Pumped for cre­ativ­ity

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY CALENDAR - By David Keeps cal­en­dar@ latimes. com

The play­wright Scott Caan — yes, the same square- jawed Scott Caan who has ap­peared in Steven Soder­bergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven” fran­chise and was nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe for his por­trayal of Danny “Danno” Wil­liams on CBS’ “Hawaii Five- 0” — doesn’t know from hia­tus. While his hit TV show is on sum­mer break, the 38- yearold ac­tor- writer- pro­ducer- di­rec­tor- pho­tog­ra­pher is star­ring in his new­est stage com­edy, “The Trou­ble We Come From.” Last year, he re­leased “Van­ity,” his sec­ond vol­ume of pho­to­graphs. This fall he’ll re­lease “The Per­for­mance of Heart­break,” a col­lec­tion of his 10 one- act plays.

Dur­ing re­hearsals for the play, which runs through July 12 at the Fal­con Theatre in Bur­bank, Caan took time to parse his rest­less cre­ativ­ity. In your new­est play, a play­wright faces im­pend­ing fa­ther­hood. Last year, you had a daugh­ter. Au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal much?

I’ve never been good at just mak­ing stuff up, I have to base things on real events or real peo­ple and if I’m writ­ing two male char­ac­ters, like in this play, they’re both ver­sions of me. But in “The Trou­ble We Come From,” I ac­tu­ally play an ac­tor whose whole thing is study­ing peo­ple. What does act­ing in a play give you that film and TV does not?

There’s no take two. On­stage you get to wild out and just be loose and lose your­self for an hour and 40 min­utes. If you told me 10 years ago I’d be on a hit TV show for five years I’d have said there was zero chance. Not to “aw, shucks” it up, but I’m lucky. The bad part is that it be­comes a job and you can lose a lit­tle bit of the love for what you do. So writ­ing plays and act­ing in them keeps me pumped. How did you be­come an ac­tor and play­wright?

When I was do­ing mu­sic, I was asked to au­di­tion for “A Boy Called Hate” and I thought, “I’m not into that whole act­ing thing.” Then I read the script about this punk 17- year- old kid who goes to ju­ve­nile hall and has a gun and has sex with a girl in a bath­room and I was like, “All right, maybe I could.” Af­ter do­ing that, I wanted to be good. My mom [ Sheila Ryan] took me to Play­house West where she had stud­ied. We did scene nights, so I wrote a scene as a trial, and from that I ended up writ­ing my first play, “Al­most Love.” It’s about a twen­tysome­thing dude who has the right girl at the wrong time and can’t de­cide what to do and ends up with a strip­per from Ve­gas and an ounce of co­caine on the cof­fee ta­ble. [ Laughs] You know, a nice fam­ily com­edy. Is it chal­leng­ing to act in a role you’ve cre­ated?

There’s one thought you have to push out of your mind: Does the au­di­ence think I’m a crappy writer?

What drama­tists do you ad­mire?

John Pa­trick Shan­ley, David Mamet, David Rabe, Sam Shep­ard, Is­rael Horovitz. My an­swer ends up be­ing a lit­tle cliché, but so what? Do you have Broad­way as­pi­ra­tions?

Sure, but it’s a tough racket. I took meet­ings a few months ago and they were like, “Look, we got more fancy peo­ple than you that want to do this.” And I said, “Well, here’s this play I wrote.” And they’re like, “Oh, you wrote a play? Cute.” Are there par­tic­u­lar hall­marks of a Scott Caan play?

I write parts I would prob­a­bly never get. I may look like a tough guy, but the way I think is dif­fer­ent. I don’t think I’d ever get cast as a Woody Allen char­ac­ter, but that’s me on the in­side. Gen­er­ally I like to find things that are su­per dis­turb­ing and find the hu­mor and heart in them. I’m in­ter­ested in neu­rotic grown- ups try­ing to get through their is­sues and be­come a bet­ter per­son. There’s al­ways a ther­a­pist re­ferred to in my plays. I’ve been in ther­apy since I was 14 years old. So tell me about your child­hood. What was it like grow­ing up the son of James Caan?

I never looked at him as a movie star. I looked up to him as the tough­est guy around. My old man was def­i­nitely against me be­ing in the busi­ness; he was hop­ing I’d play short­stop for the Yan­kees. My mom was a badass too. In my fam­ily, if you bust balls it’s a sign of love. What kind of kid were you?

I never sat still. I didn’t like school. I was an ath­lete, and then when I didn’t want to play team sports … I liked surf­ing, skate­board­ing, graf­fiti and punk mu­sic; I was one of the bad kids, so I took that role on for a while. I wanted to fig­ure out my own way to be my own dude. Were movies a part of your life?

“The Out­siders” was the first movie I re­ally liked. I wanted to grease my hair back and wear Levi’s and get in fights. When I started to learn about cin­ema I got ob­sessed with cer­tain di­rec­tors — An­to­nioni, Fellini, De Sica, God­dard, Louis Malle, Hal Ashby — but it was Vin­cent Gallo’s “Buf­falo 66” that made me want to make in­de­pen­dent films. When did you take up pho­tog­ra­phy?

I was di­rect­ing my first movie, “Dal­las 362” and the amaz­ing cin­e­matog­ra­pher Philip Parmet taught me a lot about light and com­po­si­tion. From then on, I didn’t go any­where with­out a cam­era. It seems like you need to doc­u­ment the world in or­der to make sense of it. True?

One thou­sand per­cent. Can you just say that I said that? I’m in­ter­ested in why we are the way we are, and I need a fo­rum to dis­cuss things that boggle my mind and trip me out. Are you mu­si­cal?

I can play a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing, but not well. I can blow your mind with 30 sec­onds at the pi­ano and then stand up and give the im­pres­sion that I am too tor­tured to con­tinue and make you think I’m Mozart, but that’s all I’ve got. So you’re not a triple threat?

I don’t think I’m a singer. But I’d love to dance in a movie. And I’m re­ally of­fended that they didn’t ask me to be in the new “Magic Mike” movie. I’ll take my shirt off and do a body roll. Chan­ning, come on: Holler at your boy!

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times


like a tough guy, but the way I think is dif­fer­ent,” says ac­tor- play­wright Scott Caan.

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