Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy | Interview
The actors talk about the Goodman’s revival of The Iceman Cometh.
It’s sometime after Dennehy orders the third round, plus a round of single-malt, that I notice this: In our ever wider-ranging conversation about the history of Iceman and O’Neill, he and Lane have begun referring to great figures of the theater by first name only, leaving me to figure out the context.
It says something about these guys’ standing in the industry and their familiarity with each other that Dennehy can casually mention “Mike” when referring to Nichols. “George.” (Grizzard.) “Morgan.” (Freeman.) “Maureen.” (Stapleton.) “Vanessa.” (Redgrave.)
Dennehy, clearly having attained the doesn’t-give-a-fuck stage of his career, is more likely to tell tales out of school in a reporter’s presence, often eliciting cringes from Lane. Discussing Katharine Hepburn’s turn as morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone in the film version of Long Day’s Journey into Night, for instance: “Certainly it was a gutsy, ballsy thing for her to do,” Dennehy says. “Oh, absolutely,” Lane agrees.
Dennehy: “I mean, she always looked like somebody who was doing something she shouldn’t have been doing involving intravenous feeding. But I thought she was great.” Lane: “Yeah. Um, anyway…”
The best Mary Tyrone he’s seen, Dennehy says, was Canadian actress Martha Henry at the Stratford Festival. He and Falls tried to get Henry for the Broadway transfer of the Goodman production, he says, but the producers wanted Jessica Lange, who had recently played the role in London. (Redgrave took the part after talks with Lange broke off.)
“Jessica really fucked us over,” Dennehy adds, prompting Lane to interject in a baby-talk voice: “This is where we should turn the tape recorder off! ’Cause Daddy, Daddy can’t have any more merlot!”
Dennehy responds by leaning in to my recorder and clearly enunciating: “Jessica Lange is a B-I-T-C-H. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Put it in the fucking magazine.” To which Lane replies, again, “Um, anyway…”