'Off the Cuff' Podcast: Johnathon Schaech Says He Turned Down Franco Zeffirelli

Johnathon Schaech - H 2015
AP Images

Johnathon Schaech - H 2015

The actor of 'That Thing You Do!' fame has a new film out with Bruce Willis and tells #THRpodcasts how his career survived even after he scorned the advances of his very first director.

Though Johnathon Schaech is still largely known for his starring role as the lead singer in the Tom Hanks-directed musical comedy That Thing You Do! he actually had his voice stolen from him in his first feature film, 1993's Sparrow, directed by the renowned Italian director Franco Zeffirelli.

"He was very upset with me, and he did not want to see me ever again, so he dubbed my entire performance with an English actor," Schaech recalls of Zeffirelli in this episode of Off the Cuff. It was Schaech's very first film role after being discovered, in true Hollywood fairy-tale fashion, in an L.A. cafe by Madonna's hair and makeup artist. Several years later, when Schaech was becoming "a hot commodity" just before the release of That Thing You Do!, Zeffirelli invited him to dinner at his house in West Hollywood.

"He said that I was one of the loves of his life, and if I could only understand the comprehension of what his love was about…" Schaech recalls sympathetically about the man who could have easily killed his career by dubbing him. "It wasn't platonic," Zeffirelli apparently explained of his feelings, according to Schaech. "It was romantic." The men parted on good terms, with the director offering Schaech a role in his upcoming feature Tea With Mussolini (though Schaech laments it was "Franco's one film that won awards, and I turned it down.")

He also tells us about the films he didn't turn down but maybe should have — most notably Hush, the thriller in which he co-starred with Jessica Lange and Gwyneth Paltrow. The film was ridiculed for a bad wig Paltrow wore in some scenes that were reshot after she made Shakespeare in Love. Schaech laughs about it now but says, "Her agency knew that Shakespeare in Love was going to get her an Oscar, and they didn't give a shit about Hush." He also cops to having appeared in the much-maligned '90s nighttime soap Models Inc. but points out, "I was offered to take a lead in that. That was probably the only good choice I made in my career, to turn it down."

He can currently be seen in the dystopian feature Vice starring Bruce Willis ("It's like Blade Runner meets The Purge," he says) and is enjoying what he calls "the best role I've ever played, by far" — that of being a father, for the first time, at the age of 45.

Listen to Schaech's full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #THRpodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes.