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Citizen Penn

Page 2 of 3 -- How much of this was articulated on the set?

I don't get very analytical. And to the degree that I do get analytical, I don't feel that it's productive to share that stuff. Maybe in the form of some questions here or there.

What do you do with directors who do try to articulate it too much?

I count the number of hairs growing out of their ears.

Until they shut up?

Yeah. And I don't know if Niels has any because he doesn't do that.

I know the final script was written in 1999, before George W. Bush was elected, but the political anxiety level in the movie does seem to be remarkably similar to this past year.

There's an interesting parallel between Bush and Richard Nixon. While Nixon was clearly a superior statesman and in many ways a more intelligent politician, what they share is a kind of boldness in how they emote their insecurities. What we're finding with George Bush -- part of what's familiar to people and that adds to his likability for many -- is that there's a commonality of deep insecurity and his handling it with a kind of bravado. What they both did is handle things with a similar certainty -- certainty being the "disease of kings."

Have politics affected your acting over the years, and vice versa -- has acting affected your political beliefs?

I think it's all one thing. We get up in the morning and face our life and our work and our parenting and our politics and whatever it is.

Do politics affect what roles you take?

Not really, because I don't consider myself specifically political, you know? I think of working as an actor as being a human thing. The concerns I have that fall into politics are human concerns. Anything that's a polemic, be it a movie or a speech, is just bad work. So I'm certainly not looking for any message beyond the possibility of things changing.

You took a lot of flak for going to Iraq . . .

Twice.

How do you feel about people who say actors shouldn't take stands?

I wrote a letter to the Washington Post a couple of years ago before we went into the war. The very things I was criticized for saying then are now being reported by Bill O'Reilly. I was criticized for suggesting the possibility there were no weapons of mass destruction. But the bigger issue is that it's an absolutely stupid notion that you should take the title of someone's profession and attach it to what they should not do. It has nothing to do with citizenry. I think they should shove it with their hypocritical Ronald Reagan standard . . . .   Continued...

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