Chances are Bill Pullman has appeared in a movie you absolutely love (A League of Their Own, Casper, Newsies, Independence Day, Spaceballs, Sleepless in Seattle), and that's why it would be silly not to see him live off-Broadway in Sticks and Bones. Pullman gives an astonishing performance as Ozzie in David Rabe's dark Vietnam comedy, which imagines how Ozzie, Harriet and Ricky would react if David returned home from war blind and emotionally scarred. The New Group revival co-stars fellow heavy-hitters Holly Hunter and Richard Chamberlain and rising stars Ben Schnetzer and Raviv Ullman—again, really good stuff. Below, BroadwayBox catches up with Pullman to talk about his stage work and Independence Day 2.
1. How did you, Holly Hunter and director Scott Elliott go about deciding how much Ozzie and Harriet flavor you would giving in Sticks and Bones?
The surprise was to realize that really we didn't have to do very much. There’s a rhythmic thing that David [Rabe] wrote into it: ‘Hi Mom. Hi Ricky. Hi Dad. Hi Ricky, How are you doing? I’m doing fine, how are you doing? I’m fine.’ And that, just as a lyrical phrase, became all that was really important. I think for us, it’s all around the character of Ricky that ignites the spirit of the TV show. But that was it; we didn’t look at any of the YouTube videos of [The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet]—I didn't anyway.
2. Can you tell us about the concept for your upcoming Othello? It’s interesting that you are the Moor of Venice and the only actor speaking English.
Well I had worked with this Norwegian director Stein Winge in the ‘80s in LA, and last year I was thinking about all my favorite theatre directors and he was one. And then he came to New York to see The Jacksonian, and while he was here he thought, ‘I think it would work for you to play Othello.’ And I’ll be speaking English and the rest of the cast is Norwegian so that we can use language and culture to convey the Moor’s sense of otherness—and in terms of intimacy and betrayal a separation by language.
There’s a TV show called Lilyhammer on Netflix and it’s a blend of English and Norwegian and it’s curiously effective, and Stein thought, ‘I bet we could do that with Othello.’ It’s going to be one of those amazing experiences for me. It’s one of those things where everyone thinks I’m telling them a joke: I’m going to Norway in the dead of winter to do Othello in another language. But Stein is an incredible visual director so I think it will be a very visceral production. I hope we get some people to fly over and see it.
3. When you want to have an amazing meal in Manhattan, where do you go?
I enjoy some very nice restaurants—I went to The Waverly Inn with friends and had an amazing meal in that New York ambiance—but that's very rare for me. I really enjoy the discoveries you can make about Thai and Pakistani places. Right now, my favorite is Larb Ubol, this Northern Thai place on 9th Ave. I took the cast there after our Sunday matinee; we had this veteran come, a medical offer that flew from Fort Hood, to see the play so we took him and his wife out to Larb Ubol.
4. Do you think you’ll go back and watch Independence Day again before you start working on the 2016 sequel? When’s the last time you saw the film full-through?
Whoa, I haven’t seen it full-through since it was first released in ’96. I think I would [rewatch it] just to remind myself of the story; I would have to. [Independence Day 2] seems to be gearing up— though they haven’t given me a script or signed anything—it does feel like it’s going to happen in late spring. I know the part is going to be good. I talked to Roland [Emmerich] and Dean [Devlin] about how I fit into the story and it’s a really interesting, good take. I’m looking forward to it.
5. What’s the last book that really rocked your world?
Let’s see, the rocked my world is the key phrase there. I wouldn’t say it’s the most important book but Greil Marcus’ 1975 book The Mystery Train. He’s a culture critic of America and rock ‘n’ roll, and he’s got such a great touch about what music is. I’ve been thinking about how music affects our culture, and that’s kind of the period for Sticks and Bones.
See Bill Pullman's critically acclaimed star turn in 'Sticks and Bones' at off-Broadway's Pershing Square Signature Center through December 14.