It’s pretty easy to tell that revered actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman is not so enthusiastic about doing press.
He even starts to get itchy a few minutes into the process, scratching his right shoulder repeatedly while speaking with the slightest bit of impatience in his voice. Still, the sometimes boisterous acting auteur gives an equally lively performance as The Count, in Pirate Radio — opening tomorrow — playing an ex-pat DJ who joins an all-British pirate radio station in the mid-’60s, at a time when the BBC refused to air the country’s ground-breaking rock music.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film involves a character quickly having to choose one prized album to save while the rest were destroyed. What record would you pick if you were in that situation?
I wouldn’t do it, I’ve got to be honest with you. I would be thinking of other things. It would be family and stuff.
If I could get out with the family, everything else could burn.
What about your favorite music that you discovered on the radio?
Oh God, I like so many different kinds of music just because all I did as a kid was listen to the radio. I didn’t really buy LPs or go to concerts.
I wasn’t a connoisseur, really, in that way. I would just sit in the backseat of the car and listen to the radio in the summer time.
Therefore, it’s amazing all the different types of music I like because of that.
My dad would listen to jazz at night. I was introduced to all sorts of musicwithout any of it being shoved down my throat. Or being swept up into the whole, you know, I’m going to follow the Grateful Dead or something.
Yet, you’ve played two characters, here and your character in Almost Famous, that have totally embodied the spirit of rock and roll. What did you tap into for those roles?
It’s a passion for something. He’s mad about something. It’s not that hard to identify with those things. They’re very successful characters to play and fun characters to play because what they’re doing and what they stand for, there’s not a person that doesn’t immediately identify with those two qualities. It doesn’t have to be about rock and roll.
This seems like a much lighter role than those you usually take on. Was it a relief to play in a comedy like this?
It’s a real ensemble piece. That’s part of it, sharing that burden with all, which is what the characters are going through anyway.
They really are sharing a burden of something they feel strongly about.
The movie itself has an energy about it they’re looking to have a good time, mostly. So that could be fun especially with those actors.
What kind of work did you do to get into the role?
What I normally do whenever I act. It’s really boring. People find it very uninteresting. It’s not like I set up a DJ booth in my apartment or anything.
Where does your passion and energy for acting come from?
When I was about 12 or 13 I was a patron of theater and I loved it, had a huge passion for it. I just did. Why that is, I don’t know. That’s really what it still is.
How did you compare acting with someone who is broadcasting on the air?
They’re all in the same family in a way but I would relate being a radio personality more to being a writer than being an actor because the radio personality is trying to find their voice. They start out and they’re trying to figure out who they are and how they sound and what they do. I think writers are like that. Actors aren’t like that because they’re not trying to do one thing. They’re actually trying to find a way to do that with many different voices.
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