May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
October 8, 2009
Today at Greencine Daily, Jeffrey Anderson delivers an interview with Michael Stuhlbarg.
You may not know that name now, but you will be hearing it everywhere soon… maybe even at the Academy Awards. When I attended the press screening, I felt a strange anticipation. How often do we see a film by Oscar-winning filmmakers that is populated by unfamiliar actors? It’s a rare but wonderful experience… immersive, in a way, because I’m not distracted by celebrity, or by thoughts of how the actors’ performances compare to their previous work. That made A Serious Man all the more compelling. I came away not thinking about the cast, but thinking about the characters.
And Larry Gopnik, played by Stuhlbarg, is quite a character. I suspect he and Barton Fink would have a lot to talk about. But considering their chronic misfortunes, I’m not sure I’d want to be in the same room with the two of them.
Stuhlbarg tells Anderson what it was like to audition for a small part in the Coen Brothers’ new film A Serious Man, and then to end up in the lead.
Here’s a snippet:
What was that process like?
Originally I came in and auditioned for the part of Velvel, the husband in the Yiddish parable at the beginning of the movie. So I had to learn that whole scene in Yiddish. That was my very first audition. I was going for a very small part. I went to a tutor and learned the whole scene in Yiddish. At that time, they weren’t sure whether that part or any of those parts were going to be played by actors who could fake it and speak it phonetically, or people who could speak it fluently. They ended up going with folks who were part of the Yiddish theater in New York, and rightfully so. The movie went away for five or six months. Then I got a call to come in for both Larry and Arthur. I learned three scenes of each, went in and did it, and they laughed a lot. That made me feel really happy. Then I asked periodically as the weeks went on if I was still in the mix. They said, “You’re still in the mix.” Eventually I got a call: “You’re going to get one of these parts. We just don’t know which one yet.” Maybe six weeks before shooting began, I got a call from Joel: “We’ll put you out of your misery. You’re playing Larry.”
So you were just waiting at home!
Basically. I had to go about my life over the course of about 11 months. But it worked out really well. I did what I could and they didn’t want to see me again. They thought it was enough, what I had done. They had a video camera in the room with them. So they had the evidence that they could go back and look at again, which I think they did a lot.
Jeffrey Overstreet watches far too many movies, writes film reviews and two weekly columns for ChristianityTodayMovies.com, maintains the Web site LookingCloser.org, contributes to Paste Magazine, and is at work on a series of novels. He works at Seattle Pacific University.