The actor has been at Cannes making a documentary, Seduced and Abandoned,
about the film festival. Here he talks about the state of his profession today
Where I’ve ended up, I’m pretty content. I see the people at the top of the movie
business today and I compare their careers with those at the top 40 years ago. I wouldn’t trade places with those that dominate today; I don’t necessarily want what they have. I want the choices they have but I look at some of the films they make and think: “You could get anybody to play those parts.”
They’ll roll out a film like Lincoln every now and again with Kushner and Spielberg and Day-Lewis – who is someone I worship. I saw him at the SAG awards and I said: “Do you realise what your career means to other actors? You give them hope that there is still some purity in acting.”
Those movies are exceptions to the rule. When I started out in the early 80s, twothirds of the movies made were very cast specific, meaning: “We need that woman to play the psychiatrist and that man to play the judge.” Now that’s down to one quarter. Now they have a line item in the budget that says: “Here’s how much money we’re going to spend for that part – get whoever you can that’s acceptable.”
Cable TV is the bastion of great acting now. This is why you have this riotous celebration of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland – all these really seminal dramas.
The motion-picture business is more and more abandoning serious acting to television. If they want a serious experience, people have been raised over the past 20 years to depend less and less on movies for that.
However, the apex of this business is still to make a great, great film. When Marty Scorsese said to me: “Come do The Aviator with Leo” – I adore Leo and I admire him, he’s probably my favourite young actor around today; and Ryan Gosling, I love Ryan – I was elated. I wept. To go and make great movies is still the ultimate. But it’s like musical chairs. They’re taking away more and more chairs but the number of people circling the table trying to sit down when the music stops is the same. And now people are fighting and fighting and fighting. Now my agent calls me and says: “I got a phone call from some famous director …” and I’ll get very excited and become so happy. “What did he say?” “Only five other guys have to die and you can have this part.” And I go: “Oh my God, thank you.”
As told to Catherine Shoard – The Guardian, Thursday 23 May 2013