Actor Frank Langella talks robots, high heels and Hollywood

Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:13pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - At 74, revered U.S. stage and film actor Frank Langella has little trouble finding interesting roles.

Four years on from his Oscar best-actor nomination for "Frost/Nixon", Langella's latest acting feat sees him starring in the quirky comedy drama "Robot & Frank" as a suave former cat burglar opposite a robot sent by his children to look after him.

Langella joked to Reuters that he has acted opposite far more wooden actors than robots, and in turn offered thoughts on Hollywood and how he hopes one day soon to wear heels. "Robot & Frank" opens in New York on Friday and expands nationwide next week.

Q: This is director Jake Schreier's first film. Do you agree to do a film like this only if the director leaves you alone?

A: "You could say that about some very famous directors, but I agree to do a film first on what's on the page. There is an old expression - and I started out in the theater and go back to the theater every year if I can - the expression is, 'If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage.' I once did a play in England, and the venerable old actress Joan Plowright walked into my dressing room with a very strange look on her face and I knew the evening didn't work and she said, 'I know what you are thinking, dear, you were thinking, I will fix it in rehearsal. But you can't. If it's not there, you can't. You need the words.'"

Q: But are these first-time directors fearful at all of you?

A: "Yes, completely. And you have to walk that line. You can't ever say to a young director, 'This is the way to do it or this is the way we have always.' You have to be rather excited at the notion of, 'How is this man going to approach it and in what way is he going to talk to me and talk to other actors?' You have to step back and let the kid get a little too close to the fire, and get a slight burn so they remember forever. I let the director do that with me a little bit and when he says something really, really awful, I kind of say, 'No, I don't think I will do that.'

"You are also lucky if you get a director who says, 'Look, you've done 60 movies, tell me, am I this, am I that?' And we (Schreier) had that rapport."   Continued...

Actor Frank Langella poses for a portrait in New York, July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Burton