Seven Questions All About Film with The Flick Star Matthew Maher
June 15th, 2015
by Matthew Maher
The Flick, Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning slice-of-life play about three movie theater employees, is the off-Broadway show to see this summer, and back to break audiences’ hearts as Sam, the exasperated 35-year-old senior statesman of the trio, is acclaimed stage and film actor Matthew Maher. Below, BroadwayBox talks to the Flick breakout all about films: ones he loves, ones he’s inspired by and ones he’s been in.
1. The movie and performance that made me want to be an actor:
There were a few. The first performance that struck me in that way was Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, which I’m sure is a popular choice as far as answers to this question. Just the amount of space he took up, the grandeur of the performance and the depth of the feelings, I thought, “Yeah! I have feelings too! I want to take up that space!” It was a real rock star performance in a way that got me very jazzed about being an actor.
I also remember seeing John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons, when I was high school, and thinking he was amazing because he was not what you’d call “conventionally attractive”, but here he was getting all these women to fall in love with him just through the force of his personality, while at the same time showing us the audience this vulnerable dark side. As a tortured adolescent, I was like: “oooh”.
And finally I have to add Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers. He plays twins, and he creates two distinct, compelling, weird characters and then has them play these wonderful tragic scenes with each other, and I saw it, and I thought: I will never be that good, but I can try.
2. My favorite scene or image from any movie has to be:
There are so many. I really love the scene early in Pulp Fiction where Vincent and Jules are politely arguing over whether it was appropriate for Marcellus Wallace, their boss, to throw their colleague Antwon Rockamura out of a window for giving Marcellus' wife Mia a foot massage. The dialogue is hilarious, and the topic and overall context totally absurd, but inside of that it’s actually a complicated, mature, well reasoned debate.
I also love the moment in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou where we see the cross section of their boat, the Bellafonte, and Steve shows us all the rooms inside (a steam room; an editing suite; an observation portal he thought up in a dream; two albino dolphins who act as scouts); also really funny, with that wonderful production design you see in all of Wes Anderson’s movies, but also with that sense of boyish wonder you get from like imagining your perfect treehouse as a kid. It just reminds me, when you make a movie, you can do anything you want.
And finally, every single frame of Mad Max: Fury Road. That is the best movie ever made.
3. Film actor whose work I admire most:
Well Jeremy Irons as I said—and I would add Ralph Fiennes (I have weakness for tortured Brits) and also Paul Newman, Joaquin Phoenix, and most of all the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He had everything: he was emotionally open and fearless, but also had a technical precision and flare that made his performances seem like just that: performances--with wit and energy and theatricality. He was a Genius: a true high art virtuoso who nonetheless loved us, the audience, and wanted to bring us closer and share his soul with us.
4. First movie I distinctly remember going to the movie theater to see was:
Maybe I’m dating myself but I first movie I think I saw the theaters was E.T. My god, did I weep. Big, wet tears. And what’s funny is that whole theater was filled with children—I remember this clearly—and we were, all of us crying, some of us quite loudly, sobbing even. It was kind of intense. I should see that movie again.
5. IMDB credit of mine I’m most proud of:
Dogma, by Kevin Smith, not because it’s the best movie I’ve ever done—I’ll leave that to others to judge—but it was the first movie I’ve been in to be released, which was a very nice milestone. Also, the cult following that Kevin Smith enjoys has ensured that even now, after over 15 years, and no matter where I am in the country, people still come up to me and ask me if I’m the Holy Bartender from Dogma, and when I say yes they will tell me they’ve seen the movie several times, and that they are now going to tell all their friends they’ve met me. It’s a testament not so much to my acting ability (I have one scene in that movie; five lines, and then Jason Lee shoots me with an Uzi) as it is to Kevin’s cultural authority—but it’s a fun way to meet people on the street.
6. Play I’ve worked on that I’d really like to see adapted for the screen:
That’s a hard question to answer. I feel like all the plays I’ve done, or at least the ones I’m most proud of, were successful because they’re so specifically Plays. For example: it’s ironic in a way, but even though The Flick is all about movies, and the love of movies, it can only be properly experienced in real time, with real people, in the same room as the audience.
If you forced me to pick one though, I’d say that Meat, by Ethan Lipton, an awesome play I did about 14 years ago, and in which I play a mutt lusting after a cheeseburger (the other characters include a pitiful, a German shepherd, and three gazelles) would make a fantastic animated movie. Pixar: let me know if you need Ethan’s email.
7. If I had to describe my Flick character Sam as a movie, he’d probably be:
I think Sam experiences his life, at least during the time we come to know him in the play, as a kind of slow motion disaster movie: everything’s upside down...water is rushing in...he’s climbing desperately to the surface...will he make it? That’s his experience. But on the other hand—and the play shows this, and Sam realizes it towards the end of the night—he’s just living his life: doing his job, eating his meals, having good days and bad days, and it’s really not so bad. So I guess Sam is a cross between the Poseidon Adventure and a kind of cheerful nature documentary. You could say the same thing about me, come to think of it.
Photo by Joan Marcus
See Matthew Maher in off-Broadway's Pulitzer Prize-winning hit The Flick now at the Barrow Street Theatre through August 30.