Reminiscing about Cheers, Becker, Curb Your Enthusiasm and his new love for unclothing for the camera
We took part in First Look Studio's press-day in Los Angeles for their latest film The Amateurs. The film stars an impressive cast featuring Jeff Bridges, Tim Blake Nelson, Joe Pantoliano, William Fichtner, Ted Danson, Patrick Fugit, John Hawkes, Brad William Henke, Glenne Headly, Tom Bower, Dawn Didawick, Jayne Taini, Lauren Graham, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Alex D. Linz.
In the film, down-and-out divorcee Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges), with the help of his five motley friends, brainstorms a genius idea to make their dreams come true. They are going to rally their small town to produce an amateur adult film! They think they've found the road to fame and fortune, but their fantasy quickly turns into a hilarious misadventure as they encounter more than a few bumps in the road. Their good natured attempts lead to the creation of the most un-adult, adult film ever. See how The Amateurs bring an entire small town together, in the biggest comedic disaster turned boffo box office success.
We attended a press-conference with actor and television icon Ted Danson who spoke for around twenty minutes about the film as well as reminiscing about the various TV shows that he has been on. He was quite enthusiastic and cheerful about his role in The Amateurs, including his first ever nude-scene. Here is what Ted had to say:
We hear that your wife (Mary Steenburgen) was you agent on this! What percentage (%) did she get (asked in a joking way)?
Ted Danson: I want to know why she didn't recommend me for like a Chuck Norris part, that she recommended me for the gay guy, Moose.
Did you ask her?
Ted Danson: No, I know the answer. The hormone count in my family is a real delicate balance. I can talk fabric with the best of you guys. Ah ladies, I mean.
Are you saying Moose is sort of the anti- "Sam Malone"?
Ted Danson: Yeah. I love Moose. God, I love Moose. He loves people. He wants to be loved. This is me, I'm just describing. He finds everything, his friends are so interesting. He just wants to be part of the group and he has a huge fear later in the film is that he won't be able to hang out with the guys. Watching football, that's the scariest thing for him. I don't think he's actually ever had sex. I think he went to a Broadway show when he was 15 and changed his life.
How was it hanging out on the set for everybody? Obviously it's a short shoot, but just being able to hang out with everyone.
Ted Danson: Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite people on the planet. I've known him, kind of, for a long time. Because, his father took me and his mother, under their wing, including me in stuff that families doing periodically and he's very sweet to me, so I've just had this huge fondness for the entire Bridges family. Jeff is one of our best actors in America. He is hands down an amazing actor and he has this exuberance of, it's like his first movie. He rehearses, he gets everyone together. He makes sure that we all... He cares about the project. He worked on it with (director) Michael Traeger before we all showed up. He had us all over to his house for two or three days. The sleepovers to get a buddy thing going and he would adlib and improvise before and during the take. He was like this new young kid actor who couldn't wait to get in front of the camera, and it was so contagious, that we all had a great, great time. We had great parts. We had a great leader.
Do you remember when you first met Jeff (Bridges)? We asked Jeff and he said that "No, I've known him for so long".
Ted Danson: Probably at one of his Christmas parties, maybe. His father insisted that he invite us ... or something like that. It's been so long.
Is this your first on-screen nudity and how did you prepare for that?
Ted Danson: And it won't be the last (laughter in the room). I was so into taking my clothes off. Well clearly I stopped working out and I ate a lot. Because I was really buff right before we started shooting. It was such a perfect thing to do to the character. It was so pathetically sweetly sad that it's funny. But watching isn't one of my least favorite things I ever had to do. I think my wife whispered to me as we were watching the film. Never again!
How many takes did that particular sequence take?
Ted Danson: I was standing around in the buff for quite a while to the point where they couldn't get my clothes back on me. I was starting to enjoy the whole process, but as they do in the film, I love this group of losers. They all turn their back and cover their eyes.
What did your actual agent think of you doing this? Because I would imagine that a few managers or agents would say "Well, the nudity thing you may want to think about" or whatever. Did anyone discourage you from doing this?
Ted Danson: I don't know that they were paying close enough attention. Maybe in hindsight they would have liked to have gotten into the editing room. I don't think anyone...
Do you consider yourself pretty adventurous in terms of taking on roles that are a little skewed or off the wall?
Ted Danson: No, I don't have this huge vast number of scripts in front of me to choose from so that it looks like it I'm being clever or not clever about my choice. I really almost always take what I'm being offered, if it's in the ballpark. When you have a really funny good script, like Damages is a great script. You have somebody like Glenn Close in Damages. You have somebody like Jeff Bridges in this. And you just know in your heart of hearts you're going to have fun with this character. It doesn't feel, that's not a risky choice. It's like smart to be part of a great script with really good actors.
This season might have been the best on Curb Your Enthusiasm. You and Larry were a huge part of it. Can you talk a little bit about this season. Maybe why this was such a great season.
Ted Danson: I haven't seen them all yet, to be honest, so it's hard, and I'm trying to think of some way to insult Larry because I know him well. He lived with us this summer. I hate telling him this, but I do. I am so proud to be part of a show that really changed the dynamic of half-hour comedy. I mean, he really did lead the way into
something new so that half of the tradition form is really hard to pull off now because of what he did. It's like going to dinner with him. It's a little scary. You don't quite know how he's going to talk in a little bit too loud of a voice. Or do something bizarre like when we were at a group of friends went down to Cabo for like two nights on New Years Eve. Just because we thought "that would be fun" and so we went and there was a band there and, Mexican band, and doing music and he decided, they were playing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" or something. He decided to jump up with them and do the English translation to the horror of all guests. This is really inappropriate and no one else found it funny in the crowd. But this is like, going out with him is always dangerous and you are always trying to think of something insulting to say to him ... to make him laugh. And that's exact same thing you do when you go to work so it's one of the most relaxing jobs I've every had. You just go play with Larry.
How close is the version you see on the episodes to the real you and Mary, would you say?
Ted Danson: You don't have a script and because you have fun and you all know each other and you don't really care. You just show up and roll camera and you start ... doing this bizarre old man. I never knew throughout this entire season that I'm "the schmuck" and there's actually a scene. I was in a scene were Lucy Lawless, outside the dry cleaners and I'm there talking and, they point for me to come up and for about 3 or 4 takes, I get there just in time for them to go "Hey, how you doing?". I go "Fine". I do a scene and walk in. I had miss-timed it and came a little early in time to hear "Oh god here comes Danson, what an asshole". And I didn't realize this going on throughout the entire season. Nice, real nice!
Ted Danson: It came up in different times. One of us would be feeling desperate about their lot in life. So far, they've been wisely resisted it. I use to make jokes, but now it's getting pretty close to the bone. I'm waiting till we're all in our 70s to come back ... that would be funny. Now we're closer. I'm not sure it's so amusing.
Do you have the bar in your house?
Ted Danson: No. I'm big on other people's memorabilia. I love looking at photos. For some reason, I never do it myself.
Curb Your Enthusiasm, after last season ... Larry was doing a lot of talk it was going to be over. Then he said "we're going to do another season". When did you wrap this last season and have heard if there is going to be another end. Would you make Larry make you play a better character?
Ted Danson: I think Larry should go around and try mooch off of his friends after his divorce and make himself miserable. Make us miserable by, like he did. I think he has so much material. He has to do another season. Doesn't he?
I was going to say that it was almost as if this whole thing, this life, gave so much more creativity. So much more energy with the show. When did you wrap up though?
Ted Danson: He was editing by June or something like that. It's been a while. And it takes him a long time because there's no script. If he ever, ever gets a best writing... (said jokingly ... journalists in the room laugh)
Have you confronted him on what he did to your character this season?
Ted Danson: No.
Are you going to?
Ted Danson: No. Because it's too funny. It's a good funny. Woody Harrelson did that to me once. He was in a film, Do you remember 'Doc Hollywood?' The hicks finally come back with Michael J. Fox's character, Hollywood. He hadn't been to Hollywood and he was so excited. And they're sitting in this cafe and I'd seen this in a screening, the premiere, ssitting behind Woody ... and all of a sudden, the characters in the film go, "Oh, look, is that a movie star?" And the other character goes, "No, that's Ted Danson." And I found myself laughing a little too loud.
I really loved your performance on Becker. I was wondering if maybe you had it in you to do another character for such a long run?
Ted Danson: I don't know. I really, FX kinda feels that cable season kinda feels good, 5-and-a-half months ... 22 episodes now meaning, and half-hour, now means 22 minutes. To tell a story in 22 minutes is pretty hard. I think The Office is brilliant, the way they kind of handled that. How to tell a story in a relaxed, funny way in 22 minutes. They're brilliant, but I, never say never. I think I rather go off and do lots of characters and stuff.
You have two films coming out. One you are doing a voiceover and then Mad Money.
Ted Danson: Mad Money, The Amateurs and voiceover. Mad Money is Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes. Under the leadership of Diane decide to... They are janitors or paper-shredders at a Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City and it's based on a true thing that happened in England. Diana Keaton realizes that they can steal money just before it goes into the shredder and in essence, stealing nothing. They're stealing something that doesn't exist. I play her very panicky out-of-work, very panicky at the thought, slightly excited by what she is doing, husband. It happened in England that there were three women who did do this for real to their equivalent of the Federal Reserve.
What was is like working with her?
Ted Danson: She's great. People who have had careers career that, like Jeff. There's a reason why these people are still around. They really love the process. She's another one. It's like you show up and she's working it. She is preparing, doing her thing, focused, concentrated, cares deeply. Diane would rather die than admit any of that. She is the ultimate pro, so it's really fun and Queen Latifah has a heart the size of a, and Katie was absolute delightful. Very sweet. Very wonderful and very funny in this film. And yes, she was visited by her husband Tom and they were, it was so bizarre to sit there and go to the market and pass by the tabloids and see the horrible things that are happening to Katie and Tom and then go to the set and there they would be, like normal loving parents having a good time with their daughter and it's so bizarre. This culture we live in. They were nothing but polite and accessible and fun to be with.
Are you supporting a particular candidate?
Ted Danson: Yeaaaaahhh. My wife is best friends for years with the Clintons and besides that friendship, or maybe this isn't the forum, but beside that friendship, I do believe we kind of a very destabilize time and you need the smartest guy in the room and she happens to be this time, perhaps to be a woman. She's incredibly powerful, incredibly bright, unbelievably prepared.
Do you think she has a good chance?
Ted Danson: Yeah. I'm beyond hope. I really do believe that she will be our next president and I'm grateful for that. I do believe it's time for this country to be loved again around the world. It's not good for the world not to love America and it's been very hard to do that.
The Amateurs arrives in theatres on December 7th.