NEW YORK (AP) – Stanley Tucci’s pandemic experiences set the tone range.
He has been home schooling young children with his wife, Felicity Blunt. He shared cocktail recipes. He had the virus. He has worked on film and television sets with new security protocols. He wrote a memoir – the first draft in London’s first lockdown, the second draft in his second.
And he’s in a newly released movie in which he gives one of the best performances of his career. In “Supernova” plays Tucci Tusker, a novelist on the verge of early dementia on the set. He’s still himself, but it’s starting to go away. He and longtime partner Sam (Colin Firth) are on a motorhome road trip through England’s Lake District, perhaps their last. The film, which is currently in theaters, can be rented digitally on February 16.
“It’s a real pick-me-up during the pandemic,” Tucci said in a recent interview.
But in “Supernova” Tucci and Firth – real friends for 20 years – are such a compelling, affectionate couple that the intimacy and compassion of the film, written and directed by Harry Macqueen, is a kind of ointment, even if it’s heartbreaking.
For the 60-year-old Tucci, who has long radiated wit and sophistication both as an actor (“Spotlight”, “The Hunger Games”) and as a filmmaker (“Big Night”, “Joe Goulds Secret”), the role of Tusker is to celebrate one. During a video conference from London, Tucci wondered if he could celebrate the premiere of the film with a zoom with Firth over Negronis.
AP: Are your passions as an author and as the author of numerous cookbooks interwoven?
TUCCI: I suppose they are only interwoven in “Big Night” or “Julie & Julia”. But other than that, no. I act to eat. The only way I can afford to eat is to act. (Laughs) When I am offered a job, my first thought is, OK, where is he shooting? The second thought is, how much will you pay me? And when it shoots elsewhere, I immediately think of the food there. I know if it’s toronto that’s fine. I don’t want to be that far away, but I know there is good food. Vancouver? Fine. If someone says Bulgaria, I’ll probably say, “How long is the shoot?”
AP: Do you sometimes cook for your co-stars?
TUCCI: Absolutely. I was cooking for Colin when I was doing Supernova. We’ve been friends for a long time, so we’re in each other’s kitchen. His wife is a wonderful cook. I love to do it. I like to eat what I like to eat. I don’t want to have a hamburger somewhere in nowhere. I prefer to take the time and try to do something good for myself.
AP: You are a very precise actor. I can see that this is similar to cooking.
TUCCI: Not when you’ve seen me cook. My wife says, “How much of that did you invest?” I dont know!
AP: If you choose projects based in part on circumstances, going around the lakes with a friend is a good option.
TUCCI: It was really nice. It was hard to find food, I’m honest. So cooking was a necessity, plus I like to do it. But it was a great experience. I had never been to the Lake District before. Everyone I knew had always talked about it. It was even nicer than described. Working with one of your best friends and working with this incredibly talented director on a beautiful script for a meaningful story just doesn’t happen. Nobody gets rich from it, but that’s not the point.
AP: “Supernova” is about a couple navigating through a terminal state together. Your first wife, Kathryn Spath-Tucci, with whom you have several children, died of breast cancer in 2009. Have you thought a lot about the conversations you and her had towards the end of the movie?
TUCCI: It just becomes part of who you are. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s just there. And you don’t really want to think about it, but it’s there. It’s always there. It’s there in your dreams. As soon as you get older you have a knowledge of it, even if you have not learned what I experienced. Because you lost people. You lost other people, whether parents, grandparents or older friends. I’ve lost some friends over the past few years. I’m barely old I’m older, but not old yet, I don’t think so. But yes, with Kate it’s always inside of you. It’s a very strange thing. It’s not that you think about it. It’s just part of you They just wish there was a little more you could have done to help. There is a guilt. There is no question about that. There is a debt that you get on with your life. You watch your children grow up. Hopefully you will see grandchildren. She won’t have that opportunity. Your brain even gets confused at times thinking, “Oh, she’d love to see my little kids.” Which wouldn’t make sense. Because you love her so much and I love her so much. It’s really all about love.
AP: You were originally supposed to play Sam with Firth as the Tusker. Why did you change
TUCCI: I felt more comfortable playing Tusker. It seemed obviously more right to me and Colin and Harry. Colin had brought it up. He said, “Suppose we switch roles?” I said I think the same thing. I do not know why. Every time I looked at it, I said something was wrong. It just made better rhythmic sense.
AP: Have you done that before?
TUCCI: No, never. It’s part of working with friends. When you work with a friend, you have a shortcut and trust each other. And you trust yourself enough to say, “Let’s switch roles.” Nobody would ever do that. You don’t go on a set and say, “Hey, I have an idea.” Can you imagine the agents and producers and everyone freaking out?
AP: Do you feel like you’ve gotten better as an actor as you get older?
TUCCI: I feel better, yes. That was the goal just to get better and better. I’m more relaxed now because I’ve just been doing it for so long. Much of it is technology. And a lot realizes that the more you do it, the less you really have to do it – this economy is everything. You don’t often have to expend the energy that you thought was necessary when you were young. Besides, you’re older now, so you can’t. (Laughs) The only thing about this point: I hate waiting. As if I couldn’t take it. I just hate it. Life is too short. You spend so much time on a movie set just waiting for it. As a director, I try to move things very, very quickly. I don’t like long days. I don’t like lunch break. Let’s go do it, go home and have a martini and a nice dinner.
Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP