Andy Garcia: The Conscience of a Conservative

"I thought you got a bad rap in that film," I tell him. "I thought your character was a wonderful husband, a terrific father, and somehow, her drinking all came down on him."

"It's a heavy concept, that enabler thing. It's about co-dependency. The point they were trying to make was that he needed someone to take care of in order to find worth in his life."

"I knew that's what they were saying, but I didn't buy it. I thought he would have been just as happy had she gotten up in the morning, made breakfast for the kids, not thrown up and gone off to work without a hangover. I doubt he would have been packing a bottle of wine for her lunch."

"I agree." he says. "But that's the dilemma that I had to face in the film. I mean, there are no answers, it's just the process, it's not so clear-cut. The interesting thing is that men did not want to see this movie. And the women did. And the men would say, 'Come on, it's Friday night. I don't want to see this.' But then they would, and they would really enjoy it. They related to it because it was so wrenching. I've had people come up to me and say, 'I've stopped drinking since I've seen that movie.' And that's a big thing. I was at Paty's [a restaurant in the Valley] just when the movie came out, and a whole section of about 15 people started clapping."

"An AA meeting?" I venture.

Garcia smiles as if I've just answered the Daily Double on "Jeopardy." "Yes," he says, "it was. Those people who told me they've been sober, well. I think there's a responsibility when you do a movie. It's not so casual. When I did Dead Again, I had those scenes where my character was smoking a cigarette through his tracheostomy."

"Oh, I remember, it was one of the sickest things ever seen on-screen."

''Yeah, I had done a little research on my own and found out that's how it would have been done. Even [director Kenneth] Branagh and the writer were surprised. After that, I'd walk down the street and people would say, 'Hey. Andy, I finally stopped smoking!' And it felt good, it fell like I had touched someone, changed something." You see? Garcia really is our conscience. Maybe he should do a movie about domestic violence next ("Hey, Andy, I stopped beating the shit out of my wife...'').

"I thought the best chemistry you ever had on-screen was with Tina Majorino, the girl who played your daughter in When a Man Loves a Woman."

Garcia looks as if he doesn't know whether to laugh or slap my hand. '"Is that a compliment?"

"Yes, I think so. You were just so wonderful with her, so sweet and sensitive. And as I said, it's not like we've gotten to see you being with women so often in films. When I interviewed you last time, you told me, and I quote, 'I think a lot of what's on the screen today is visual pornography. You will never see me do one of those pictures where nothing is left to the imagination. Never, It's not my cup of tea. I'd rather see a girl in a one-piece bathing suit than a bikini. That's the kind of guy I am.'"

We stare at each other for a full minute until I break the tension. "So, has anything changed?"

He shakes his head from side to side.

"No Basic Instinct II in your future?"

"Nope."

"In Jennifer 8, there was a moment when I thought there might be something hot between you and Uma Thurman, but..."

"Jennifer 8 is a movie that was reduced by 20 minutes and they took the heart out of the picture. They took three or four scenes of the interrogation out between me and John Malkovich. The script was originally called A Policeman's Story, and in the end, there was no policeman's story! It was a movie about him dealing with demons, and finding light and a muse in this blind girl. And there was an alcoholic struggle in the script which is not in the movie. It was a better film at 2 hours and 20 minutes long instead of 2 hours. There were electrifying moments between my character and Malkovich, and that interrogation was precluded by an all-night alcoholic binge by my character. When they come to arrest me, I was naked, with my pants down, in complete emotional shambles. But they cut that out and diminished the whole film."

"Wait a minute." I interrupt. "The one chance we've ever had to see Andy Garcia naked, and they cut it?"

"With my pants down, yeah,"

"With your pants down and your shirt off?" I ask hopefully.

"Ah, no. It was about 20 degrees. My character was in a very pitiful situation, and had begun to drink again because of the death of his partner. So when you cut to me sitting in the interrogation room all cleaned up, it's a front. So consequently it's a totally different movie. It's a thriller, and it works as a thriller, but that's all it is. How do you deeply care about people if you don't give the audience a chance to care about them or to understand them? That was my argument. So that was painful on many fronts, that whole process, for everybody concerned, really."

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