Red hot in the shades
David Caruso is a glaring example of how to make the most of a second chance, writes Darren Devlyn
DAVID Caruso can be an intimidating presence. On the set of CSI: Miami in affluent Hancock Park in Los Angeles, the ginger man has a searingly intense glare.
He gives the impression that, if asked a question that offends his sensibilities, he just might blow a gasket and have you thrown on to the street.
That he has such an aura should come as no surprise because Caruso has in the past shown he’s capable of irrational behaviour.
In 1994, after one season of critically acclaimed cop drama NYPD Blue, Caruso fell for the trick of believing his own publicity.
He played hardball with producers on salary (he was on $80,000 an episode and wanted a 20 per cent pay hike) because he believed a career in feature films beckoned.
The stunt backfired. In career terms, Caruso, 53, landed smack bang on his lily-white behind.
He quit the TV series for starring roles in films such as Jade and the appropriately titled Kiss of Death. Both films were such turkeys that Caruso appeared to have blown any chance of redemption.
‘‘I was a guy who abandoned a TV show . . . I didn’t care about people. They (industry decisionmakers) didn’t want to see good things happen to me,’’ Caruso has said.
The crawl back to prime time was difficult, but Caruso was resurrected as an actor in the form of CSI: Miami detective Horatio Caine.
On this warm afternoon on the Miami set, it’s a relief to discover that though he has the look of someone with a short fuse, Caruso is in fact at ease with himself and thankful for a second shot at stardom.
In a break from filming, Caruso pulls up a deckchair in the back yard of the Hancock Park mansion and begins to speak in that slow, deliberate drawl, his eyes now barely visible behind those trademark shades made famous by CSI alter ego Caine.
‘‘Today’s a normal day for me,’’ he says with a smile.
‘‘We understand who we are as a show, how to make the show and have a pretty loose and collaborative set.
‘‘We have a great group (cast and crew) that essentially has been here from the beginning.
‘‘This has remained a really interesting and fresh journey. I think you must have a sense of that (by visiting the set) because we are having some real fun out here and getting good footage.’’
How is it possible to come to the same set, week in week out, and avoid the feeling of being stymied creatively by a long-term contract? Surely he must worry about the fact creative fatigue can set in on a show quickly and unexpectedly and make life miserable for cast and crew.
‘‘What is apparent to me at the end of every day is what my job is,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s the pursuit of the moment, what I call the carpentry of the moment on film and that’s still a fascinating process to me . . . people coming together as a cast to find that.
‘‘That’s what attracted me to acting as a kid. When I saw the
as a little boy, 13, I didn’t know about people’s acting careers, I just knew about the quality of what they were doing and that’s still what interests me.
‘‘That world, between action and cut, is a fascinating world. The energy can be very thick over there,’’ he says, gesturing towards crew preparing for his next scene.
‘‘I once worked with Christopher Walken and he said, ‘ We must always be very deliberate over there (on set)’, so the interesting thing is how you make the viewer see what you want them to see and not get caught doing it.’’
Once considered difficult and a destabilising influence, Caruso now embraces the responsibility of ensuring CSI: Miami is a happy workplace for cast and crew.
‘‘It’s like family ... it has a relaxed nature here. That’s probably a healthy thing because the crimes (in scripts) are so heavy and situations so dark. You have to balance that with a lighter atmosphere on set.
‘‘That (behaving) has come with experience for me. You have to think what the big picture is and what should I be concerned about in terms of the big picture.’’
THOUGH happy at work, Caruso has had his share of ups and down in his private life. There were difficult times last year when an international arrest warrant was issued for an Austrian woman accused of stalking him.
It’s understood the woman sent more than 100 letters to Caruso and made death threats against him and his partner.
A letter from the woman read: ‘‘I will locate you and your ugly Latina tramp and kill you.’’
The woman was due to stand trial for stalking and threatening to kill Caruso but failed to show up at court.
This day on set, however, Caruso offers a gentle nod when asked if life at home is contributing to his sense of fulfilment.
‘‘Things are in place,’’ Caruso says.
‘‘I have the most wonderful three children (daughters Greta and Paloma and son Marquez), which I’m very happy about. Things are in a good place for me, things are very balanced. I’m very fortunate.’’