock company like 'Noises Off'.

.Jenn> LOL!

.KevinConway> That's what congress reminds me of

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> (oh, the mental image in my head now...)

.KevinConway> maybe someday I'll be able to say "I'm not the President of the US but I've played one on TV". Next?

TRISOLDE> I love DVDs because of their layered audio content. (director's discussions, etc.) Does Lathe have it? And do any of your other works have you discussing stuff on DVDs?

.KevinConway> I really don't know the answer to that question.

.KevinConway> I'm assuming, just assuming, that the interview between Ursula LeGuin and Bill Moyers is on DVD. Alas, nobody interviewed me.

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> Lathe will be out on DVD this month, so I suppose we will find out!

.KevinConway> I did promos on public TV but I never did an extensive interview. Next?

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> My part of the country didn't pick up Lathe this time around, so I missed those promos. Sigh.

Jenn> What would you like your epitaph to be (hopefully, many years from now)?

.KevinConway> Let's see. Probably something, I haven't thought this through, "Don't cry, it's only a movie"

.Jenn> Oooh, that's good.

.KevinConway> I think after I die I'm going to go someplace they do plays all of the time.

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> Awwww.

.KevinConway> That would be heaven. Hell would be doing daytime television. Purgatory would be doing another Mickey Rourke movie.

.Jenn> ROFL!

.KevinConway> It was an undirected, unscripted mess. Next?

TRISOLDE> and not because it's sexy and heaven and sex don't really go together?

TRISOLDE> (oh wait... 9 1/2 weeks... ne'er mind!)

.KevinConway> I've been trying to keep this discussion clean and G-rated but yes, heaven and sex are definitely belong in the same ballpark. I've never done a play about sex, one was sent to me. It was the usual Shlitzer who wrote Laroun and they wanted to do a really raunch version of it on Broadway. They never got the money, eyes wide shut is based on one of his stories. Shnitzler must have been a fun guy.

.KevinConway> many years ago, I was asked to do a heavily sexual play with lots of nudity and various things off off Broadway at La Mama actually with Candy Darling the transvestite. Mercifully the author pulled it before we had a chance to do it.

.KevinConway> because in those days, we're talking about 1971, 1972, so in those days I was up for anything in terms of theater but it was an awful play, but it was the kind of stuff we were doing a lot of off off Broadway. Andy Warhol was going to produce it. I don't really miss not having it on my resume. Looking back on it, it was ... it would have been a little exhibitionist. Regarding Susan Sarandon in RHPS, she was a nubile young actress at the time, at the time I was a young studly actor, the only thing I cared about was Candy Darling was a man, and a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. That was why Warhol was involved.

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> If he hadn't pulled it, would you have?

.KevinConway> Yes, I would have done it, with a few restrictions because the script called for certain things and I would have... I don't think I was ever that liberal minded.

TRISOLDE> restrictions ... like leather cuffs?

.KevinConway> Limits are not always bad

.SciFi/Fantasy TV> he he

.Jenn> You're obviously an intelligent and charming man, as well as a terrific actor. Do you have a fan club? I'd sign up this second.

.KevinConway> I don't have a fan club, I don't think. I have people who write to me, really lovely people who say lovely things, but it's not an organized fan club. I don't know what a fan club, in television if you're an ongoing character ... fan clubs are more for the character rather than for an actor, except if you're a movie star or Ricky Martin.

TRISOLDE> How about the Martin Baker Fan Club?

.KevinConway> Fan clubs spring up because people fall in love with Rhoda. I've never had a publicist either, which some people say is a mistake. Actually I lied, I had one once for a month.

.Jenn> Do you know Scott Wentworth? He's primarily stage acting and directing, and his club literally travels the world to watch him perform.

.KevinConway> I was paying them money to make me famous or something. She called me up one time because my name had appeared in a column saying I was eating pasta at a particular restaurant, and it was a lie, the publicist represented me and that restaurant. The only reason to have one is if you're very famous and you need to keep people away from you. You need them more to screen out the interviewer that's going to sandbag you by asking you 'who is the first president of the US' or something. Next?

TRISOLDE> I'm finding a TON of Kevin Conway stuff on the net. How do you feel about people marketing you for you?

.KevinConway> Well, it depends on what kinds of 'tons of stuff' there is.

TRISOLDE> there's a Kevin Conway Birthday Countdown page.

.KevinConway> I'm basically ... the point was to talk about Lathe of Heaven, talking about myself is pleasurable.


.KevinConway> I have a dog but he's not with me, but any project I'm involved in, as far as I'm concerned, they can go to down, if it's going to raise the profile of that piece. You know, I did an internet chat the night of my birthday in May. It was very touching, I'd never done one before, and everybody, wherever they were calling for, wished me happy birthday before they asked me a question.

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