September 14, 2010 / 8:08 AM / 8 years ago

"Capote" actor a reluctant star in directing debut

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Philip Seymour Hoffman was bedeviled by his leading man when the actor made his film directing debut with the new comedy-drama “Jack Goes Boating.”

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman poses on the red carpet before the premiere of his new movie "Radio Rock Revolution" in Berlin April 7, 2009. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

A crucial bedroom scene involving the film’s title character involved multiple takes as the big star struggled to get into character and eventually walked off the set.

The leading man, of course, was Hoffman, and the 43-year-old Oscar-winner for “Capote” vowed on Monday never to cast himself again if he directs another movie.

Not that he wanted to play Jack anyway. Hoffman originated the role of the romantically challenged New York limo driver in playwright Bob Glaudini’s 2007 Off Broadway staging. Moreover, Hoffman’s LAByrinth theater troupe produced the play.

But when Hoffman decided to direct a big-screen version, at the suggestion of the play’s co-star John Ortiz, he was adamant about finding a new headliner.

“We found someone pretty wonderful that would have been pretty amazing and he wanted to do it,” Hoffman said at a post-screening Q&A session, declining to identify him.

But the actor was not available last winter, a season that was crucial to the storyline. Since it was not practical to postpone shooting by a year, Hoffman found himself on both sides of the camera.

Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega reprised their roles as a couple whose marriage is fraying, and Amy Ryan joined the lineup as Jack’s equally awkward love interest, Connie. The movie, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, opens in limited release on Friday via Liberty Media Corp’s Overture Films.

The action follows the couple’s attempts to set up Jack and Connie. Jack prepares for the big courtship by learning to swim so that he won’t drown if he falls overboard when the couple go boating in the summer. He also learns to cook.

Hoffman said he found it difficult switching gears between directing and acting. A veteran stage director, he relishes the collaborative aspect of the work. “I’m a much easier person to be around,” he said. “Even when it gets really tough there’s a joyfulness to it because you’re just in it.”

Acting, on the other hand, is “a different beast,” he said. “You’ve got to create a sense of privacy. You have to create a sense of focus that’s so sharp and so specific that you have to hold over for a period of time.”

So when the time came for a difficult conversation between Jack and Connie after a truncated make-out session, Hoffman blew it. “That day was a really hard day. ... I did a lot of takes,” he said, recalling that he would get depressed as he looked at the playback on the monitor.

“There were moments like that where it got kinda dark. That’s when I had to grow up and I’d leave the set, get by myself and go, ‘You’re not a director, you’re an actor,’ and do what I need to do, go back and do it.”

While he is open to the possibility of directing another feature, “I don’t want to direct myself again,” he said.

Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Will Dunham

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