People who visit Proctors Friday night will be in for a rare treat: Nathan Lane just being himself.
In “A Live Conversation with Nathan Lane,” the popular celebrity invites the audience to watch his 1996 film with Robin Williams, “Birdcage,” and then sit and listen to a conversation between him and Broadway director and lyricist Scott Wittman. A question and answer period follows.
This is only the third such event for Lane, the earlier two coming in Newark, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania, during the last week in October. When he’s done at Proctors, he will take off for New York where he will soon get busy preparing for his next Broadway show, “Angels in America,” opening in March of 2018. He has been nominated for five Tonys and won two for “The Producers” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Lane talked to the Gazette by phone last week. Here’s some of what he had to say.
On how this project come together:
Some people have referred to it as a tour, but I’ve only done two and this is the third one. Then I get busy, so this is the end of the tour. They asked me, I said, “Sounds like fun,” they said, “We’ll pay you a lot of money,” and I said, “Sounds even better,” and it has been fun. There’s a moderator, he interviews me for an hour and at the end there are questions. We talk about “Birdcage,” but we also go into my whole career.
On working with George C. Scott in his Broadway debut, ‘Present Laughter,’ in 1981:
Working with him was a great way to make your Broadway debut. For people out there who don’t remember him, he’s mostly known for winning the Academy Award for “Patton,” but he had a long stage career. He certainly is a hero of mine. He’s a complicated gentleman, but he was always very kind to me, almost paternal.
On odd jobs early in his career:
Well, I never had to wait tables. I never had to say, ‘”I’ll be right back in a minute with the specials.” But I had some tough, odd jobs when I was struggling. I sold TV Guide, I did phone work for the Harris poll, I sold exercise machines by phone and I used to deliver singing telegrams. But I never had to wait tables. And fortunately, after “Present Laughter” I didn’t have to go back to those odd jobs.
On his first big film role in 1991, ‘Frankie and Johnny,’ with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer:
Terrence McNally wrote the play and wrote the part of the next door neighbor for me. And Garry Marshall, a wonderful man, was the director. I remember at the end of the film there were shots of the major characters in their beds, and he wanted me to be in bed with my boyfriend with the dog at the end of the bed. He gotta lot of flak for that. They tried to cut it from the film but he fought for it. They made him film it with both of my hands outside the covers. Later that year it won a GLADD Award for best portrayal of a gay couple. All because Garry fought for it. He was a sweet man.
On his success as a musical theater star:
In the beginning you just take the jobs you get. It wasn’t like I set out to be a musical theater star. I just happened to be in some Broadway musicals that were very successful. I did a revival of “Guys and Dolls” that was very successful, and then with “A Funny Thing,” well I had always had my eye on that one. Then “The Producers.” I love musicals but I also love going back and forth.
On the recent sexual harassment charges against prominent men in Hollywood:
It’s not surprising that people in power abuse it. It’s been going on since the very beginning of time, and not just in show business. It’s in all fields of endeavor. I feel like it’s kind of a reaction to Trump. I can’t help but feel as if people are coming out because of him. I think it’s important that people are talking about it, and in particular, Harvey Weinstein. I had no idea it went that far, but certainly it’s no surprise that he was a pig, and that he took advantage of certain situations. I knew nothing about the settlements and all that. And now, obviously, he isn’t nearly as powerful as he was, so he became vulnerable. He was finally taken down, but it’s just a shame it took so long.
Hollywood has had the long and honored tradition of the casting couch, and it’s gone on far too long. I think it’s very brave of these people to step forward and I think it has opened the floodgates. They are serious cases, but you have to look at each case individually. When it comes to Kevin Spacey, I have to say it wasn’t a shock because these stories have been around a long time. But when we talk about the individual being 14, that was the shocking part.
‘A Live Conversation with Nathan Lane’
WHAT: A screening of his 1996 film, “Birdcage,” followed by conversation and a Q&A
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $85-$35, $150 VIP
MORE INFO: (518) 346-6204, www.proctors.org
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