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Stanley Tucci on 'Spotlight' and how Pope Francis is 'extraordinary'

In "Spotlight," Stanley Tucci plays a lawyer who helped expose the Catholic Church scandal in Boston. The actor talks about the horrors of the case, the progressiveness of the new pope and the grim state of journalism.

Stanley Tucci made one of the great food movies (1996’s “Big Night”) and has even written two cookbooks. But right now all he has time for is an organic protein bar. “This evening I’ll have a martini. Don’t worry,” he assures us as he powers through a junket for “Spotlight,” which tells of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning expose of the Catholic Church scandal in 2002. Tucci doesn’t play one of the reporters, including Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, but Mitchell Garabedian, a cranky but dedicated attorney who fought for years, amidst untold frustration, to bring the abuse to light.

You’re not playing one of the journalists here, but you have a history playing reporters on film, including “Joe Gould’s Secret” and “Winchell.” It seems that, along with the scandal itself, that would be a big pull for you too.

[Journalists] really are quite heroic in what they do. And their ilk is disappearing. It’s getting harder and harder to come by guys like that.

The long-form kind of journalism the Globe reporters practice in this film is going away as newspapers suffer through budget cuts.

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It is, and nothing can take its place. John [Slattery, who plays managing editor Ben Bradlee Jr.] pointed out the other night that having cell phones and video taping things as they happen is really important. But that’s just happenstance. It’s not the same as someone taking the time and seeing something out and thinking, “I know there’s something wrong here, or there’s something right here, and I need to spend the time dissecting it.” That takes a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of passion.

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Of course there’s what they reported itself, which even now hasn’t been fully rectified.

It’s such an important story. The fact that it was a systemic problem that has been going on for decades — for centuries — and the collusion between the perpetrators and the Catholic Church and other outside powers is so profound. They protected all the wrong people — the perpetrators — instead of protecting the children. They didn’t try to stop the crimes or punish them. That is horrifying. That is absolutely horrifying, and unconscionable, and, let’s say, it’s un-Christian.

The film makes clear that there were some ostensibly decent people tied up in the conspiracy, who seemed to be deluding themselves that they weren’t part of the problem.

Because you don’t want to know. You don’t want to think about it. You think, “That won’t happen to me or to my kids.” And that’s all that matters. Or they think, “We must respect the Church because these priests are different from us,” when in fact that’s not true at all. They’re just like us. They’re just people, that’s all.

I’m actually not sure what your history with the Catholic Church is.

I was raised Catholic, but I’m a lapsed Catholic, for 40 years. Even when I was a kid I just didn’t get it, to put it simply. This is in no way to besmirch people who are devout Catholics; it just wasn’t for me. But the Catholic Church has done so much good for people over the centuries, and good is still being done. I think this new pope is extraordinary. And I think people should in no way see this film as an indictment of the Catholic Church. There were simply a large number of people within the Catholic Church who failed to right systemic wrongs, which is anathema to everything the Church espouses. And it’s an insult to the parishioners and to Catholicism as a whole. It’s an insult.

It’s interesting to hear that the Catholic Church recently came out and gave their approval of this film. Even a few years ago you could imagine some pushback.

It would be different, yeah. But how can they come out against it? They would only look foolish. All it does is tell the truth.

Like you said, Pope Francis is taking the Church on a different path. He has some very progressive views, which hasn’t created too much controversy among followers.

Of course you have the ultra-conservatives who don’t want things to change. I hope the Church will keep changing and embracing the new societal changes that are crucial. As my characters says, “The Church thinks in terms of centuries.” This pope has been very open about climate change and poverty. He’s good at making connections: climate change and war and poverty.

Some of those are stances that tend of be classified as strictly liberal.

We would consider them liberal, but really they’re humanist.

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Your character, Mitchell Garabedian, is someone who’s weary, even cranky, but also determined to keep chipping away at a real problem, which is looking out for abuse victims and trying to stop it.

He’s quite heroic. He stuck to this. By all accounts he didn’t have much of a personal life. That is what he does and we may never know the reason, except that he just wants justice. He can’t bear the thought that this has happened. It’s what he’s committed his life to. Let’s face it: I don’t know many of us who could ever do that.

He seems aware that change may not even happen in his lifetime.

That’s right. It’s going to take years; it could take centuries. But if you don’t keeping doing it nothing will ever change. And look at the changes he’s made already.

Even a handful of years ago, “Spotlight” would have been a mid-level Hollywood production. Now it’s an indie.

It’s the only way you can get these movies done now. Luckily there are always people around willing to put money into them. You know the talent will always be there to sign on. It’s really just about getting somebody to write a check and have faith.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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