by Patricia Grandjean
Nov 16, 2010
03:38 PM
Box Office

Q & A: Bill Smitrovich

 

(page 3 of 4)

What is happening with the No Theater Co.? Is it part of the Wooster Group now?

That's correct. Sheena See and Roy Faudree are the founding members of No. We did our own original production of The Elephant Man, which was not Bernard Pomerantz's play. We ran into productions of Pomerantz's play when we came into New York, in SoHo that summer. We put up our shingle and it said, Elephant Man. And then Pomerantz and his producers came to talk to us about our shingle and said, "You're going to have to change the name." We said, "No, we don't." Roy tried to fight it for a while, but they had their show opening soon and they didn't want any confusion about their play and our play—which was incredibly different and much more imaginative, I might add. So what we did was, we put up a piece of cardboard above our sign, wrote "The" on it, and that was the end of that.

Roy has now started his own program in Northhampton where he gets senior citizens to sing rock songs. "Young at Heart" is the name of the project. If you go to youngatheartchorus.com, The Elephant Man  is mentioned in that website. It'd be impossible for anyone to leave the room having listened to that group singing those songs and not have had a great time. It leaves a big smile on your face. It think they've had some copycats along the way.

Another role you’re known for is Drew Thacher on “Life Goes On,” which started your real-life involvement with Special Olympics.

Yes, I was on the board of the International Special Olympics when it was held in Connecticut. Tim Shriver asked me to come on board and I was delighted and loved it, but I couldn't make the event because I was working on the movie Nick of Time with Johnny Depp. We were shooting the film in sequence, so there was no way I could get an off day. It made it impossible for them to work around me. That was a bummer.

I also hosted a golf tournament called the “Life Goes On” Classic while I was doing the show, which benefited the Los Angeles Down Syndrome Association. I still get involved with the Down Syndrome Congress every now and then, and the Special Olympics here in L.A.

I would love it—in fact, I want to pitch this idea—to do a new show with Chris Burke [“Corky”] and me, which picks up with us now that we’re older and the rest of the family has moved on.

There are a number of people who seem to think the show was never successfully resolved.

I wasn’t happy with the way “Life Goes On” concluded. Although I loved our foray into the AIDS crisis, I felt that perhaps we leaned a little too heavily on that and got away from the essence of our show, which was the family and Chris's development and his challenges. Though Chad Lowe and Kelly [Martin] had a wonderful story line going; so the producers decided that's the way they wanted to go. I just thought that it was a diversion that took us a little far down one path.

I was grateful for all the awareness it created. Peter Evans, the actor I mentioned earlier—he was stricken with AIDS, that's why he had a 103-degree temperature. He was one of the first few cases in New York City. I've lost three agents to AIDS. Blair Underwood's a great advocate for AIDS and Pediatric AIDS research. He's a great humanitarian.

You’ll also be seen soon in the film The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp, based on the book by Hunter Thompson.

It’s a great film. It should be out next year. I think the powers-that-be are handling it very carefully—Johnny is such a megastar, and he’s got so many other films coming out, that they want to find the right release strategy so it won’t get lost. It’s a really important film to Johnny, because it’s an homage to Hunter. 

He became very good friends with Hunter.

In fact, I was told by the director that the last phone call Hunter made was to Johnny, to say goodbye, before he blew his brains out.

Who are you in the film?

I play Mr. Zimberger, who is a fortune hunter. He's someone who knows about the history of the Puerto Rican islands when they were used for target practice, and now they're using the islands for commercial and industrial capitalization. The hotels are going up; the factories are going up. They took the beautiful beaches and loaded them with condominiums. Along the way, the native Puerto Ricans get buried. It's a great novel, but it's even a better script.

Q & A: Bill Smitrovich

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Box Office is your guide to entertainment across Connecticut, courtesy of senior editor Pat Grandjean. If it's a chat with an actor or actress, previewing a new play at a regional theater, the latest on a state celebrity's new movie, or recommendations for seeing and doing, let Box Office be one of your hubs.

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