AN ACTOR’S ACTOR

Paul Dano takes us inside the latest revival of Sam Shepard’s classic “True West,” an iconic tale of sibling rivalry.

Aired on March 5 & September 6, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> OPPOSITES ATTACK.

SAM SHEPHERD'S TRUE WEST, PULITZER PRIZE NOMINATED PLAY ABOUT TWO BROTHERS WHO MAY HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN THEY THINK.

HOLED UP IN THEIR MOTHER'S HOUSE, PREPPY SCREEN WRITER AUSTIN WRESTLE WITH A LOT OF ISSUES BUT MOSTLY WITH EACH OTHER.

ETHAN HAWK AND PAUL DANO STAR IN THE ROUND ABOUT THEATER COMPANY SAM SHEPHERD'S CLASSIC.

FIRST SINCE THE PLAYWRIGHT'S DEATH IN 2017.

TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I THINK HE LIKED ME A LOT.

HE FELT I WAS SOMEBODY HE COULD CONFIDE IN.

WHAT YOU DO?

YOU BEAT HIM UP OR SOMETHING?

I'VE ABOUT HAD IT WITH THE INSULTS.

YOU THINK YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE IN THE BRAIN DEPARTMENT.

YOU THINK YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD COOK THINGS UP.

OTHER PEOPLE GOT IDEAS TOO, YOU KNOW.

MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING, THREATENED HIM.

WHAT DID YOU DO, LEE?

I CONVINCED HIM.

JOINING US NOW IS PAUL DANO.

PAUL?

IT'S AN HONOR TO HAVE YOU HERE.

HOW DID YOU BECOME PART OF THIS PRODUCTION?

I GOT A TEXT FROM ETHAN HAWK ONE DAY.

ETHAN AND I HAVE BEEN FRIENDS FOR A WHILE.

HE'S DIRECTED ME AND I PLAYED YOUNG ETHAN ONCE IN A FILM MANY YEARS AGO AND HE SAID, I KNOW ETHAN REALLY WELL AND KNOW HE'S A HUGE SHEPHERD AND WORKED WITH SHEPHERD, AS AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR, BLAH BLAH BLAH, AND TEXTED ME SOMETHING ELUSIVE BUT SOMETHING ABOUT HOW THERE'S SOMETHING WE COULD DO TOGETHER AND I KNEW IT WAS TRUE WEST.

AND I DON'T KNOW THE PLAY WELL, BUT I JUST KNEW, I WAS LIKE, OH, ETHAN'S GOING TO SAY WE SHOULD DO TRUE WEST.

AND SURE ENOUGH, THAT'S WHAT IT WAS.

I GUESS SAM SHEPHERD HAD ASKED JAMES McDONALD, AN ENGLISH DIRECTOR, WHO WORKED WITH AS AN ACTOR, SO JAMES DIRECTED SAM AS AN ACTOR, SAM LOVED HIM.

I THINK SAM WAS A TOUGH COOKIE PROBABLY.

I DIDN'T KNOW HIM.

I GET THE SENSE OF IT.

THE FACT HE WANTED JAMES AND THEN JAMES I THINK APPROACHED ETHAN AND THEY WERE CHATTING AND ETHAN SAID, WHO DO YOU WANT TO PLAY AUSTIN AND HE SAID THIS GUY PAUL AND ETHAN SAID, I KNOW HIM.

AND HE TEXTED ME AND I WAS TREPIDACIOUS.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO BRING TO IT?

WHY WOULD YOU, PAUL, DO IT?

I READ MANY TIMES AND SAID, OKAY, I SEE WHO I AM IN THIS AND IT'S A GREAT CHANNELLENGE.

I LOVE ETHAN.

LET'S GIVE IT A GO.

PREVIOUS PRODUCTIONS, MEMORABLE PRODUCTIONS.

THE 2000 PRODUCTION WITH JOHN C.

REILLY AND PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMANN.

MADE IT MORE MEMORABLE THAT THESE ACTORS ALTERNATED ROLES.

THAT'S HARD TO IMAGINE IN YOUR PRODUCTION BECAUSE UNLIKE MOST MAJOR PRODUCTIONS, YOURS FOLLOWS A DESCRIPTION OF SAM SHEPHERD THAT HAS THE BROTHERS 10 YEARS DIFFERENCE IN AGE.

ETHAN AND I FELT LIKE, WE COULD BE BROTHERS AND WHAT IS THIS PLAY LIKE IF THEY ARE BROTHERS?

YOU KNOW, NOT THAT THEY'RE THE SAME PERSON, WHICH IS ONE INTERPRETATION.

BUT NOT WHAT REALLY SAM WANTED FOR THIS PRODUCTION.

AND SO THAT'S REALLY WHAT WE TRIED TO DIG INTO IN REHEARSAL WAS THE HISTORY OF OUR FAMILY.

I MEAN, THAT'S WHAT THE PLAY IS LARGELY ABOUT.

HE TALKS ABOUT THIS SORT OF COMPANION THAT WE ALL CARRY AROUND WITH US THAT YOU DON'T KNOW THAT PERSON IS FOR YOU OR AGAINST YOU.

AND THEY ALREADY DO THE SWITCH.

YOU DON'T NECESSARILY HAVE TO LITERALLY SWITCH.

I THINK ONE WAY TO LOOK AT THAT FOR ME IS THAT SAM SPENT A LOT OF HIS LIFE TRYING NOT TO BE HIS DAD.

TALKS ABOUT THAT QUITE CLEARLY.

THESE CHARACTERS ARE BOTH RESPONDING IN DIFFERENT WAYS TO THEIR CHILDHOOD.

AND THEIR OWN DAD, KIND OF MODELLED ON SAM SHEPHERD.

ALCOHOLIC.

YES, ALCOHOLIC, PROBABLY VIOLENT.

AND AUSTIN, YOU HAVE TO SHUT DOWN PARTS OF YOURSELF OFTEN WHEN YOU'RE YOUNG TO SURVIVE.

SO AUSTIN WANTS TO NOT BE HIS DAD AND CLOSES OFF THE PARTS OF HIMSELF THAT ARE LIKE THAT BUT THEN EVENTUALLY, THEY'RE STILL THERE.

THAT TRANSFORMATION KIND OF HAPPENS, NOT RIGHT AWAY.

IT'S GRADUAL.

IS THAT DIFFICULT, THAT TRANSFORMATION DIFFICULT TO PULL OFF?

THE PLAY IS REALLY HARD.

AS I SAID, PEOPLE SAY TO US AFTER THE SHOW, LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE.

SO WE'RE LIKE, YEAH.

BUT THE PLAY IS SOMEWHAT ABUSIVE.

HILARIOUS, WILDLY ENTERTAINING AS WELL.

YOU'RE EITHER RECEIVING OR GIVING AND THAT'S A LOT OF ENERGY.

AND YOU'RE ON THE STAGE EVERY MINUTE OF THE PLAY.

BOTH OF YOU GUYS ARE.

IN THE INTERVIEW, YOUR DIRECTOR, JAMES McDONALD SAID SAM SHEPHERD LIKE THE MENTOR, WERE PLAYWRIGHTS THAT DEMANDED THAT ACTORS BE INCREDIBLY BRAVE AND EMOTIONALLY FREE IN THEIR PERFORMANCE.

AND HE ASKED THAT THERE BE NO SAFETY BUT FOR THE ACTORS.

IS THAT HOW YOU FEEL UP THERE?

WE'RE TRYING, YEAH.

THAT'S WHAT WE'RE HOPING FOR EVERY NIGHT.

WE'RE HOPING TO GET TO THAT SPACE WHERE THE IMPULSE OF WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT COMES.

TO SAY IT'S INTENSE IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

HOW DO YOU DO THAT EIGHT TIMES A WEEK?

THE PLAY IS SCARY.

BOTH ETHAN AND I, WE STILL FEEL, DONE 50 PLUS SHOWS NOW.

BUT WE STILL FEEL THAT THING, YOU KNOW, IN OUR CHEST, IN OUR STOMACH GOING, OH MY GOD, OKAY, WHAT TIME IS 3:30?

TONIGHT, I HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN.

BUT ALSO BEAUTIFUL.

ONCE YOU'RE OUT THERE, IT'S BEAUTIFUL.

LEADING UP TO IT, YOU HAVE TO CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY AND CONSERVE WHO YOU ARE.

THE PLAY TAKES A LOT OUT OF YOU PSYCHICALLY AND TO HAVE A LIFE, IT'S CRAZY BUT BEAUTIFUL.

I'M SORRY WE'RE OUT OF TIME BUT THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

A GREAT PERFORMANCE AND GREAT TALKING TO YOU.

THANK YOU.

THE ROUND ABOUT THEATER COMPANY'S PRODUCTION PLAYING AT THE AMERICAN AIRLINES THEATER.

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