The Celebrity Apprentice star chats about his small but important role in Shawn Ku's powerful new drama
Grammy-winning vocalist, actor, and rock deity Meat Loaf recently finished a stint on NBC's hit reality series Celebrity Apprentice, and this Friday, he can be seen in Shawn Ku's powerful new drama Beautiful Boy, starring opposite Michael Sheen.
Though appearing in the film for just a few scenes, Meat Loaf plays the pivotal role of a hotel manager whom Michael Sheen opens up to after carrying the grief of a recent tragedy that has torn his family apart. The father's only son has commited a horrific school shooting, killing a number of students as well as taking his own life. And its through Meat Loaf's character that Michael Sheen is able to unleash the tidal wave of emotion that has been building up inside of him.
Here is our conversation.
You are always quite selective about the movie projects you choose to do. What brought you to this? And why did you think it was an important film to add to your list of credits?
Meat Loaf: First of all. I think you just said it. It was a subject matter that hadn't really been dealt with. If you could imagine being on this side of it. If you had a child that did something like this. I don't know if you have children, but I do. And you start thinking, "Would I be to blame?" Especially when you think you live in a perfect world. Then, what happens, even though you are not to blame? You have to look at how other people start to treat you, and how they look at you. The reason I took the film is because...The character I play is not that big of a role, but he is involved in that pivotal moment. He was there when everything broke. The father began to talk, and he chose me to talk to. Also, when you find a role like that...Too many people think that acting is about delivering a line. Acting is not about delivering a line. Acting is about listening. What you listen to opens you up to tell the truth. Any performance...It doesn't matter if you are doing Celebrity Apprentice, a song, a show...It doesn't make a difference, you are just living your life through that. The best way for a person to live is through the truth. That is what acting is about. This movie became about the truth of the father, and the truth of the character he was talking to. When I read the script, I knew I had to do the part. I don't remember what it was, but I moved another engagement to do this part. People were telling me, "No! You can't do that!" I said, "Well, you are gonna! I don't care how. I need these three days." I could not turn it down. Plus, I am starstruck over Michael Sheen. Ever since I saw him do Tony Blair in Frost/Nixon. I was completely mesmerized by his performances. There has only been one other actor that I have had that kind of intensity with on a set. Glenn Close. The first scene I did with Glenn Close, I got half way through the scene and I yelled, "Cut!" Because it was so intense. The director said, "What did you do?" I said, "I don't know! She came in and I was taken back!" It was so intense. And William H. Macy is another one. I did an Arthur Miller movie with Bill Macy called A Hole in One. And Bill Macy is in that same line with Glenn Close and Michael Sheen. When they hit you, they hit you!
Is it one of those things were you just aren't expecting their performance to be so authentic and real that it sort of displaces you on the set?
Meat Loaf: Yes. I had never had that happen, and I had done quite a few films by the time I was with Glenn Close. I had never witnessed anything like it. With the other two, when it came to both Bill Macy and Michael Sheen, I was a little bit better prepared for it. I could deal with the intensity of those actors. I had been on stages and in theater with people like Raul Julia and Ron Silver, people like that, where the intensity in the theater gets like that. But Theater and film are so different. In theater, all of the energy is coming out from every fingertip. Every hair follicle. It's a different technique. Glenn Close? She just through me for a loop. The same thing happened with Michael Sheen. He was very intense, yet he was also very quite. He was very subdued. I remember him walking into the room, and it was almost mouse-like. Then out came this intensity. It was quite remarkable.
You seem to be given roles where you are this shoulder to cry on. Directors see you as a compassionate person, and a listener. You are this accepting force...
Meat Loaf: Yeah. They do. There was a film that Jodie Foster was directing, which starred Russell Crowe. Jodie said, "You are the only actor I know that can stand toe to toe with Russell Crowe." Coming from Jodie Foster, that was like God speaking to Moses, giving him the Ten Commandments, as far as I was concerned. The movie never happened. Russell got hurt, and he couldn't do it. But for Jodie Foster to say that to me...She said, "I have watched you, and you really are the only person that can stand toe-to-toe with him." I found that to be the biggest compliment anyone could ever pay me. Usually, people want me to be the killer. I am getting ready to go do a movie with Gary Oldman, and I am going to kill him.
Killing Gary Oldman? What kind of preparations go into that? He's another very intense guy...
Meat Loaf: I'll just hit that guy in the head with a shovel. Yeah, I just need to swing that shovel. There is an interesting character! He was a hitman, and his family was killed brutally. And this guy snaps. Its called American Mary. We are going to do that in about three weeks.
You seem to be drawn to these really intense, hardcore dramas. We don't see you tackling fluff...
Meat Loaf: It's the character study. People keep saying to me, "You can't do comedy." I say, "Are you people insane?" They don't know my background. I did the Lampoon Show. In theater, I did nothing but comedy. Musical Theater. Improv. Other than Othello in New York, I never really did do any serious pieces. I did one little thing at the Actor's Studio. So I don't know...
You were awesome in the Tenacious D. movie. You stole the show...
Meat Loaf: I got to do that because Jack Black is a friend of mine. Jack sang on the last record. He had been saying in the press, "I want Meat Loaf to play my father. My reply was, "When Jack calls me on the phone and asks me to be his father, I will do it." So, one Sunday afternoon, I get a phone call. He goes, "Hey, it's me, Jack!" I had no idea who I was talking to. I ask, "How are you?" He says, "I'm good, man! I am good! Dude, look..." I am sitting there going, "Who the hell am I talking to?" Within 30 or 40 seconds, I went, "Oh, Jack!" He goes, "Dude, I want you to play my dad. We on, dude?" And I said, "Yeah." I love Jack. Jack is Jack. He is people I really like. If you are around this man, Jack Black is Jack Black. He is who he is. And those are the people I really love.
Going back to Beautiful Boy for a second, this really is a movie that could open up a dialogue that will last for hours and hours after you see the movie...
Meat Loaf: Absolutely. Without a doubt. This movie could open up dialogue for years, if people allow it. I think that it's a good dialogue. I gave an example earlier today. It's not to that extreme, but when I had 'Bat Outta Hell' come out, all of these friends that I had in New York before, they all came to me and said, "Man, you have really changed." I said, "No, I haven't really changed at all." I haven't changed forever. I said, "Let me tell you what has happened. You have all changed. You have changed the way you are treating me. That is what has changed. I didn't change. You are acting different towards me, because you now think that I am something more than I was before." That is the same thing with this. But to a heavier degree. I have never been in this situation that these two parents are in. That is the closest I can relate to it. Those people change, because they start to doubt themselves. They think, "This is my fault." Then, other people start to question them. It never resolves itself. This is something that you can't even imagine. In my wildest imagination, I cannot be in that position. For Maria Bello and Michael Sheen to take those positions? It's extraordinary. Ordinary people will just see them as 'actors'. But to take those positions as actors? It's an extraordinary feat. It is beyond comprehension. I didn't work with Maria as much as Michael Sheen, but Michael really took it. I wanted to have more time with him. I would have loved to explore the avenues he went through to get to there. Because that is the sign of a beyond your wildest imagination brilliant actor.
Was there ever access to some of the folks who have actually gone through this same experience with losing their children?
Meat Loaf: I don't know. I couldn't tell you. I wasn't around long enough to know if they ever went and spoke to anybody. If anybody would have, it would have been Michael. I think his personality could have dealt with that difficult task. Whether someone would have given me his role, would I have gone and done that? I don't know. I would have figured out that, most likely, I may have. I would have gone deep somewhere, and I would have made that transition in my head. I am not bad at doing that. I can become these things. It's about the research. You can find research where these people have talked about it. There are a few TV shows. Things like that. But if anyone had of gone out for that, it would have been Michael.
Its an interesting subject to explore, because these parents seldom step forward after such a tragedy...
Meat Loaf: You never do see that. Like the guy at Virginia Tech, or the two guys at Columbine. Any of the ones...There was one couple that came out after a high school shooting. I did see them on a TV show once.
It's funny. You talk about people not wanting to give you a comedy. And about not changing in the face of fame. Here's a guy who has never changed his name. Beautiful Boy is as powerful as any drama gets, yet here in the credits is a guy named Meat Loaf...
Meat Loaf: I have tried. Believe me. When I did my first William Shakespeare, I went to the director, and I said, "Maybe we shouldn't use Meat Loaf." He turns to me and says, "What? If Bill was alive today, he wouldn't use Meat Loaf?" He left my name. I walked away, laughing about it. I still laugh about it. Then, I did a movie for Paramount with Steve Martin, Debra Winger, and Liam Neeson. Paramount came to me. Sherry Lansing, the President of Paramount, said, "We'd like to use your real name." It's Michael Lee Aday. I said, "Please do! Please!" We were at a screening. I was there with Steve Martin, who was sitting two rows in front of me. And Steve goes, "Who is Michael Lee Aday?" They went, "It's Meat Loaf." And he goes, "Well, then put Meat Loaf up there!" When I did A Hole in One, again for Paramount, with William H. Macy, Laura Dern, and David Paymer, they had a screening, and it says Academy Award nominee William H. Macy, Academy Award nominee Laura Dern, Academy Award nominee David Paymer, and then, no Academy Award, Michael Lee Aday. The screen is sixty feet big. My head is up there. The test screening survey comes back, and everyone is saying, "Who the heck is Michael Lee Aday?" They did it again, they changed it to Meat Loaf, and everyone went, "Man, he is fantastic!" So they haven't ever used it. I have given up. I have been called Meat since I was nine months old. It will go on my tombstone, dude.
I grew up in a Meat Loaf household. My parents are big fans, and my girlfriend is a big fan. So I am used to seeing just 'Meat Loaf". So then, when you use Aday, like you are here, even then I'm going, whose this other Meat Loaf? There are two guys named Meat Loaf now? What the heck?
Meat Loaf: (Laughs) I just use Aday for film. Because none of the Studios will accept my full real name!
How did you recover from the Celebrity Apprentice finale? And do you think we will ever see you and Gary Busey in a movie together?
Meat Loaf: I have done two movies with Gary Busey, we just never had a scene together. Now, do me a favor and print this up. On that show, they were supposed to mention that John Rich, Mark McGrath, Lil' Jon, and myself had recorded a song under the name Backbone. And it's on iTunes. All of the money is going to charity. We were supposed to talk about it on the show, and they didn't. I am a little bit upset with them. Because we would have been a top ten download for our charities, and we would have probably made quite a few thousands of dollars for these charities. So if you can go to iTunes and look for Backbone, 'Stand in the Storm'. Everyone waved all the royalties. I went to the wall on this thing, and they told me to go screw myself. I am not too happy with them today.