Interview date: 8/11/2008
Run date: 8/29/2008
Barry Bostwick is probably best known to today’s audiences as the lovably befuddled Mayor Randall Winston from “Spin City,” but cult movie aficionados will always remember him as Brad in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Currently, however, Bostwick is playing the role of a lifetime…sort of…as the President of the United States in Spike TV’s new original film, “Depth Charge.” We spoke with Bostwick about his latest gig, his time on “Spin City,” and while touch-a touch-a touching on a couple of his other notable films, we even got him to offer up his frank opinion about the threatened “Rocky Horror” remake.
Bullz-Eye: Hi, Barry.
Barry Bostwick: Hi! Can you hear me okay?
BE: I can.
BB: Oh good, because I’m on my speaker phone. How are you?
BE: I’m doing good. Good to speak with you. So how did you come to find yourself in “Depth Charge”? Was it the siren song of playing the President?
BB: Well, you know, it was a job. How did I come about doing it? Well they offered me the part, number one; that’s always nice. I guess it wasn’t much of a stretch for them to cast me as President or as a politician. You know, actually, I love submarine movies. I was lucky enough to get a Golden Globe award for playing a submarine captain in "War and Remembrance.” Way back when…well, way back when "War and Remembrance" was on…I loved the whole submarine experience. I think there’s such tension, and it just crackles when you’re inside of a submarine in those close quarters, and it’s dark and there are sparks, and there’s water falling in your face. Of course, as the President, I was in my safe house in…did you see the movie yet?
BE: Yeah, I did.
BB: Well, you know, actually, we shot that at a friend’s house out here in Malibu, so I had to go maybe four miles from my home. It was the easiest job I have ever had in my life! (Laughs) I woke up leisurely; I went to my friend’s house, had a cup of coffee and then became the President. It was out on Point Dume, and it had this wonderful ocean view, and we kept on saying, “Well, where is this guy’s house supposed to be, anyway?” And they said, “Palo Alto.” I said, “Well, I don’t think Palo Alto has an ocean view, but let’s use it, anyway.” So not that many people know that, I guess. But the house worked out beautifully, and it looks like it could be a President’s enclave, doesn’t it?
BE: Absolutely. So how did you prepare for the role, as far as the mindset goes? Did you just go in treating every line with, shall we say, deadly seriousness?
BB: Yeah, you know, it was such a slightly over-the-top jeopardy that you had to take it so serious, because when the threat is that they are going to blow up the east coast of the United States with nuclear weapons…
BE: One false step and it’s all over.
BB: Yeah, yeah. You know, you had to just sort of swing with it and…I mean, I think that’s it. The threat was so large that, as the character, I needed so much input from the people who knew more about submarines and stealth and this and that. That’s why his best friend or whoever that other guy was…I guess he was the joint chief of staff or something or head of the Navy. That shows you how much I was paying attention! But he and I had a great relationship and played off each other well, I thought. He filled in the blanks, you know, when I couldn’t…when it wasn’t within probably the intellectual realm of the President to have that kind of information. You know, all I could do was just try to keep the people safe underwater who were really trying to solve the problem.
BE: Right. And I would think you occasionally had to fight to keep a straight face as well.
BB: Yeah, well… (Stops for a moment) You’re seriously on that, aren’t you? Yeah, well, you know what? I never really had any totally stupid lines like usually happens in these things. I mean, I don’t remember one line that I really gagged on. You know, the situations were outlandish, but I didn’t have to comment on them in a stupid, obvious way.
BE: Actually, I talked to Eric Roberts a couple months ago, and he said that when it comes to picking projects, he does it as much to keep practicing the art of acting as anything else.
BB: Well I think he’s right, and I thought he had a really good part. I mean, he loves these dark characters. He plays them so well; he’s got that chiseled face. He and I were a nice contrast because I play…I can play dark characters, but I think I play trustworthy, mature people. He was right: you reach a certain age where you just want to keep acting, and you want to keep seeing whether or not you can do it, because unless you’re on a T.V. series, you don’t do it that often.
BE: This is being described as one of Spike’s “guy movies”. When you think of guy movies, what films come to mind personally?
BB: “Jeremiah Johnson.”
BB: Do you know that one?
BE: I do, yes.
BB: Love that movie. To me, that’s a guy movie. You know, a guy out in the wilderness. I remember I was living in New York, years ago when I was starting out acting, and that movie came out and it was such a release from the angst of living in New York City. To go to that thing and just be out in the woods. That was a total guy movie to me.
BE: “Spin City”, I understand that they are getting ready to issue a Season 1 DVD set.
BE: Did you guys contribute to that?
BB: Yeah, I did an interview about a month ago for it. I’m happy they are doing it. I think it’s a worthy show, and I think it has a really nice wide fan base, and it’s still on the air all over the world. Every time I’m out sort of somewhere where people recognize me, so many people say, “I watch it every morning before I go to work or someplace.” The fans who know the show and like the show are very loyal to the show.
BE: What made you decide to step into a full-time TV series?
BB: They offered me the job. Do you get the theme in my answers here?
BE: (Laughs) I do. In this case, though, I just meant as opposed to sticking with film.
BB: Well, you know, I had a young child. I had a baby who was like a year, year and a half old, my wife was pregnant with our second child, and I thought it was time to sort of stay home for awhile. And I think she did, too. And I wanted to, so we packed up and moved to New York for…well, we were there, we did five seasons in New York and then two seasons out here…? Or four seasons in New York? I don’t know, whatever. We moved everybody to New York, lived out in the country for eight years. and raised our kids out there up to that age. and then moved back to the Malibu area. It was so I could be home every night rather than traveling around trying to make a living in Madagascar.
BE: You did a couple of spots on "Law & Order: SVU." Whose idea was it to bring Michael Boatman on for one of those episodes as well?
BB: It was theirs. We kept exchanging lawyer points on that. I think I actually got the part originally because he couldn’t do an episode, and then they cast me and then they came up with this character who was like the lawyer to the rich people and the guy who charged too much money and who had nice suits and was the mouthpiece for the socialites in New York City who had troubled kids and were always trying…but I never won a case. In fact, I’m about to start…I’m going to start another episode of ‘Ugly Betty” this week. I did an “Ugly Betty” last season where I basically was the worst lawyer in the world, and I liked that. I like the fact that I come off as somebody who should be on top of it all, but I’m just inept.
BE: Have you heard about the remake of “Rocky Horror” that MTV is planning?
BE: Yep. They are threatening to do a remake.
BB: Oh, really. That’s a waste of money.
BE: Well, that’s kind of what I would say, but I was curious what your thoughts would be…and I guess that answers it.
BB: Yeah, that would be like saying…and understand that I’m not making this as a total comparison, but it would be like saying, ‘Hey, let’s go remake ‘Casablanca’! How are you going to remake it? Every time it was done on stage, I thought it showed the flaws of the piece. I think it’s a one-off; I don’t think you can repeat that. I mean, look at the sequel. What was that called? ‘Shock Treatment’?
BE: Right. Exactly.
BB: I never saw that, but it was a miserable failure…even more of one than ‘Rocky Horror’ was when it first came out! That one wasn’t even re-discovered and turned into a cult hit. I mean, I don’t know. You should just leave those things alone. I think films like (‘Rocky Horror’) are stand-alones, and they’re brilliant for what they were at the time they were done. I mean, you would have to do it as a period piece. It’s not like you’re going to update ‘Oklahoma.’ It’s of its time.
BE: Do you remember the moment when you realized what a cult phenomenon “Rocky Horror” had become? Was there a particular epiphany?
BB: Probably when I saw it downtown in New York at…I forget the name of the theater. But it was when it was first being discovered, and they started talking back at the screen, you know, and I realized how involved the audience was and how they owned the experience because they wanted to become part of the experience. By being another character in the film, it made the whole sort of theatricalization of it fascinating to me, and it eventually got to the point where you couldn’t hear the movie at all. The audience became like the lead…and the second lead and the third lead, and everybody was trying to out shout everybody else.
BE: What do you hear about “Megaforce” coming out on DVD?
BB: I haven’t heard anything. (Excitedly) Is it?
BE: No, I haven’t heard anything. I just didn’t know if you…
BB: No. I mean, I think that would be a good thing. That’s another sort of cult movie.
BB: That was a flawed movie also. I swear to God, the big problem with that movie was that nobody died, you know? It had great special effects and flying motorcycles and this and that, but then we would hit a tank and fly in the air and then land, and then everybody would get out and run away. It was like this PG war movie that…certain films, they make one bad move, one bad judgment, one bad decision, and I think that was the problem with that one. It just became too PG…and it was too bad, because I thought it could have been good. It was good, but I just thought it could have been better.
BE: I don’t know if you ever heard that “South Park” actually paid tribute to the movie in an introduction on one of their DVD sets.
BB: To “Megaforce”? No!
BE: There’s an intro to one of the episodes on DVD, and Trey Parker starts to describe what they are going to see in the episode, and then about midway through, Matt Stone goes, “Actually, you’re describing ‘Megaforce,’ not this episode.’ And Trey says, “Man, we should have done ‘Megaforce’ instead. That was a sweet movie.”
BB: That’s funny. You know, I didn’t even realize it was sort of a cult movie until I did some autograph signings a couple of months ago in New Jersey, and the organizers of the event said, ‘Well, you know, you’re going to get a lot of people for ‘Megaforce’ here,” and I did. I was totally shocked by it. That was just one of those movies that I had sort of banked away somewhere in my memory, and I hadn’t even thought about it in a long time.
BE: And the last question, so I can keep you on track: what’s your favorite project that you worked on that didn’t get the love that you thought it deserved, and why does it deserve that love?
BB: That didn’t get the love that I thought it deserved? Let me think about this. You know what? Years ago, I did a long miniseries about George Washington, and it was successful at the time, but it didn’t quite have the legs that I thought it should have had. I thought it was really the best interpretation of what Washington was like in his real life, and his life and times. The History Channel plays it occasionally, but I put a lot...half a year of my life…into filming it, and a lot of time into working on it, and doing all the research and everything. I mean, I even went to psychics to try to connect me with Washington! I just did everything I could to get connected with our first President. It had a following at the time, but it never really translated into anything else in my personal career. It was like another one of those one offs. It was sort of like, well, yeah, he played the first President, but it was historical, you know? It didn’t have the sort of bite and energy, in terms of career-wise, that I thought it would have. Even though it won awards, it didn’t win awards for me, and I was a little disappointed in the overall reception of that for me, personally. Patty Duke got an Emmy nomination, and I think if it was done today, it would be treated a little differently. I think it would have been accepted a little bit more, but because it was the first time that Washington had been dealt with in that way…I don’t know. I just didn’t think that it had the legs that it should have.
BE: Well, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
BB: Well, thank you. And I’m going to check out that “Megaforce” spoof thing!
BE: Absolutely. It’s on the Season 2 DVD of “South Park”; it’s the intro to one of the episodes, one called “The Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka.”
BB: Okay, great. Thank you so much!
BE: No problem. Pleasure speaking with you.BB: You, too!