HE’S THE ?$%* BOSS

Tucci as stu­dio tyrant.

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Emily Zem­ler cal­en­dar@la­times.com

LONDON — There’s a mo­ment when you sit down with Stan­ley Tucci where you’re afraid he might yell at you. Not be­cause Tucci is a man prone to yelling, nor be­cause he seems like an un­friendly guy, but be­cause his work on FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” has left a some­what ter­ri­fy­ing mark. Of course, Tucci is noth­ing like Jack Warner, the fear­some, misog­y­nis­tic stu­dio ex­ec­u­tive he por­trayed in six episodes of the an­thol­ogy series. Tucci’s role is sem­i­nal, although not nec­es­sar­ily vast, largely be­cause the fo­cus is on the on­go­ing bat­tle be­tween Hol­ly­wood stars Bette Davis (Su­san Saran­don) and Joan Craw­ford (Jessica Lange). Still, as Warner, Tucci shakes the screen. From the pre­miere episode, in which Warner uses a crass ex­ple­tive to re­fer to Davis, the char­ac­ter gives a mem­o­rable im­pres­sion.

“You go with what is there writ­ten on the page, which is re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing and bru­tal,” Tucci ex­plains, sit­ting in a café in London near the home he shares with his kids and wife, Felic­ity Blunt. “But he was re­ally funny. He chews the scenery and there­fore I do. That’s just very sat­is­fy­ing. It’s so well-writ­ten and there are re­ally funny jokes in there.”

Tucci mined the In­ter­net for footage of Warner, find­ing a help­ful mo­ment in a series of out­takes filmed in the 1950s when Warner was at­tempt­ing to pro­mote that year’s slate of films. In the clips, Warner curses and con­tin­u­ally messes up, re­veal­ing telling ticks that Tucci used in his per­for­mance. The ac­tor took on the role with­out ac­tu­ally see­ing any scripts but felt that the most im­por­tant as­pect was fol­low­ing the nar­ra­tive pre­sented by cre­ator Ryan Mur­phy rather than the his­tor­i­cal truth of Warner.

“You want to be true to the piece, num­ber one, and you want to be true to him,” Tucci says. “Be­ing true to him is just be­ing this out­wardly very charm­ing, fast-talk­ing, well-dressed fella — and then be­hind the scenes he’s a ruth­less misog­y­nist.”

The ac­tor pauses. “But look what’s hap­pen­ing now,” he con­tin­ues. “Look at the Bill O’Reilly thing. Look at the Roger Ailes thing. It’s all the same. They’re just bet­ter at cov­er­ing it up now. Be­fore you didn’t cover it be­cause it was just sort of a given. Un­for­tu­nately, a lot of men still be­have that way. They get away with it be­cause they’re in po­si­tions of power. Look who is run­ning our coun­try. That’s the same kind of per­son as Warner, but not as good of a busi­ness­man.”

Film­ing “Feud” in late 2016 and early 2017 marked the first time Tucci has re­turned to shoot a project in L.A. for sev­eral years. He moved to London nearly four years ago, and he’s found his niche in the city’s cul­tural land­scape. He shot a week on this month’s “Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight” in Bri­tain and re­cently re­ceived dis­tri­bu­tion for a film he wrote and di­rected called “Fi­nal Por­trait,” in which Ge­of­frey Rush plays Ital­ian artist Al­berto Gi­a­cometti, which he also shot here.

The ac­tor has learned that it’s im­por­tant to stay open to what comes, both in one’s ca­reer and in life. Say­ing yes to “Feud” gave him an experience he de­scribes as “in­cred­i­bly fun” and of­fered him an op­por­tu­nity to spot­light the sex­ism that con­tin­ues to rage through Hol­ly­wood and the rest of the world. It may not be a con­scious choice that Tucci of­ten ap­pears in projects led by strong women, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily seem like an ac­ci­dent ei­ther. He is con­cerned with what his work says, and in this case “Feud” is prof­fer­ing a re­al­iza­tion that Hol­ly­wood still needs to fix a few is­sues around gen­der.

“When you read scripts you can have a char­ac­ter who is sex­ist, but some­times you feel the script it­self is sex­ist,” Tucci notes. “What’s the point of that movie? I’m not in­ter­ested in that. If the char­ac­ter is a sex­ist, like Jack Warner, and there’s an in­cred­i­bly com­plex char­ac­ter there, then it’s in­ter­est­ing. Oth­er­wise it’s gra­tu­itous and what’s the point?”

As an ac­tor, he has sim­ple ex­pec­ta­tions: He’ll take on any­thing — TV, film or any­thing else — if it feels in­ter­est­ing and it’s some­thing he hasn’t done be­fore. “To me, if it’s good work it’s good,” he shrugs. “It doesn’t mat­ter where it is. Is the script good? Is the di­rec­tor good? Is it an in­ter­est­ing role? Then do it.”

Matthew Lloyd For The Times

STAN­LEY TUCCI has his rea­sons for play­ing the hard-driv­ing, misog­y­nis­tic stu­dio chief Jack Warner in FX’s lim­ited series “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

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