Like so many actors who aren’t huge celebrities and can’t guarantee a movie’s box-office success, Dylan Baker says he’ll always experience some degree of anxiety about his future.
“I can remember going to an audition quite a while ago, and there was Glenn Ford auditioning for this tiny part in a television series,” remembered Baker, who is currently directing “The Torch-Bearers” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. “Glenn Ford! And he didn’t get it. Hey, when I get done up here in Williamstown, I don’t have a thing yet ready to go.”
Don’t get too concerned, however, about Dylan Baker. Maybe you haven’t heard the name, but you’ve seen the face. After graduating from the Yale School of Drama with a master’s degree in fine arts, Baker became a very busy actor in both films and television while also enjoying an occasional stint on the Broadway stage.
In 1986, he had a part in a television movie called “A Case of Deadly Force,” with Richard Crenna and John Shea. Since then, he has seldom been idle. In 1987, he was in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with Steve Martin and John Candy, and the following year he guest-starred on both “Miami Vice” and “Spenser for Hire.”
In 1988, he was on Broadway in “Eastern Standard,” winning the 1989 Theatre World Award for best Broadway debut. And in 1991, he earned a Tony nomination for his performance in “La Bete.”
WHERE: Williamstown Theatre Festival, 1000 Main St., Williamstown, Mass.
WHEN: Today at 3 and 8 p.m., through Aug. 9, performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $59-$45
MORE INFO: (413) 597-3400 or www.wtfestival.org
He has had reoccurring roles in “Law & Order” and “The Practice,” and his movie roles include such hits as 2000’s “Thirteen Days” with Kevin Costner (Baker played John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) and 2008’s “Revolutionary Road” with Leonard DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. And yes, he was also Dr. Curt Connors, who was transformed into an evil lizard in both “Spider-Man 2” and “Spider-Man 3” with Tobey Maguire.
“I understand that [director] Sam Raimi is doing another ‘Spider-Man,’ so that made all of us jump up and take note,” said Baker. “If he directs again, I’m sure everybody else will want to remain a part of the project. I have talked to him, and he’s told me very little about the movie and nothing about what happens to Curt Connors. But he’s a great director and it’s great to be involved in something he’s doing. He’s also talking about doing another comic book franchise. Now that sounds interesting.”
Before “Spider-Man 4” comes his way, Baker will be enjoying his summer in the Berkshires, directing “The Torch-Bearers,” George Kelly’s 1922 farce about a small community theater struggling to produce a play. Along with Baker’s wife, Becky Ann Baker, the show stars Edward Herrmann, Andrea Martin and Jessica Hecht.
“It’s a play that I’ve loved for a long time,” said Baker, who was born in Syracuse and spent a year in Schenectady (“I only remember the snow”) at age 4 before his family moved to Lynchburg, Va.
“It’s about this little community theater where everybody has other jobs and they just come together now and then to do a show because they love that little taste of the theater. It gets a little crazy, but a little bit of theatricality can go a long way, even in the wrong show.”
All the action in “The Torch-Bearers,” which usually draws comparisons to “Noises Off” and “Boeing, Boeing,” takes place backstage. Baker’s wife, another actor who keeps plenty busy in supporting roles and has a lengthy resume in television, movies and the stage, is having a great time being directed by her husband.
“We do that to each other all the time anyway, whenever we get ready to go to an audition,” she said. “We’re always running through lines with each other, and I love my character in this play. She’s a late replacement in the play, she’s the last person you’d ever expect to get up on stage, and she kind of gets swept away by it all. It’s all about getting caught up in the theater. That’s the wonderful part of it.”
Baker and her husband worked together recently in “Kings,” the NBC series with Ian McShane that failed to find a place on the network’s 2009-2010 season, and Dylan Baker was also the star of the 2008 short-lived Fox series, “The Pitts” with Allison Janney.
“That broke my heart,” said Dylan Baker. “Both of those shows were very good shows, but they got in a bad time slot and I don’t think the network really supported them like they could have. If Fox could have put us on after ‘The Simpsons,’ I think we’d still be on.”
As for directing, Baker says he enjoys it every bit as much as he does acting.
“I do really look forward to directing when I get the opportunity,” said Baker, who began directing while at the Yale School of Drama. “It’s something I would really like to pursue more, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay as well as acting on television or in the movies. So, invariably, that’s what I spend my time looking for.”
As for which venue he prefers performing in, Baker isn’t so sure. He spent much of 2007 and 2008 on Broadway, starring with Nathan Lane in “Mauritius” and with F. Murray Abraham in “November.”
“Well, again television and the movies pay better, and the theater is harder work,” he said. “But I’m not the kind of actor who gets a lot of scripts thrown at him and then just decides, ‘Oh, I’ll do this one.’ There are many considerations, and usually I will just look at the project. If it’s a great TV show or a movie, then that’s great. I’ll go audition. But sometimes there are plays that you just have to be a part of. I really felt like I had to do ‘Mauritius’ and ‘November.’ I had a chance to work with Nathan Lane, and ‘November’ was a David Mamet play with Joe Mantello directing. There’s no way I would say no to that.”