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  • - I don't think, oh, this is a man who's going to rip

  • the throat out of an enemy because whoever you're playing,

  • he's your guy.

  • You have to play him with 100% belief.

  • Hello, this is Frank Langella

  • and this is the timeline of my career.

  • God help us all.

  • "The Immoralist" in 1963 was considered hot stuff.

  • Not much was done about homosexuality in those days.

  • It was based on a book by Andre Gide,

  • and the Frenchman, Michel, that I played,

  • went to a foreign land where he took one look

  • at a young Arab boy and fell in love.

  • That was like big time.

  • The raciest line from that play

  • was at the end of the second act

  • where he and his wife were in a tiny little room.

  • He looked at her and said, "I am what you think I am."

  • We had lines around the block for the first three months.

  • You couldn't get in.

  • Every gay man in New York came to see it,

  • and we ran for two years.

  • - Here, tell me, what goes on in this great house?

  • - Mostly dying.

  • - I had done a play with Mel's wife Anne Bancroft,

  • and Mel was casting that movie and he wanted to do it

  • with English actors.

  • In the middle of this casting he said,

  • "Oh [beep], let Frankie do it."

  • That's how I got my first part in the movies.

  • It's kind of like a hand-me down.

  • And I was a kid.

  • I've nothing but great, fond memories of the insanity of it

  • and the idea that these enormous amounts of Yugoslavians

  • were being directed by Mel in English,

  • and they couldn't understand a word he said.

  • They never laughed at any of his jokes.

  • He wasn't easy, and I was a new kid

  • and therefore emotional about everything.

  • And he would say, "Oh for God's sake, just do it," you know.

  • Dom was breathtakingly funny in life

  • as well as he was on camera.

  • I fell once trying to pick up Ron Moody

  • and I cut a big hole in my rear end

  • and they put me into bed.

  • And Dom came to my room dressed as a nurse and said,

  • "How do you do, I'm Nurse DeLuise?

  • "I'm here to tend your wounds." [laughs]

  • It was a wonderful, joyous way to start your film career.

  • [dramatic instrumental music]

  • - Need a hand, mon pere?

  • - Ooh, come on, God!

  • - How old are you, 28, 29?

  • - It's none of your business.

  • - Easy baby, easy.

  • You know you're in terrible shape.

  • - "Diary of a Mad Housewife," my second movie

  • which actually opened first.

  • I never do well in those kind of straightforward parts.

  • I'm a character actor.

  • I always like to find elements of somebody

  • that was different and unique and original.

  • It was a wonderfully written script

  • based on a wonderful book.

  • And of course that film was also inordinately well-received.

  • It was a great one-two punch for a young actor

  • who'd never been in the movies.

  • - It's a terrible thing to say about a lady.

  • - Oh screw off, Pocahontas.

  • - I'm going to report you to women's lib.

  • - Count Dracula.

  • [tense instrumental music]

  • - Good evening.

  • - When I read it I thought, and you know,

  • it's not the greatest writing in the world.

  • It's a potboiler.

  • I had to find a way to do it

  • that was totally not Bela Lugosi.

  • I never drink wine.

  • Once I got into a rehearsal,

  • I hadn't realized how frightened I was,

  • truly almost frozen with fear.

  • And I couldn't come up with a way to play him

  • and I didn't wanna fall into the trap.

  • So I just spoke the lines like that,

  • very, very simply and directly terrifying the producers.

  • And we had a dress rehearsal and suddenly he arrived,

  • the idea of him being a beautifully well-spoken Gothic hero.

  • In my mind he was a hero

  • because all he needed to live was blood

  • and he needed to get it from beautiful women.

  • It was like being Elvis Presley for a year.

  • I couldn't go down to the theater without body guards.

  • And the play just struck a chord, particularly in women,

  • and in men too because there was a great love scene

  • at the end of the second act.

  • And I've never met anybody who's seen that play

  • who hasn't said to me, "I got laid that night so great."

  • It was a year of my life, a great sensational year.

  • I doubt I'll ever have anything like that again.

  • I didn't wanna do the movie right away

  • because the producer,

  • he wanted it to be like the Hammer films.

  • All of them were pressuring me enormously

  • to have blood coming out of my mouth,

  • to wear wolf's eyes, to wear fangs.

  • I wouldn't allow them to put fangs on me.

  • I wouldn't do any blood on my face.

  • I just wanted to play what I believed was a lover,

  • not a killer.

  • You don't have much, you know,

  • when you're an actor in a film.

  • You don't.

  • It's all in other people's control.

  • What you do have is control

  • over the character you're playing

  • and nobody else can do it but you.

  • And you have to risk being unpopular.

  • - I said it would been nice to see you smile.

  • [romantic instrumental music]

  • - Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man.

  • Is it equal to the loneliness of evil?

  • - My four year old son was Skeletor.

  • We bought him all the stuff

  • and he'd run around the house saying, "I am the power."

  • And Gary Goddard, the director, called me in

  • to meet with him.

  • And it was a terrible script, just awful,

  • but I couldn't resist the challenge

  • of trying to make him real and believable.

  • And I wanted my four year old, of course,

  • to see me as Skeletor.

  • I spent hours and hours and hours with Bud Westmore

  • trying to get the look.

  • And I pulled everything I could

  • out of "The Man with a Thousand Faces."

  • I would call Gary at two o'clock in the morning and say,

  • "Look at this line I found.

  • "'Tell me about the loneliness of good.

  • "'Is it equal to the loneliness of evil?'"

  • And we had many of those in the movie.

  • Most of what I said was rewritten or ad-libbed on the spot.

  • I remember Paul Newman when I asked him,

  • "What do you do if you're playing a character

  • "where the person opposite you isn't helping

  • "and the director might be giving you bad ideas

  • "or your costume doesn't fit,

  • "or you don't like a piece of makeup?"

  • And he answered in four words.

  • "I play my character."

  • And it's brilliant advice for any young actor.

  • Don't try to make up for it.

  • Don't try to overcome another actor.

  • Don't try to do too much in order to make up

  • for the fact that the dialogue isn't good.

  • Just play your character and talk honestly.

  • The film was not a great success, but over the years,

  • it's become a great camp movie.

  • And many, many people over the years have said,

  • "How could you do that?"

  • You know, with a great deal of superiority.

  • And I would say, "I think it's one of my best performances."

  • I loved doing it.

  • The story that will make you laugh about that

  • is that I asked if I could have a private screening of it

  • when it was finished.

  • I brought my four year old.

  • I gave him a big bag of popcorn.

  • He sat next to me and I thought,

  • "Oh, my son is gonna be so proud of me."

  • He fell asleep in the first reel. [laughs]

  • I don't think he ever even saw me.

  • - Let this be my first decree.

  • Those who do not pledge themselves to me shall be destroyed!

  • [dramatic instrumental music]

  • - We didn't wanna have to tell you this, Dave,

  • but the vice president is mentally unbalanced.

  • - I haven't seen "Dave," I think maybe in, how old is it?

  • It's 20 years old.

  • I was in a very bad period in my career

  • and I was doing a play in L.A.,

  • which really is like you might as well be zipped up

  • in a plastic bag and hidden under a bed.

  • My agent called and said,

  • "Ivan Reitman wants you to come in."

  • And I was at a terrible period, really.

  • Kids were in schools and I was running out of money.

  • And I went to see him and for the first time in my life,

  • I created a power animal, which a lot of my friends did.

  • I created a lion, imaginary lion who sat next to me

  • in the car.

  • And then as I was driving I would talk to him and he'd say,

  • "Don't worry, nobody's gonna get you."

  • And he came out of the car with me in the studio.

  • He sat right next to me to protect me.

  • And I did the part from heart

  • and didn't hear anything for seven weeks.

  • And then one day my agent called crying and said,

  • "You got the part."

  • In the third or fourth day of rehearsal I said to Ivan,

  • "Why didn't you make me wait for seven weeks?"

  • He said, "'Cause I went all over New York and Britain

  • "trying to find somebody who could do it better.

  • "And I couldn't find anybody."

  • And I thought well, that is clever of you

  • but awfully unkind to me.

  • - Westbank where-

  • [television clicking]

  • - It's simple, Ellen.

  • We send the vice president to Africa, or something.

  • - She was my daughter.

  • [dish clinking]

  • She was my child.

  • - Oh you know, I adore children myself, and fathers.

  • I love fathers.

  • - I did a film called "Lolita" directed by Adrian Lyne.

  • And I played Clare Quilty,

  • one of the great, great villains of all time.

  • That experience was an extraordinary one,

  • but Adrian would sometimes do 35 or 40 takes.

  • There was a scene in "Lolita" where I was shot

  • and I had blood in my mouth.

  • I was about to die.

  • And I had to spit the blood out in front of me,

  • and the blood didn't taste very well.

  • I did it 39 times.

  • It was making me sick to my stomach and I said to Adrian,

  • "What are you looking for?"

  • He said, "I want the blood to spray a certain way."

  • And I said okay and I just kept doing it.

  • - [gasping] Get out.

  • - I was in London at the Old Vic theater

  • playing a horrible comedy opposite Joan Collins,

  • and got no audiences.

  • In this theater of 1,700 people,

  • we often played to 50 or 60 people.

  • And I thought well, I guess I'm done.

  • And over the transom of my dressing room,

  • like a bad movie, came a manila envelope

  • and it was "Fortune's Fool" with Alan Bates.

  • And I thought oh God, what a great role.

  • And that began a sort of resurgence of my career

  • as a Broadway actor.

  • That was a great, great success.

  • Alan is to date my most favorite co-tar and friend.

  • He died not too long after we closed.

  • He was suffering all during the play with pancreatic cancer