The 68th annual Golden Globe Awards took place on January 16, 2011, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Here is what this Golden Globe winner said backstage in the Golden Globe Awards press room.
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
(“You Don’t Know Jack”)
When you look back on your career, how many of your most satisfying roles that you’ve played have been based on real people?
Did you hear what I was saying up there? It is an advantage to be able to play a real character because it gives you access. And in a strange way, what it does is it stimulates your imagination, because you feel a kind of credibility when you play a real person. It gives you a certain credibility.
You think, “Oh gee, this really happened.” It gives you a deeper belief, a deeper understanding of the character that you’re playing. It’s fun for actors to have an image, I guess like a painter has a portrait when they paint it. It gives you a kind of freedom. It frees actors, I think. That’s why they like it.
Frank Serpico, I think of him … I didn’t get to see Jack [Kervorkian] that much, but in today’s world, there’s so much data on someone. You get to study all of that.
If you could redo a movie from your career, what would it be and why?
I can’t possibly give away that many movies. Most of the movies that I would say not “redo” them — maybe not ever have done them might suit it better.
You’re doing a Broadway production of “The Merchant of Venice.” How is that going for you?
That’s just a real trip, you know? Because that started in [Central] Park, and now we’re doing it on Broadway. And the opportunity to work with this cast and [director] Dan Sullivan, who’s done such a great job, to be in a hit like that, it doesn’t come along often, so I think I’m enjoying it more than I would have, say, 30 years ago when it happened to me. And to get to do it is the thing with theater.
I often say this: It’s a fulfilling thing to do something every night, and I believe I have a bit of the performer in me. I’m not showing it now, for some reason. I’m trying to keep from turning into Robin Williams in front of your eyes. It would be disturbing. But I do enjoy the idea of repeating, especially when you’re repeating the great works of Shakespeare. It’s like if you were a musician, and you were playing in an orchestra, and you were playing Mozart or Beethoven, and you got a chance to interpret that and play it every night. It feeds you. It does give you something.
What were your thoughts on euthanasia before making “You Don’t Know Jack,” and did those thoughts change as a result of making the movie?
I do stay away from that kind of controversy. It’s not my policy to speak to that. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be unbelievably dull, but that’s all there is to it.
Where do you keep all of the awards that you’ve won?
It’s so interesting. They’ve been in different situations throughout the years. It’s so interesting when you see reactions of people who come to your house. And now and then, a person will like to look at an Oscar or an award or a Golden Globe. So then you really have to say, “Where are they? Where is it?” Because you move on.
It’s sort of like paintings. You have them around, but you don’t have a roomful of paintings. So any awards I have are n different places. One thing I really love is that when my oldest daughter was about 3, there’s a shot of her holding my Oscar that I’d just won. I like that picture. That’s in my office. I can see it.
Other than that, I don’t know. I guess they’re in my house somewhere. They go through a lot of transitions. You get them; they’ve got to get engraved. They go to a lot of people before they go back to you. And then eventually, they go back to you. The best place I can think of [to have my awards] is in my home …
What do you think about Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes this year?
Well, he’s a comic, so he’s going to go for it. He’s out there, letting it go. And that’s the only way he can get to his own wit, because he needs to uncensor himself. If he censors himself, he’s going to curtail his wit. I’m sure he planned some of it, but it’s funny, when those people go out there and go for it, they really fly. You never know what they’re going to say. So they’ll put their foot in it sometimes, and it’s kind of worth it because they come up with other stuff.
Do you think Jack Kervorkian is a good guy or a bad guy?
Well, if you got to know Jack, you know he’s a real humanist, a scientist, a doctor. Do you know that Jack Kervorkian, his whole thing was organ transplants to save lives? Most people, like 97 percent of the people that come to him, he turns away. And the ones he talks to about doing it — this is very interesting — the ones he talks to about maybe doing it — “Come back in a few weeks or a month. See how you feel.” Most of them don’t come back. But he gets letters from their relatives, who talk about how recovered they feel, how much better it is to live with them, because they know they have an option.
Basically, what they know is that they have some control over their lives. And I think that’s what Jack supplies just by being there. Because sometimes people are so agonized and hopeless, that Jack in a strange way represents a kind of hope. And that gives them enough of control over their lives, like, “I don’t have to go through this. I can go out with dignity,” which allows them somehow to feel better and live longer and stay in their thing. It’s an interesting thing. I was most taken with that in the whole time I was Jack. I was most taken with that he sort of did that.
For more info: “You Don’t Know Jack” website
Golden Globe Awards website
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