Flavorwire: When you were first coming up as a comic, was Woody an influence on you at all?
Dice: You know what? No. I like his movies, but comics really didn’t influence me at all. Rock stars and bigger-than-life personalities and everybody from Elvis to Muhammed Ali to guys like Brando in The Wild One and James Dean when I was younger, and then as I got into my teens, it was Stallone and Travolta — it was more about acting for me than comedy. And that’s why, even to this day, I enjoy being onstage as a comic, because that’s one aspect of my talents.
Then when you get to do a film like this where you’re challenged a little more as far as, you know, dramatically and working with people as great as Alec and Cate and Sally, you gotta bring your A-game — and I didn’t do a film in 12 years, so I was very conscious of every scene and what was going on in the scene. And I developed my own acting method through comedy, and so I would go to those places that I needed to go to with each scene that came my way. Like what you’re saying, people are really digging it, and I’m appreciative of it and I’m glad I was able to bring something to the table.
And like you said, you’re in the movie with, y’know, Oscar winners and nominees, Emmy winners…
Academy Award winning! Golden Globe! I mean, they’re the best! I’ve said this word a thousand times today, but it’s a humbling experience.
That was what I was thinking when I was watching the movie. I was wondering if being in scenes with talent like that was a) intimidating or b) if you were able to use any of it for your character.
It is intimidating, and I’m very grateful for it because it’s the kind of stuff I always wanted to do.
Were you able to use that intimidation for your character, since he’s kind of an outsider in those scenes?
No, I would draw more off of things I’ve gone through in my own life in the scenes. It was like, become that dumb. Just become that dumb, because of Cate’s character and Alec’s character, they are intimidating characters in the movie, so I was able to play that, because I’d dealt with that in my real life. I’d dealt with wealthy people that think they’re mightier than thou, and I just used it and it worked.
Cate’s amazing. Sally Hawkins is just extraordinary. When I met Sally, she showed up to do the scene, so we didn’t even get to really hang before, so when the scene ended and she went to her British accent, I was like, “I thought you were from here, from Jersey or something!” She goes, “No, I really had to learn this.” Just the sweetest girl and the nicest, and a lot of actors use these words and it sounds like bullshit to the general public, but just a very giving actress. And Cate, her character is more intimidating than Sally, so she doesn’t give, you know? She’s playing the role. And that’s why, near the end, I’m hurting, but I want to let her know what I think of her, and that’s what it’s about.
I’ve lived that in my real life a lot of times, because I lived with them, with wealthy people, and it never thrills me. Anybody that thinks they’re better than you because of a dollar. You know, I’ve had millions, lost millions, I had giant homes — money comes and goes. I don’t really care about that, but I do care about who, if you become friends with somebody, who that person is, just as a man. And when somebody fucks with me, I could look at that guy and just picture him naked, not with the fancy suit on, he’s probably got a dick this fucking big [holds his fingers just a couple of inches apart], and I’m like, “You ain’t nothing. You ain’t nothing special. You’re just polished, or you at least think you’re polished.” I can see through most people, ‘cause I did grow up in Brooklyn, and then when you get out to Hollywood, they all get the fancy suit and the eloquent words and they’re all a bunch of scams and con artists. You know what I’m talking about. I’m not even talking about the industry — I’m talking about just people that have their own agenda and want to take what you work for and just take it from you, and I’m too smart for that.
You talked in the press conference about getting the call that Woody wanted to talk to you [he thought his manager was joking when he got the call on the road],and I’ve heard these stories about his, like, half-minute-long casting sessions.
Well, we talked a little more about it because we just started talking. We stopped talking about the film. I read and then we were just talking about some stuff, like regular things, and then I left and that was it. He’s also a human like anybody else, you know what I mean? He’s just a regular guy. He’s also from Brooklyn and he also wanted to reach his potential as a performer, and he has. I think this movie, from what they’re saying, is just about one of his best ever, and I’m proud of him for that. At a certain point, y’know, he could’ve stopped 15 years ago, said, “I’m not doing any more movies. I’ve got money. I don’t need to do it.” But he’s so into being a creative force that it just keeps — his fire burns inside of him, and that’s what I respect with a guy like that, that his belief in his work is still coming and keeps getting better.
What was the director-actor relationship between you two on the set? Did he give you a lot of direction? I’ve heard he can be pretty hands-off.
You know what? He is hands-off.
Do you prefer it that way?
Depending on what I’m doing. He gave little comments. Some of it was technical, “we need to reset things,” but I brought my son with me to San Francisco because I know how well he knows me, so he would know on the set if I’m uptight, he would know if I’m cool, calm, and collected, so that’s who I would go to in between takes. Because the first day on the set, I said, “Woody, you don’t mind if my kid stands with you and watches on the monitor?” And he goes, “Yeah, come on over.” And then in between the scenes, I would talk to my kid and go, “What do you think?” I would confer with Woody if I looked to change something. You know, you don’t take a guy’s words and switch it without asking him, so I would just switch certain little things around to really make it the way I would talk.
And I’ve heard everybody say that he loves that.
Yeah, because his directing is in casting. He doesn’t want to worry about it on the set. He’s thinking of the whole picture, so on the set, he knows he’s got the right actors and actresses and they’re going to find the role, they’re going to find what they need to do in each scene. And to me, that’s even more brilliant than a hands-on director going, “Alright, this is what I want you to do with this take,” because you’re already thinking, “Ah, I fucked up that take, maybe I should do this, maybe…” What was great about Woody is that he was able to see through me in my stand-up performance. He knew there was more to me than the guy in the leather jacket cursing at people in the front row. That’s what I love about him, that he saw a vulnerability, that he saw — like, he wasn’t one of those guys that look at you and go, “Well, there’s not much to him.” He knew there was layers, and that’s important when you play any kind of role in a film. You’ve got to find every layer there is to make an impact on people watching a movie. That’s what makes either a great movie or a shitty movie. And this cast is, y’know, top-notch.
I read that you’re working on your autobiography, so I’d imagine you’re getting very reflective. Back in the day, you were a pretty divisive guy. Looking back, do you have any regrets about the material you did back then?
The only regret I would have on any material would be if I ever said anything about — because I don’t like it to this day and I didn’t do much of it, really, but when, let’s say a disaster happens, comics are vicious, and that night I’ll be onstage making fun of it, and that’s not my thing. I don’t care what I say sexually about anybody or anything, because it’s just sex, and we all have it, one way or another. And even recently with the whole gay thing, that they want to be able to marry each other, where they had to go to the Supreme Court? Now I do a bit on that, but my feelings about that is, this is 2013 and nobody has the right to tell anybody who to love, who to marry. When these people come with the Bibles and all, it’s like, this is 2013. Have you looked at the Internet? If you really want to see something that needs to go away, go to the Internet. See the debauchery on the Internet. I can’t even look at that, and I make sure when my kids were really young, stay off of the Internet, or you could go behind my back and do it, but it messes up your mind. You’re going to get the wrong idea about the real world.
But I was all for it, gay marriage. Why do we have the right to stop anybody? Just anybody? If you’re Mormon, you can marry chicks by the bushel! You know what I mean? I mean, that’s the bottom line. Should I turn Mormon so I could get a dozen at a shot? So if you want to love that guy, if that’s what you love, go marry him! It’s nobody’s business! You know what I mean? Everybody talks about, “Well, God this, and God” — you know what? Well, God created us! That’s the bottom line.
But in joke form, I talk about the gay thing and go, “You fought for marriage?” I go, “Have you not seen heterosexual couples? Look at that woman’s face! Do you see how miserable she is?” I go, “You could come to a guy after four years and go, ‘Bert, I love you so much, I want to marry you,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, Frank, I know, but we’re not allowed, so I guess you got to go now.’” I go, “That’s not the case with a woman! ‘Three, four years you’re going to marry me.’ That’s it, and you’re stuck.” So, comedically, that’s what I’m doing, but in real life, I turn around and go, “Who’s got the right? This is what the issues are?” When Mitt Romney was running, that’s what you’re talking about? While the world is falling apart, people blowing everybody up around the world, and you’re worried about if Bert wants to marry Frank? I ain’t voting for you, pal. That’s it! You got to use common sense in this world. Come on. There’s much bigger issues. But as a comic, I owe it to the fans to just be funny about everything.
Blue Jasmine is out tomorrow in limited release.