Harris Wrecks Cork

By Brian O'Connell, Contributor
Febuary / March 2006

Actor Ed Harris made his European stage debut in Neil LaBute’s one man show, Wrecks, at the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork in November. Brian O’Connell spoke to the four-time Academy Award nominated actor by phone as he prepared for his return to the stage after an absence of 9 years.

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Are you nervous about returning to the intimacy of the stage after such a long absence?

The time to ask me how nervous I am is opening night! I’m really looking forward to the experience. When we arrive in Ireland it’ll be good to have a few days in the theatre and the city to adjust to the time and space. The show involves me talking for an hour on stage, with no other actors and little in the way of props, so it’s pretty intense, and a big challenge. But what actor wouldn’t be excited about something like this?

How have you managed to keep your personal life out of the tabloids?

I guess most of the stuff I did was over and done with before anyone knew about it. I’m a pretty private guy and I see work and home as two separate entities. It’s always been that way with me. When I’m doing a movie or a show such as this I make certain promotional commitments and carry them out. That’s fine — it’s part of work. But outside of that I keep myself to myself.

You’ve spent a bit of time in Ireland in the past few years. Is there Irish blood lurking somewhere?

My wife Amy Madigan is third-generation Irish. As far as I know, her relations are from Cork. We were in Ireland only last year, and had a great holiday in Connemara and then went on to Castle Leslie in Monaghan so it’ll be good to get back to Ireland.

It’s said that the movie Pollock marked you as a Hollywood actor with an artistic conscience. What drew you to the subject matter?

It was my dad actually who aroused my interest in Jackson Pollock. He sent me some books in the mid 80s which I read, and I guess I identified with Pollock’s struggle as a human being who happened to be an artist. He was a guy who was a social misfit. He had the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old and had to make his way in the world with a lot of demons. I guess I appreciated the effort and the fight it took for him to exist.

Considering the success of the film, which was your first outing as a director, have you any further ambition in this area?

I have wanted to direct again, but other things, both in life and work, distracted me and I wasn’t ready to get involved in something that deeply again. Now I feel I’m ready, and I have a project on the go at the moment which looks like it’s going to happen soon.

Another remarkable film you were involved in was The Truman Show. Were you aware of the quality of the script on first read?

The Truman Show was special, and I think I was aware of that from early on. Also, great credit is due to Peter Weir the director. I had only two days to prepare for that film, as I was called in as a replacement for someone, so I hadn’t much time to think about it. It was a case of do or die.

The process of securing this interview involved upward of six people at any one time. How do you keep a lid on things and prevent it from evolving into a circus?

I don’t have an assistant. I have a publicist and an agent. But I guess it’s not about trying to be awkward or difficult, it’s about finding the time to do stuff like this. In the past week a dear friend who had been staying with me passed away. So between that and trying to rehearse, it’s been pretty hectic, but that’s the way it goes as an actor sometimes.

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Wrecks opened on November 23 to good reviews. It is expected to transfer to New York later this year. ♦

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