The Crimson spoke last week with Actor Ray Liotta, who was in Boston to promote Dominick and Eugene, in which he plays Eugene, the medical student brother of the retarded Dominick, played by Tom Hulce (see accompanying review).
Crimson: Did you always know you wanted to act?
Liotta: No, never. I didn't really want to go to college, and my parents said, "Just go, take whatever and try to feel what you want to do." So I went down to Miami, took drama and saw what that was about and decided I liked it. I read constantly about what other actors were saying and what they do, and I would watch their work. And I realized they don't have anything I don't have. They just had a break, that was it. So it really wasn't until college that I decided. I'm 33, by the way, in case you're wondering.
Crimson: You have worked on stage, in television and in films How do they compare?
Liotta: TO me, it's all the same thing. You have a story that you have to fulfill, and that's it. It just so happens to be a different medium. The thing about stage and movies is that is seems you get deeper things to play. It's not all formula stuff like TV gets to become.
Crimson: Before acting in movies, you spent three years on the soap opera Another world. Did you find soap operas formulaic?
Liotta: No, well, the formula is the soap itself, and it's all people, you know, fooling around on each other and all these different kind of things. So there's a certain kind of story, but there are changes from week to week. One week you drink coffee and the next you have tea. I mean, it's somewhat of a change. No, I really dug the soap. It was a great training ground. Because once I committed to doing this, I just absorbed everything I could. I would say it helped a lot.
Crimson: How did you go from television into film?
Liotta: What happened was, I was on a series, and it was cancelled, and a bunch of my firends were up for this movie, Something Wild. And one of them said, "Are you up for this?" And I said, "No. I'm not." So I called my agent, who at that time was a very powerful agent, and he got me in because it was already being cast, and they sent an assistant. I thought, "I'm sick of being turned down by people who don't really have any artistic sense at all. I would rather be turned down by the director or at least by the regular casting people, never mind the assistant." So I had nowhere else to go, so I called Melanie [Griffith, the star of Something Wild]. I went to college with her ex-husband Steven Bauer, who was in Scarface. So I called her and said, "Melanie, I would really like to get in on this. I think I'm right for it." And she said, "Yeah, Jonathan [Demme, the film's director] is just at the end of casting, but I'll make a call." And she did, and that's just what happened. There is no right way to do it or wrong way. Whatever gets you in.
Crimson: In Something wild, you played an obsessively jealous ex-husband, and now in Dominick and Eugene, your second film role, you play a sensitive, hard-working medical student. How did you manage to avoid getting typecast?
Liotta: You wait. I waited after Something Wild. I was offered a lot of crazy-type guys, and I didn't want to do that anymore because I still study. I still go to class, and you always try new and different things. You know, in this business you get typed, and you're stuck in that place forever. So I just waited.
Crimson: How would you describe Dominick and Eugene?
Liotta: What the movie is about and what it's saying is that it's all right to show your emotions and how you feel about things. Just because [Dominick]'s my brother and a male doesn't mean that we can't be close, and hopefully that's in a sense unique. You know, we lie in bed together. As an actor, it's fun to do things that are new and challenging.
Crimson: Did you follow the script closely during the shooting.?
Liotta: Yeah, when you have a guy who has won two Academy Awards writing [screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who won Oscars for Ordinary people and Julia], you don't want to mess with his words too much. If anything, the things that might not have been there are the connections that Tom [Hulce] and I had. But we pretty much worked with the words throughout. There might have been some ad-libbing here and there. It was more our relationship that brought those words to life.