THR Emmy Roundtable: Kevin Bacon, 'Mad Men's' John Slattery and More on Aging, Worst Auditions and 'Jerk' Pasts
Jeff Daniels, Mandy Patinkin, Dennis Quaid and newcomer Corey Stoll dish on the season's top contenders, embarrassing moments and the lines ("My name is Inigo Montoya") and gags (six degrees of who?) that they'll never escape.
THR: Did he ever let you in to Studio 54 again?
Bacon: 54 had just closed, but probably he wouldn't have let me in!
Patinkin: I got that part! (Laughter.)
Slattery: I once got a call to play Sylvester Stallone's brother in a movie. The audition was in an hour, but they wanted me to dye my hair black. I was at my sister's house -- I didn't have an apartment or any money -- and I went into her drawer, got the laundry quarters and went to the drugstore to buy some hair dye. I remember, as I was leaving the house, there were some guys digging a trench in the street. And I got this black Clairol hair dye and went back, put it in my hair, and it was like tar. And I go to turn the water on, and it goes, "Gug-gug-gug-gug-gug-gug-gug-gug," and I realize that the guys digging the trench had shut the water off to the building! And I was like, "Holy shit." I could stick my head in the toilet, but I wasn't that desperate. So I went into the fridge and got a couple of bottles of water, took off all my clothes and poured it all over me. It's also about 111 degrees in Manhattan, and I have this shit dripping down my face. I look like an anemic vampire. So I go to read for the coke-addled brother of Stallone. And I had to get on my knees, and I'm wiping the hair dye off my face. I saw myself on my knees, wiping my hair dye off my face with this casting director yelling at me, and I had a complete out-of-body experience. "What the f--- are you doing?" I was probably the reason the movie never got made.
Stoll: I was going to my first audition in L.A. for an episode of CSI. I was so excited to play this clerk in a porn store, and so I went to Rough Trade on Sunset in Silver Lake, a leather clothing store, and explained to the clerk, "I'm auditioning for this thing." And he thought that I was just too embarrassed to say that I was a leather daddy. I had also just been playing this orthodox Jewish man but just shaved my long beard into a handlebar mustache to prepare for this audition. And the guy was really excited, got me all dressed up, and I wound up wearing a tight little sparkly crop top. And I got the role!
Patinkin: You can get a lot of that stuff cheaper on eBay.
Daniels: My worst moment was with Juliet Taylor, one of the great casting directors in New York. It was my second year in New York, and my agent got me in to meet her. He said, "You don't have a lot of training, so just lie and put Sandy Meisner on your résumé." So Juliet is looking through the résumé, and says, "I see you studied with Sandy Meisner." I said, "Yeah, she was great." And Juliet looked at me and then just kept right on going. I later told my agent, "Yeah, it was good, she asked me about Sandy Meisner, how great she was." He goes, "Sandy is a man." F---.
THR: Did she ever cast you in anything after that?
Daniels: She did. She forgave me. I haven't forgiven myself!
THR: What single role or project most changed you as an actor?
Quaid: For me, it was doing [the 1979 film] Breaking Away. I'd been going from job to job to job, just for credits, and along came the audition. I went in to read for director Peter Yates. I don't think I would have the career if it wasn't for him. He just offered me the role when it first came in. And that didn't ever happen to me before, and I said, "I'd like to, I'd love to, but I already have this job," and he actually got in the doorway and blocked my way and said, "Listen, young man, you have to do this." I'd come from university theater, and he was a great mentor. Peter Yates. Thank God for him!
Patinkin: For me, it was [the 1984 Broadway show] Sunday in the Park With George, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical. I had just won a Tony Award for Evita, and then Lapine comes over to my house and says, "You have to audition for Sondheim." Whoa, why do I have to audition? Don't you get anything for winning one of these awards? I'm not a good auditioner. It's going to be a disaster. And Steve calls me and said, "Everybody auditions for me except Angela Lansbury." So I'm a nervous wreck, and I end up getting it! But they didn't have the part of the artist written. James said, "We want to create a work of art based on a work of art." So they chose the Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and he wrote all the characters in the painting first, and then they realized there was a character missing -- the artist. So they wrote the artist last, so I would go through six weeks of rehearsal just drawing and doing nothing while everyone else did their thing. But within that piece were the repetitive words, "Connect, George, connect." And those became what I want on my tombstone. That is what I live my life to try to do.
Bacon: I'll tell you what was pivotal for me was actually a decision that Jeff made …
Daniels: I wondered if you were going to bring this up.
Bacon: Jeff was doing a play called Lemon Sky off-Broadway with Cynthia Nixon, and they wanted to shoot it for PBS' American Playhouse. And they offered both of them the parts, and they turned them both down. And my wife took Cynthia's part, and I took Jeff's part, so I really have him to thank for my marriage. It wasn't really a career decision of mine -- it was more a career decision of his that was pivotal for me.
Daniels: Was I invited to the wedding?
THR: What has been your oddest or most interesting fan interaction? Kevin, you just smiled.
Bacon: Well, it was actually a thing with our band. There was a woman who was a big fan and who had, unfortunately, one of her legs amputated. She was coming to a show and wanted us to autograph her prosthesis.
THR: You must also get people talking about the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing nonstop.
Bacon: Yeah, people on the subway will go, "Hey, one degree!" I've lost track of how you actually play that game.
Quaid: In New York, especially in the 1990s, people would come up and say, "Kevin Bacon, how are you?" And they actually meant Kevin Costner.
Daniels: I had a kid in my own town walk up and say, "Excuse me, Mr. Bridges?"
THR: Do people associate you with one specific role more than another?
Daniels: I find that once you've sat on the toilet in front of millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of people … [1994's Dumb & Dumber]
Patinkin: It changed the way I go to the bathroom. (Laughter.)
Daniels: Thank you!
THR: Mandy, despite Homeland's success, you must still get a lot of Princess Bride recognition.
Patinkin: At least two to three times a day, and I couldn't be happier about it. I pinch myself! I get my biggest kick when little kids come up, and I don't think I look like that guy [his character, Inigo Montoya] anymore, and their parents are going, this is so-and-so, and so I always go up to the little kid, and I whisper that famous line in his ear ["Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."] I was 34 when I made that movie. And a few years ago, I was in Philadelphia, and I went up to my hotel room to have my dinner, and my wife was watching the end of the film where Inigo was in the window, and Buttercup [Robin Wright] had just jumped out into Andre the Giant's arms. And Inigo says, "I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life." And that's the line that's most mattered to me.
Bacon: One fan thing I just thought of was someone said to me recently, "How do they make you look so bad on your show?" And I said, "I got news for you, honey, they're trying their best to make me look good."
Daniels: I've gotten, "In [1983's] Terms of Endearment, you were younger." Well, yes, so were you!
THR: Lastly, if you could run a television network for a day, what's the first thing you would change?
Stoll: I would let the show creators make more [business] decisions. This was my experience with Netflix -- they were really hands-off. And I think when you're in the trenches, when you're the people who have the biggest [creative] stake in the show, you have more than just a fractional understanding, and you're going to do a better job [as a leader] than somebody who's only thinking about advertising. Get good material, get great people and then let them do their thing.
Patinkin: I would like to see the cable networks find a way to get their extraordinary products out to people who cannot afford premium TV. We who are doing it are absolutely taking a pay cut, and we're still getting paid more than we deserve, in my opinion. I want the poorest people in this country to have the finest that we can possibly create, and that's not how it's set up at the moment. I think that's a problem. Everything doesn't have to be about that bottom-line dollar figure. I wish that this extraordinary stuff that's being made by television today is available to everyone. We're proud of what we're doing on Homeland, and there are some people -- who are my friends -- who can't afford $12, $14 or $15 a month. So we're bootlegging them copies of screeners because we're friends, you know? I don't have the solution, but I would like it found.
Quaid: I wouldn't know the first thing about running a network. I think [CBS Corp. president and CEO] Les Moonves is really good at it, but that's a different world and mind-set because it is tied to advertising. Sometimes it does really great, and sometimes it doesn't, and it's just a big-boy game.
Patinkin: I'm grateful for things like reality TV because those shows can foot the bill for these other things. But I think there are other ways to skin the cat so that everybody can afford everything.