Frequently over the years, people have thought that they know me. Every character actor has this story, I’m sure. It goes like this: ‘Um, do you play soccer?’ ‘Did you go to such and such church?’ ‘I knew you when you were with so and so… ‘ Then I go, ‘Well, sorry…’ and then they say, ‘Wait a minute. Are you an actor?’
I think most character people that you talk to, it’s like, whatever they offer us, we are thrilled to do. I won’t do anything that’s immoral or illicit. I did turn down eating a dead body once. I turned down a few really creepy horror movies. For the most part, I can usually find a way into whatever character.
I can remember before ‘Rain Man,’ I just couldn’t get in on anything, any features. After that and it winning the Oscar – the next year, I co-starred in six movies.
When I hit New York in 1972, I thought I was a sprinter. I thought that I would star in a Broadway show and do a movie and win an Oscar by the time I was 25. It turned out that I’m a long distance runner.
I had a very hard time accepting myself as a character actress because I wanted to be glamorous and a leading lady like everybody else. I looked in the mirror and thought I looked pretty good, but casting didn’t ever see me that way.
Tone is so important because you can have a great script just be ruined with the wrong director – if they shtick it up or something. With ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ I was so concerned they weren’t going to play the pageant official realistically because you don’t have to wink to play those kinds of characters.
I never have broken up in comedy, ever. There’s something about me that I just don’t break on camera – maybe because I’m just so cheap, and I know how expensive it is to shoot – but I broke on ‘Sordid Lives,’ and I broke on ‘The Office.’ Those are the only two times in my life.
I love ‘Child’s Play 2!’ I love Don Mancini. That movie has a great theme: You better listen to children. That’s why I wanted to do it. I was scared to do a horror movie – a blatant studio horror movie – but I liked the script, and I thought that was such an important theme because I don’t think adults listen to children enough.
My daughter’s favorite musical is ‘Wicked,’ which she has seen hundreds of times – she even worked as an usher at the Pantages so she could see it over and over. Her dream is to play Elphaba.
There is nothing like going on a stage. You are in the saddle, and you’ve got to ride that horse, and there’s nothing more thrilling and exhilarating.
The fans of ‘Speed’ are very different from the fans of ‘To Wong Foo,’ which are different from ‘Donnie Darko.’ Look at the classics I’ve been in: ‘No Country for Old Men’… ‘Little Miss Sunshine’… ‘Rain Man’ was my first big studio movie! How lucky is that?
Every character I’ve played is like family to me.