The Actor: Tom Arnold first rose to prominence in the late ’80s as the widely mocked co-star/husband of TV superstar Roseanne Barr. Arnold has consequently fought an uphill battle for respect over the past two decades on multiple fronts, with surprising success. After he stole True Lies from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in 1994, he went on to star in a string of flops—The Stupids, Carpool, Big Bully, McHale’s Navy—before reinventing himself as a character actor with surprising dramatic chops in offbeat fare like the 1997 Elmore Leonard adaptation Touch and Don Roos’ 2005 comedy-drama Happy Endings. He recently released a stand-up special on DVD.
Roseanne (1989-1994)—Arnie Thomas
Tom Arnold: It was my first big job. I was a writer on the show, and I came out before the pilot from the Midwest. It was the job that got me out to Los Angeles. Before that, I’d just been a traveling comedian in the Midwest. I had no idea how big of an opportunity it was. Your first job is on the number-one show, and you’re working around all these great writers and actors, and it’s a great place to learn, but it just seemed like my friend’s show. She was putting together a show, I had no idea how big it was, which was probably good because I really hadn’t done much. And then I went from not doing much to running the biggest show on television. If I’d known better, I would’ve been in trouble, but I learned on the job and just watched what the great people around me were doing.
The A.V. Club: That’s one of the nice things about opportunities coming very early. You sometimes don’t realize how exceptional they are.
TA: That’s the story of my life. I moved from the University Of Iowa to Minneapolis with a trash bag full of clothes and a hundred bucks. I got offered a job at Minneapolis in a comedy club and I thought it was every weekend. If I’d known it was for one weekend and $15, I wouldn’t have left Iowa. Things had to be set up, and to get out to L.A. was a lot easier because I had a job on this show that may or may not go. And then as soon as I got to L.A., the writers’ strike happened, so I had to go back to traveling around and doing little shows here and there. It never hit me until after it was all over how big of an amazing opportunity it was to work on Roseanne.
AVC: How did you transition from being a writer to one of the co-stars of the show?
TA: In ’89 Roseanne and I had started dating, and everybody knew it—we made sure of that. In the writers’ room they said, “Why don’t you come out and do a guest thing on the show, that’ll get some ratings. We’ll have your character kiss Roseanne.” I said okay, and it was very frightening because I really didn’t know how to act, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Roseanne basically saved my career, though, because I was terrible Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and finally they were going to make a decision on Thursday if they would recast my role. That night I went home and we were talking and she gave me a great tip: She said, “When you enter a room, enter like it’s your room, dick first.” I always thought of that, and I still sometimes think of that. When you have some fear, you just can’t show any fear. I just tried to use her words, and the next day it went well, and thank God, because imagine how humiliating it would’ve been. I don’t think I ever would’ve acted again.
AVC: Your acting career would’ve begun and ended basically within the same week.
TA: Right, and I’m sure some people would’ve been happy about that, but I wouldn’t have.
AVC: Did you get more comfortable acting? Was it something you took to?
TA: Oh yeah. Well, if you’re spending a lot of time in the writers’ room and then you’re also acting, you have your foot in both of those doors. I’d always say to the writers, “You can say whatever you want about your boss in front of me. I’m not going to think about it as my girlfriend.” You’ve got to be able to trash your boss, in any job. We did that when I worked at Hormel, and this is no different.
AVC: Not the boss of Hormel!
TA: [Laughs.] Yes, every day. But this is no different than Hormel. The funny thing is that in 1990, Chuck Lorre worked for me, you know Chaim Levine.
AVC: Was he going by Chuck Lorre or Chaim Levine?
TA: He was going by Chuck Lorre. You know, after two years, as the head writer you have to let them go on Roseanne. That was just the way, she liked that. So there was a day when I had to let Chuck go. He was mad about that until—he may still be mad about that.
AVC: That fell to you to let him go?
TA: Yeah … Rob Eulan said to me—when they had the writers’ strike a couple years ago, all the ex-head writers, we all marched together one day—he said, “When I hired him I said, ‘This job is going to last about two years, and we’re going to have to let you go, but I promise to take care of you financially, and I also know that one day I will be let go from this show.’” So I at least had some insight and wasn’t just a complete idiot. There’s a difference.
AVC: Would you say that you’re the most difficult person that Chuck Lorre has ever worked with?
TA: Chuck might say that. [Laughs.] Depends on how his sense of humor is.
The Jackie Thomas Show (1992-1993)—Jackie Thomas
TA: That was a lot of fun. There are a lot of people that are now big in the comedy world that were around helping us launch Jackie Thomas. It was definitely the best thing I ever did in television, and it’s a damn good show. I’m still trying to get it released on DVD. It was very autobiographical. I filmed on the same lot as Roseanne and I’d go back and forth, and I remember once Julia Louis-Dreyfus parked in my parking spot, and I didn’t know it was her car, and I wrote a nasty note and put it on the car and I came out—it’s kind of a funny, if you Google “Julia Louis-Dreyfus parking spot,” you’ll see the story because on the Seinfeld DVD they talked about it—I came out and they said, “Julia parked in your spot” and I said, “Oh tell her not to worry about it, no big deal” and they said, “the note,” and I said, “Tell her I’m sorry, I had no idea it was her car, but I’m not offended, tell her not to worry.” They go, “She is”—this is Jason Alexander—so I went out and we had this stupid skirmish where Julia Louis-Dreyfus told me how offended she was that I wrote a nasty note, and I told her how offended I was that she parked in my spot or whatever, and then Roseanne took a picture of John Goodman’s ass and put it on her car and in soap wrote “Julia Louis Dry-puss.” Very, very mature, very adult.
So it became this big story and they made jokes about it at the Oscars, but it became the premise for an episode of Jackie Thomas. We just changed the episode we were shooting that week and made it about Jackie parking in somebody’s parking spot. With Jackie Thomas we could do anything. It was a fun show, and an excellent mirror back to who we were at that time. That show would’ve lasted a long time if we’d been a little bit smarter, because they wanted us to come back, but they wanted me to change it a little bit and have the character go back to Iowa.
AVC: What was the overall premise of The Jackie Thomas Show?
TA: The premise was that Jackie Thomas was a guy who grew up in Iowa, worked at a meat-packing plant, and then got lucky in Hollywood, so it was just like me. We kept the stories—Chris Farley was my brother, and we tried to keep the stories as real as possible, but [he was] just this absurd character. Remember Buffalo Bill? You probably don’t.
AVC: I do, that’s with Dabney Coleman.
TA: Yeah, it was in that vein. The stuff we got away with back in ’92, ’93 was kind of incredible. But he was just an absurd character, definitely a mirror to who I was or who people thought I was. We took all the tabloid stuff and put it into the show, and the show was good because it had good people on it.
True Lies (1994)—Albert Gibson
TA: It’s funny, because if that movie hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be talking to you today, because also in ’94 I was let go from Roseanne, so to speak, so thank God I had that movie. But I had a three-month period between when I was let go at Roseanne and True Lies coming out when I was in Hollywood purgatory, and everybody kept saying, “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine as soon as this movie comes out.” [James] Cameron kept saying that, and Arnold [Schwarzenegger], but I couldn’t believe that. I was just grateful to not be in the barrel anymore, so at that time I really wasn’t afraid, I just assumed I had to go back to Iowa like everybody said on TV. They were writing, “Now that he and Roseanne broke up, he’ll never work again, it’s over,” whatever, and then this big movie comes out and I’m actually good in it. So what could they say then? They couldn’t say that I was just horribly terrible all the time, because I was just decent in a big movie. Here’s the thing, and this is with Chuck Lorre, too—he came up to me a couple years later and told me, “Listen I got to make amends to you. I’ve been badmouthing you for 13 years all over this town to everybody I could.” I had no idea we had a feud going. [Laughs.] I’d see him in public and I’d wave, and I always rooted for him. I had no idea, and so I was like, “Okay, well that’s nice, he made amends.” He goes, “Now that I get to know you personally, you’re a good guy.” Whatever, okay, that’s fine. Then I saw that writers on his show changed writers with CSI writers. CSI guys wrote an episode of Two And A Half Men, and he wrote an episode of CSI, and the episode was about a sitcom star and her crazy drugged-up husband, boyfriend, and I was like, “Chuck, why would you do that? I thought we were friends!” He goes, “It could be anybody, it could be Cybill Shepherd’s boyfriend, it could be Brett Butler’s boyfriend.” I go, “Well name them, because people are calling my publicist saying. ‘What does Tom think of Chuck Lorre writing an episode of CSI about him?’” So I said, “Chuck at least say it’s not about me,” and he said no, so fuck him, fuck him. It was so obvious, you know?
AVC: During that time in Hollywood purgatory, did you think, “Well, if I’m not able to make a go of it in television or film, at least I have stand-up”?
TA: I did think of that, because you always got to remember if you can do that, it’s definitely a tool, and I thought, “I’ll do a stand-up tour and I’ll be done, or I’ll go back to Minneapolis.” It was all about going back to the Midwest. I kept thinking, “I’ve had more experiences, I’ve been lucky, I got to do this movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, I got to be on the show, I got to meet all these interesting people.” So no matter what, I had at least deluded myself into believing I’d had this amazing Hollywood experience, and it’d be something I could maybe talk about onstage. I never had big goals, I never knew enough to set my sights too high, my goal is just to survive. I don’t know if that’s a good goal.
AVC: So how did you get the role in True Lies?
TA: They had literally seen every character actor in town, and it was the last day and Cameron was still looking, they hadn’t found the third person for this movie. I was going to leave my agency, so they set up a meeting with Jim Cameron, like a last-ditch Hail Mary. They begged him to just see me so I’d stay at the agency. Because where I went, my ex-wife went, so it was a big thing to them. So I went down and met Cameron. I didn’t even prepare, I didn’t even read the sides because I knew I wasn’t going to get it, once I saw the role was so big and it wasn’t just a bartender. I was happy to be a bartender in a movie with Dustin Hoffman, because I got scenes with Dustin Hoffman—that was my only reference, the only movie stuff I’d done. So when I saw the role was big I thought, “There’s no way I’m going to get this, so why even learn the sides and then be disappointed. I just want to meet Jim Cameron, the Terminator guy.” I went down and we talked a little bit, and we hit it off personally, and then he said, “While you’re here why don’t you read.” I go, “Well….” He goes, “You didn’t even look at it did you?” But I said, “I’ll give it a shot.”
So I read a little bit and then Cameron said, “Get Arnold down here.” Then five minutes later Arnold’s in there, which was amazing on its own, and we just start doing the scene and pushing each other away to see who could get to the camera. And he says, “Okay you got the role, but you can’t tell anybody for two weeks.” Of course I went home and told everybody, but nobody believed me. It was too unbelievable, but then it happened. Here’s the thing: At the time, because of the divorce and the publicity, when the movie was getting ready to come out they couldn’t put me in the trailer, because when they tested it people would come into the theater and up on the screen it would say “a movie from Jim Cameron” and everybody would go crazy. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in it: yay! Jamie Lee Curtis: yay! Tom Arnold: boo. They literally would boo, but at the end when they filled out the cards, my score was the highest score. So it literally, in the hour and a half or two hours of this film, changed my life.
AVC: That must be some pretty amazing validation there.
TA: Well, it’s, always aim low, then if you hit in the middle it’ll seem like you’re just knocking it out of the park.
AVC: How was it from going from sitcoms and stand-up to being in a giant blockbuster?
TA: It was supposed to take two months, my work, and it took seven. You know you have to do stuff over and over, and Jim is a bit of a perfectionist, so you just have to work on your patience. Plus, I wasn’t in charge. When you’re in charge, it’s always better, not necessarily quality-wise, but you can say, “We got that shot” and you’re done. But Jim, you do things a lot of times and you just have to be patient and understand that someone else is in charge, which was good for me to see, because television is such a writer’s medium and film is all the director. I was thrown into the show and then this movie, which opened at No. 1, so my first experiences were pretty incredible.
AVC: You were thrown into the deep end.
TA: Yes, but it was also nice, because when we were doing True Lies for that year, it gave me a peaceful place to go. Because when you work with your wife you really have no “me” time, or place to get away and be with the guys, because you’re at work all day together, and then you’re at home, and you have this other public life. It was nice to be able to travel all over the country and film and try to figure out who I was and what I was going to do.
General Hospital (1994)—Billy “Baggs” Boggs
TA: Jesus, yes, they had to memorize a lot of stuff. We had the General Hospital people on Roseanne, and so we did a trade-out. I just remember pages and pages of dialogue, and I remember Roseanne had a tough time with it. [Laughs.] One thing about her is that she’s the same no matter what the venue. You either take it or you don’t. I’m a little bit of a phony in that I’ll pull up a little bit with the attitude, I’m not going to bring that stuff onto the set of General Hospital. But she, to her credit, she’s never changed. She’s the same way on her set as she was on General Hospital. I always felt like, oh boy, what’s going to happen here? You know that uncomfortable feeling, if you’re a husband and your wife gets into a lot of fights or starts a lot of fights, it usually ends up that you have to clean it up. You always have to have your wife’s back, but wow. So she wasn’t a phony. I think people were a little surprised any time we did anything else.
AVC: What was your character?
TA: I can’t even remember so much. All we wanted to do was be in scenes with Luke and Laura, because I’d gotten into it from college, we watched it every day in Iowa, and it was such a part of our lives. You probably don’t remember it, it was such a part of our lives, that Tony Geary, and we just felt like this was another notch on our belt of something that we’ve done in Hollywood that we’d dreamed about doing before we moved here. I think I played, of course, a gold-digging crazy guy, because I perfected that, and I assume she played my crazy wife.
Nine Months (1995)—Marty Dwyer
TA: I loved working with Hugh Grant and Robin Williams and Julianne Moore. She was so nice. People were very nice, and Joan Cusack, who’s got to be my favorite wife. She’s so funny, not to insult Sharon Stone or the other people, but Joan Cusack—you just can’t get any better than that.
AVC: Was Nine Months before the whole Divine Brown thing happened?
TA: No it happened when we were promoting the movie, and I talk about that in my act, it’s on the DVD. I tell the whole Hugh Grant story, how I thought since we played best friends—you know, since I stayed friends with Arnold and those guys after True Lies, my next movie was Nine Months with Hugh Grant, and I figured we spent five or six months playing best friends, surely we were friends in real life. I do this whole bit about show-business friendships and real friendships.
AVC: And you discovered that yours was a show-business friendship?
TA: Yes, and he explained it to me—which I understand now, because I’ve been in like, 70 movies. I get it, you can’t be friends with everybody you work with, you’d have way too many friends. I do this whole bit where I take it from the movie, from him telling me what kind of friends we were, to him getting arrested.
AVC: So you weren’t the first person he called when he was locked up?
TA: I was on the phone with my publicist, who was like, “Oh my God, did you hear what happened to Hugh Grant?” Because I’d just left him and flew up to Toronto and I was like, “What happened, did he die?” I was in shock, and she was like: “Worse.” But my question was: man or woman? Because I knew him, and she was like, “I can’t tell, I’m looking at the TV and I can’t tell.” Then Hugh actually called in on my phone, it beeped in and he was like, “Bloody hell!” I’m like, “Man or woman?” He goes, “I can’t tell.” But he’s a very nice guy, they’re all very nice, I’m sure he loves that I mention him in my act.
Big Bully (1996)—Rosco Bigger-Fang
TA: I read the script, and it seemed good. It seemed like it might be a touching metaphor for what was going on in the world, but I’m not so sure it turned out that way. Again, at that time, when I started to get offered lead roles in movies, I didn’t know how to say no.
AVC: Also the opportunity to act opposite Rick Moranis had to be very appealing.
TA: Well, yeah, Don Knotts was in it, so there you go. I don’t think Rick Moranis liked me. [Laughs.]
AVC: Really? Why do you say that?
TA: I don’t think he appreciated me. I don’t blame him. You know, just because someone doesn’t like me doesn’t mean that I don’t like them and support them. I know Rick came out with a country album a few years ago, and I was like, “Yeah!” Sometimes they don’t even realize they don’t like me until it’s too late. I just assume that people do for some reason.
The Stupids (1996)—Stanley Stupid
TA: Yeah, a classic. That was based on the children’s book The Stupids. I kept asking the director, John Landis, “Wow, are you sure this is funny?” And he said, “Yes, it’s based on the book, it’s got a different cadence than you’re used to, just trust me on this, it’s funny.” Then people were talking about doing The Stupids 2 while we were filming it, and I was like, “Are you sure?” It just didn’t seem—and the guy that wrote it is a big writer on The Simpsons.
AVC: Yeah, Brent Forrester.
TA: Yeah, and I wonder if they let him do it, if he—well, it needed a punch-up for sure, is all I can say.
Touch (1997)—August Murray
TA: At that time I needed to do something different. I bombed in starring roles in the comedies I’d done. It was an opportunity to work with Christopher Walken and Paul Schrader. It was also an opportunity to prove myself a little to people, which I needed to do. Of course, like everything else, at the end of the movie I found out nobody wanted me in the movie, and they all teamed up, but they had to have me to be the last piece in the puzzle to get the financing. They were grateful at the end, but in the beginning they were not for it, and that’s the story of my life.
AVC: It’s a really interesting character to play, he’s this sort of zealot, and he’s a little unhinged. He holds onto this faith as this kind of lifesaver. Was this something you kind of relate to, having this fierce burning need to believe?
TA: He reminded me of people from Ottumwa, Iowa, where I grew up. There are these people where you just see them and you feel for them because they’re so passionate about what they believe, but their beliefs are just so cockeyed, you can’t get on board with it, but you feel for them. There are people with causes in every small town that just go marching around, literally, and try to get things on track and get people to act a certain way, whatever it is. They’re just not succeeding at it, and you can see the frustration and sadness, and I felt like this guy was full of that.
AVC: What was it like being directed by Paul Schrader?
TA: It was good. He’s an interesting and fun, yet dark individual. It was fun. There’s a scene where I shoot at Bridget Fonda, and right before the scene he told me, “She didn’t want you in this movie.” That was a good note. It made it easier. He was nice, and it was nice to get to know him, and I definitely took advantage of that experience.
McHale’s Navy (1997)—Quinton McHale
TA: Had a lot of fun filming it. Filmed it in Mexico, Barra de Navidad, which I think means have a bad Christmas. I’m not sure what it means. The best thing about that was getting to work with the original McHale [Ernest Borgnine]. He came in and did a little surprise thing. I always liked those little surprise things. Debra Messing was my love interest. I don’t think she talks about that. I’ve noticed that she doesn’t put that on her résumé, but I did let her get the big shot in to defeat the terrorists. I changed the script so that she got to shoot the gun that blew the terrorist missile out of the sky.
AVC: Were you a fan of the original?
TA: Yeah, I mean, Tim Conway, come on, it’s awesome. If we could’ve been that good… but you know. It was fun, and I wish it could’ve been more of a success for the people that produced it, but it was definitely fun for me.
Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997)—Cowboy
TA: I got a call from Demi Moore, who produced it, and she said, “I’ve got this scene and I want you to do it, I can’t think of anyone in the world but you to play this character,” and I said, “Sure, send it over,” and it was guy taking a dump. I thought, “You know, she really has a high opinion of me.” I went down and everyone was supporting Mike Myers—he had a flop, which I can relate to, on a movie after Saturday Night Live, you know, So I Married An Axe Murderer. He had this character and everybody wanted to support him, which is what once in a while the comedy world does, it’s nice. I went down, kind of ad-libbed my way through it. Jay Roach, it was his first movie, and he’s gone on to big giant things, so has Mike. So I spent a day messing around and having fun. It’s funny, because you can work one day and make more of a splash than working six months on something else, like McHale’s Navy, for instance.
The Tom Show (1997-1998)—Tom Amross
TA: That was on The WB. I’d had a show called Tom, but this was The Tom Show, which is completely different. There was always some kind of a Tom reference, in case people got confused. I got to work with my buddies Ed McMahon and Michael Rosenbaum.
AVC: What did Ed McMahon play?
TA: He played the owner of the station I worked at. He basically played Ed McMahon: very professional, good guy that loved to tell old stories, and that’s who Ed McMahon was. We shared a birthday, and I’d known him before the show, and I just wanted to bring him in because I wanted to spend my day hearing Ed McMahon tell stories about him and John Wayne, and him and Johnny Carson. That’s what I remember the most about that.
Animal Factory (2000)—Buck Rowan
TA: Steve Buscemi directed that, and that was one of those where you’re like, “I pray that in the theater people don’t bust out laughing when they see that and it doesn’t take people out of the film. I hope I’m decent or fair or whatever.” And it worked, people bought me as a prison rapist. I guess that’s good news.
AVC: How do you prepare for a role like that?
TA: I prepared my whole life for that role. You know, my thing is trying to work with people better than you, like Willem Dafoe and Steve Buscemi, because maybe it’ll rub off on me. My whole career I’ve worked with people better than me, from John Goodman to those guys. My first scene in a movie was with Dustin Hoffman. Hopefully it rubs off. I don’t know if it has, but watching them and respecting them, any kind of growth that I’ve shown is because of that.
Exit Wounds (2001)—Henry Wayne
TA: Was it 2001? Okay, the best part about that was the credits. [Laughs.] They had a roll of film left and I talked a producer into letting me and Anthony Anderson go in and ad-lib. I played a guy who was a talk-show host, but they never showed me on my TV show, so I talked him into building a set and letting Anthony Anderson and I just riff and it went over the credits, and it was my favorite part. It was a lot of people’s favorite part. In fact, I remember one review said if the whole movie could be as funny as this, it would be a hit. They said if you walk by the theater at the end of the movie you’d think you were watching a good movie, but you weren’t.
AVC: But that was a hit, was it not?
TA: I guess it was, figuratively speaking. It opened No. 1, and I’m sure they made money from it.
Cradle 2 The Grave (2003)—Archie
TA: Instead of Steven Seagal it was Jet Li. Very nice guy, and again I was working with Anthony Anderson, which was very fun always. Joel Silver produced that again, and the same director, Andzej Bartkowiak, who has a birthday this weekend. Not that that matters. But it was great to work with Jet Li. He had a movie out called Hero at that time, which was just amazing. As far as action guys, he’s the real deal, because he was the judo champion of China when he was younger. Those action movies, sometimes if they do them right, put them together. That opened No. 1 and it was fun.
The Kid & I(2005)—Bill Williams
TA: My next-door neighbor in real life had cerebral palsy. We’d spend a lot of time yelling over the fence. It’s funny, because we lived on a cul-de-sac, there was Charlie Sheen and Shaquille O’Neal. Charlie still lives there. It was an interesting neighborhood. This kid would always talk to me about wanting to be in a movie, and he loved True Lies in real life, and he’d watched it 100 times, so I wrote a movie about that experience. His dad is a very well-to-do gentleman, a very successful businessman, and so if you’re successful and your kid’s dream is to be in a film, you can make that happen.
AVC: What was it like acting opposite somebody who is not a professional actor?
TA: You have to be patient, which is how I’m sure people felt about working with me before. It’s good that I had a great relationship with the kid, because I knew him, knew everything about him, we’d been neighbors for years, so I knew him as he was growing up. Nothing was a surprise to me, I knew why we were there—we were there for him.
AVC: How difficult was it to get Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear for a cameo?
TA: It was difficult because he was governor already, so we had to coordinate. It was the last day of shooting, the last thing we did. He signed the budget, because he couldn’t agree to be in it until he signed a budget, so he signed the budget, got on his jet, flew down, and then Jamie Lee Curtis was there, he landed, they landed in a helicopter in the middle of the street, he came in, walked in, did the scene, and then got in his helicopter and took off, which was weird, because he was back in town where he lives. I don’t know if it was for show or what. Jamie Lee Curtis was so nice to come over there. I owe those guys.
AVC: Was the idea always that it would get a small theatrical release?
TA: In the back of your mind you’re hoping this will be a huge thing, but we knew that at the least we would get a small theatrical, and that’s the most you could hope for these days.
Happy Endings (2005)—Frank
TA: The writer/director Don Roos is a friend of mine, we belong to the same club, and I had no idea he was a writer/director until one day he comes over to my house and we were just sitting there shooting the shit and he said, “I’ve got a gift for you. Read this.” And he handed me the script to Happy Endings. I read it and the guy had a big heart, and then there was another character who was a shyster, and I thought maybe he got confused between the two, because he handed me the script and said, “Read this, this is how I see you.” I was like, “He can’t see me as this guy, this is a decent guy, he must see me as this con man.” But no, that’s how he saw me. I think he offered me the role in the movie before he’d talked to his producer partners, because they flipped out, of course. They wanted Jeff Bridges. I don’t blame them, I’d want Jeff Bridges too.
So I thought I had the role, then I thought I didn’t because they were out to Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, and Alec Baldwin, and I thought I’d want those guys before me too, so I was just honored that he wrote something with me in mind. That’s enough. Then all of a sudden, these guys pass, and it came back right before filming started and he called me in the middle of the night in New York and said, “This is the best call I’ve ever had to make. Show up Monday morning, we’re working.”
It happened too fast for anybody to think, but I heard that at the première at Sundance—I found out after it premièred and people thought that I was decent in it, I found out that all the other actors’ managers had gotten on the phone with the studio and said, “We don’t want Tom.” I was lucky, because at that time the studio said if you were representing Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks we’d have a conversation, but you’re not, so show up or don’t. I’m always grateful when I can prove people right, and Don Roos believed in me and that was enough.
Soul Plane (2004)—Mr. Hunkee
TA: That was a fun shoot. Very smoky, very smoky shoot, but I love Snoop Dogg and all the guys. That was as much fun as you can have on a film set. You know, filming inside the constructed cabin of a jetliner.
The Year Of Getting To Know Us (2008)—Ron Rocket
TA: I’m looking at that right now. The jacket looks funky on this, looks like they just put it together with Photoshop. Sharon Stone was my wife, that’s the good news. Jimmy Fallon was my son, that’s also good news. We had a good time filming it. The woman that produced this produced Happy Endings. I really wanted to be in this movie, I remember trying really hard to get it, and I’m glad I did it because Sharon Stone and I are friends now because of it.
ER (2009)—The Big Kahuna
TA: That’s my kid’s heart camp. The Big Kahuna is an actual person who started this heart camp that I support, kids who have had major heart surgery. One of our supporters was a writer/producer for ER, and we wanted to get the kids on ER and do a show about kids with heart surgery, so he wrote it in such a way that I could bring the actual kids onto the show, and then I got to play a little part, to play his role.
Sons Of Anarchy (2009)—Georgie Caruso
TA: I play a pornographer, and you know, we’re actually working on a spin-off at this moment, trying to make it from my little appearances. That just shows you a little goes a long way, or can go a long way, because I appeared in a couple episodes and people seemed to like the hilarious pornographer. I like the show, and Kurt Sutter is a great dude, and writer.