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SGN Exclusive Interview: The Incredible Hulce
SGN Exclusive Interview: The Incredible Hulce
An interview with Tom Hulce on his career, his Wikipedia marriage, and the success of Spring Awakening

- by Eric Andrews-Katz SGN Contributing Writer

Tom Hulce is probably most recognized for his roles in the films Animal House or Amadeus. In the latter he played the man-child with a hyena laugh that garnered him an Academy Award nomination and helped the film win eight Oscars. The prominent actor has moved from in front of the camera to behind it, becoming a much-touted director and producer. So much so, in fact, that his latest adventure is producing the Broadway smash-hit musical Spring Awakening. The shift in profession seems to agree with him, as the musical was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won eight of them, including Best Musical of 2007.

Taking time from casting and producing the show in London and Germany, Tom spoke to the SGN for an interview in regards to his work, past and present, and the auspicious mid-October Seattle opening of the hit musical.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Your first major role was the stage production of Equus understudying Peter Firth in the lead role - a role you later went on to play. How did you feel doing the nude scenes every night?

Tom Hulce: It just never became an issue because of the way it was positioned in the story. There wasn't a choice in the story but to take your clothes off. It was just what it was. But one had to be careful in terms of possible wounds, blisters or bruises that would be revealed. You had to make sure you didn't have any accidents.

Andrews-Katz: Have you seen the current revival of Equus with Daniel Radcliff, and if so, what did you think of it? Hulce:I haven't seen it yet. But since it just opened in NYC, I'm hoping to see it when I get back.

Andrews-Katz: You were in the motion picture 09/30/55, a film about the day James Dean died. Did James Dean's work inspire you at all?

Hulce: I didn't really go to the movies as much as I saw plays. My work heroes were more theater related. I'm still playing "catch-up" in terms of my film knowledge. One of the earliest people that influenced me was Christopher Walken. He was playing Romeo in Canada and was breathtaking. Very inspiring.

Andrews-Katz: What brought you out to Seattle and eventually led you call the city home?

Hulce: I had just bought a little cottage house in L.A. so I could stop staying with friends and in hotels. With a friend I drove a U-Haul full of furniture and mannequins to an island off of Vancouver. We had to drop off the mannequins in Fremont, and when we stopped in Seattle, I instantly felt like it was a place I'd like to live. On the way back I stayed a number of days and started to find reasons to come back to the city. Eventually, I bought a house there.

Andrews-Katz: How did you get involved with directing the stage production of John Irving's Cider House Rules, which originated at Seattle Repertory Theater?

Hulce: I had a meeting with a man who was going to direct the film version and asked him if we could talk about the story. I thought it could live so differently on stage than on screen. It was a five-year process and was somewhat responsible for my becoming a producer. The main credit goes to Dan Sullivan [director at Seattle Rep] who called and gave us a home in Seattle.

Andrews-Katz: What was it like to work with John Belushi, Tim Matheson and Donald Sutherland in Animal House?

Hulce: It was all so fast! Except for John and Donald, we were all living out of hotels outside of Eugene, OR, where it was being filmed. The movie was shot in five weeks. It was kind of a whirlwind experience. It was interesting and challenging in a different way than the parts I was playing beforehand.

Andrews-Katz: Did any of you have the foresight to see that Animal House would become such a cult classic film?

Hulce: No one had any idea of what it would become. It was a time when everyone was living fast and recreational.

Andrews-Katz: Before playing your Oscar-nominated role in Amadeus, were you a fan of Mozart's music?

Hulce: I was somewhat familiar with Mozart's music. I grew up in a house where classical music was played, but I wasn't particularly attached to it. My family went to symphony concerts. The education [received while filming Amadeus] was astounding, being in Prague and acting in the same spots where the real Mozart performed.

Andrews-Katz: Did you ever see the original Broadway production, starring Tim Curry?

Hulce: I saw the original London production where Simon Callow played Mozart. I thought it was amazing. He was later cast in the movie as well, but obviously in a different role.

Andrews-Katz: Out of all of your films to date - Dominick and Eugene, Echo Park, Animal House, Amadeus, Parenthood, etc. - do you have one that you are particularly proud of?

Hulce: I don't look at my films once I've finished making them so I don't have an objective point of view. I can't separate myself from being part of it enough to watch them. I'm proud of Dominick and Eugene and Amadeus. I've had moments of genuinely being happy with both films.

Andrews-Katz: You were nominated for the 1990 Tony Award for your performance of Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men. The movie role went to Tom Cruise. Did you see the film, and what is your opinion of the movie?

Hulce: Originally, I got a copy of Aaron Sorkin's script and it was originally a screenplay. I sent it to my agent [who was also an agent to Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer] suggesting it was better suited for one of them. It became a stage play before the movie and I was very pleased to have the role. It was not my usual part. To have me reprise my role in the movie would have been an insane choice. I saw the film and liked it very much.

Andrews-Katz: Were you nervous at all singing for the voice of Quasimodo in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its sequel?

Hulce: The thing is, when you do a voiceover, you stand in a little glass booth and it's all on a microphone, so there really is no reason to be nervous. I was just tickled they let me do the voice and the singing. I originally wanted to be a singer until my voice changed. It was kind of surreal hearing my own voice in the movie.

Andrews-Katz: Was the film A Home at the End of the World your first venture into producing?

Hulce: It was simultaneous with the American premiere of the show Talking Heads. The play literally opened in NYC the night before the first day of shooting the film.

Andrews-Katz: How did you get involved with being a producer for the Broadway hit musical Spring Awakening?

Hulce: Eight years ago, when it was time to direct A Home at the End of the World, I sat down with director Michael Mayer and asked if he had any ambitions working for the stage. We talked about commissioning an opera based on the original 1891 play. Michael had just started working on the musical with Duncan [Sheik] and Steven [Sater]. I liked the idea of staying in the provincial 1891 German town, but using contemporary English language and music. We thought we'd become some "downtown cult." It never occurred that the show would be so well received. People work on the show in drama school due to the intensity of the scenes. While I was covering for Peter in Equus, Spring Awakening was being done in a repertory theater for the first time, uncensored in English. I just love the range of honesty that it explores. The musical version is as comedic as it is serious, so it doesn't shy away from the experience of the original.

Andrews-Katz: Since you appeared in the AIDS drama The Normal Heart in London's West End, are there plans to open Spring Awakening there as well? Hulce:I'm in London currently casting the show and getting ready for the February opening. Then it's on to Germany. By this time next year we will be in London, Germany, Japan, Korea and Scandinavia.

Andrews-Katz: Since Seattle has been your home, will you be here for the opening of Spring Awakening?

Hulce: I'm still hoping that I can make it for at least a day. It all depends on what my schedule allows. I would love to be back there, even if it's only for a day or two.

Andrews-Katz: You've done television, theater and film; do you have a favorite venue and why so?

Hulce: Right now the thing I'm most excited about is the pieces that have a significant musical element to them. I want to be bringing songwriters [and] bands to the theaters that don't usually come from there. I like exploring the hybrid between theater and rock concerts.

Andrews-Katz: In 1996, you married the Italian artist Cecilia Ermini and your daughter Anya was born in 1997. How do you respond to the many lists that place you among openly Gay actors?

Hulce: That information - having a wife and child - is false. In the world of the internet, there are many falsehoods. Anyone can write stuff on Wikipedia and it doesn't have to be true. I'm comfortable being among the lists although I stopped acting about 10 years ago. The exceptions are a brief moment in Stranger than Fiction or (what was left of my work) in Jumpers. If I found the work intriguing, I would do it again.

Andrews-Katz: You've been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards; you've won an Emmy Award and a Tony Award. What is your next goal?

Hulce: I've never worked so hard in my life. The hours I work now require a ridiculous amount of time. My short-term goal is to find a way to do it all in a less all-consuming way. I need to find more playtime.

Andrews-Katz: How do you relax when you find the elusive free time?

Hulce: By the time I get done with the workday, there are so many details that need attention. But when I do have free time, I like to meet up with friends and have the simplest kind of interactions.

The production of Spring Awakening plays the Paramount Theatre October 14-19. The show is for mature audiences and deals with a provincial German town in 1891, centering on young adults dealing with their budding sexuality. The play covers such controversial subject matters as homosexuality, rape, abortion, sadomasochism and all the repercussions that teen sexuality presents. The musical opened on Broadway in 2006 and went on to being nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning eight of them, including Best Musical. The original cast album (Decca Broadway) was nominated and won a Grammy Award for Best Cast Album.

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