I was recently fortunate enough to be able to interview the excellent Curtiss Cook.
His first brush with the stage was at the age of 10, in an elementary school production of A Raisin in the sun. This experience led to countless high school plays, a career at the famed Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and a full scholarship to Mount View Theatre School in London, where he truly honed his craft.
Curtiss’ resume boasts three Broadway shows, countless national tours, spots on Law & Order, the Sopranos, Rescue Me and numerous commercials.
He has also worked with some of the biggest Hollywood names in the business: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Andy Garcia, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Ben Kingsley, the late Sydney Pollack and the great Martin Scorsese.
Curtiss will be seen next in September 2009’s movie release, Order of Redemption, also with the theater release of Tribeca Film Festival’s Audience Award winning film City Island. Then just in time for Oscar season you can see him in the new Martin Scorsese thriller Shutter Island.
Now on with the interview.
Hi Curtiss thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
CC: You are so welcome… Anytime I get a chance to gab on and on you can bet… I’m with that…
How did you become an actor? Was it something you always wanted to be or did you fall into it?
CC: Pretty much I always wanted to Be’ an actor… Starting out I thought I might want to Be’ a singer… And I did sing for a good while but by the time I hit Jr. High… I was in it for good… A good friend of mine who I’ve been close with ever since kindergarten always tells me I didn’t pick acting it picked me… I tend to believe him on that one….
If not acting what would you be doing?
CC: First off I would be broke and homeless … Really I would always have to be doing something that dealt with the arts it’s just in my bones…
What advice would you give to any actors just starting out in the business?
CC: Read as much as you can… fiction, non fiction, cookbooks everything… And try to travel as much as you can… It just opens up your perspective… Even if it’s just getting on the bus and going over to another town about 45 minutes from where you live… Just sit there and watch … You can learn so much about yourself when you’re taken out of your comfort zone.
What film do you first remember watching?
CC: As a kid and even to this day one of my favorite films was ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’… And then on the other side of that there was ‘The Shinning’… Still to this day when I see those two little girls standing side by side in that long hallway… Man, it was intense then and it’s intense now!
You have a couple of Island films coming up. First of all tell us about City Island. What is it about?
CC: City Island stars Andy Garcia & Julianna Margulies it’s about a family who have a hard time communicating with each other and the problems that can come from that…I play Andy’s partner he works at a correctional institution… It’s funny as hell … Don’t walk run to the theatre to see this one…
It has a great ensemble cast. How was that to work on?
CC: My scenes are with Andy so I didn’t get a chance to work with all of them on this one… but I heard it was a blast… With Andy at helm you know they had a good time… A very giving actor he is.
Then you are in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. What can you tell us about the film without giving away too much of the plot? How does your character fit into the proceedings?
CC: Yes man… Yes! Well you know it’s based on a book with the same name by Denise Lehane … I would highly recommend reading it, it’s gooood! The movie is set in an insane asylum for the criminally insane… And I play Trey Washington one of the head orderlies who works very closely with Sir Ben Kingsley character… You have no idea folks this movie is going to be crazy….
What was it like working with Scorsese? How did you feel when you found out you would be working on one of his films?
CC: It was more than a dream come … I don’t think I could ever really imagine that I would one get to meet him and talk to him about a film he was doing and then two actually get to work with such an accessible genius… I learned so much in the three months I was there about myself and the business of show… Fortunate … I am very fortunate.
What have you learnt from working with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Alan Arkin and Scorsese?
CC: How important it is to do your homework … It gives you time to live on set and create in the moment… You don’t have to be some deep method actor… (not that theirs anything wrong with that) but knowing your path because of the work you’ve done prior leaves so many more options open… One lesson I’ll never forget and will always try to incorporate into my work ethic…
Which actor dead or alive would you most like to work with?
CC: I would have loved to have worked with Ivan Dixon … Sidney Poitier, Andre Braugher, Robert Downey Jr., Denzel Washington, do you really want me to continue because I’ll be here all week….
If you were killed by a movie monster which one would it be and what would your final words be?
CC: The Bride of Dracula … “bitch, I told you not to bite me that hard!”
What have been your favourite films of 2009 so far?
CC: Umm… Umm… I really haven’t been out to the theatres… But ‘Precious’, was really enjoyed, I liked Wolverine… I guess I should say some artsy not well known foreign film … So I’ll say ‘Worlds Apart’ set in Germany … How’s that.
Comic book films are big business these days. Are there any comic book characters you would love to play?
CC: Thank you so much for this question I am the biggest comic book geek in the world…. I would love to play… The new green lantern John Stewart… With out a doubt!!!
Sweet, salted or butter popcorn?
CC: buttered … It just goes in easier…
When you win an Oscar who would you thank in your acceptance speech?
CC: My father and mother …, my wife and children… My ancestors who help me every minute of the day… And those who laid the path before me…
What are you working on next?
CC: I just wrapped a Law & Order: Criminal Intent with Jeff Goldblum and Saffron Burrows. That was a lot of fun. I also have a recurring role on the new HBO series ‘How to Make it in America’ created by the folks who brought you ‘Entourage’. I believe that starts airing in February. I have a few other roles still in negotiations so I won’t say anything until I sign on the dotted line.
Thanks you for the interview until we talk again my friend until we talk again…..