David Hyde Pierce Plays a Classic 'My Favorite Scene' with Movieline
David Hyde Pierce returns to cinemas next week as the title character in The Perfect Host, a psychological thriller meets cat-and-mouse mystery meets dark, dark comedy about a fugitive bank robber (Clayne Crawford) who takes refuge at what soon becomes the dinner party from hell. The less said about that, the better (for now, anyway; we'll hear further from Pierce when Host lands in theaters), but there's certainly no harm in playing a round of My Favorite Scene with the beloved Emmy- and Tony-winner. And it is a doozy -- maybe our best to date.
"It's in The Roaring Twenties -- Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. And it's the moment when Jimmy Cagney gets shot at the end of the movie. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie. And he staggers up the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral and he dies on the steps. I don't know how old I was -- I was a little kid when I saw that on television -- but there was something about everything about that. The violence, the poetry of the movement, the almost melodrama of it. It's a long trip he makes down the sidewalk and up the steps. And I think he dies in the arms of, like, a hooker. I remember she sang 'Melancholy Baby' in the movie. Even the architecture of the steps. If I look at everything about that -- the composition of the picture! And it's literally not until you asked me the question right now that I remember that.
"After that, I would always write scenes where I got to die. When I was a little kid, my house had a staircase. I would get shot at the top of the staircase and then fall down the stairs. That's how I came down to breakfast every morning. And I would write little plays in elementary school -- like in the fourth grade -- where I got to die. We'd do Julius Caesar, and I'd play Julius Caesar. It wasn't that I had a death wish. It's that there's something so quintessentially theatrical, dramatic, literally life and death about that moment. And so I was taking that into the future subsequently as a slightly older kid, seeing the end of Bonnie and Clyde for the first time, The Godfather, all of that stuff.
"Ironically, here we are talking about a movie that full of violence and awfulness that's not how I've made my reputation. I'm not drawn to the slasher movies and all that stuff. But there is something about going back to that Jimmy Cagney moment that encapsulates everything about what drew me into this world."
Now that is a Favorite Scene. Find The Roaring Twenties' full climax below, with the Cagney goodness picking up at the five-minute mark. And drop back by Movieline next week to hear more from Pierce about The Perfect Host, which opens July 1 in limited release.