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Q&A: Campbell Scott

The indie actor finds something to believe in with his off-off-Broadway play "The Atheist."

Campbell Scott in “The Atheist”

Campbell Scott in “The Atheist.”

Photo By T Charles Erickson

This fall, the New York stages are awash in film actors such as the much-hyped Katie Holmes, the classic Kristin Scott Thomas and last year’s “It” boy Jeremy Piven. And then there’s Campbell Scott. Unlike his fellow actors, his one-man turn in “The Atheist” is not one of Broadway glitz and glamour. Instead, the actor is hanging his hat downtown in a 199-seat theater.

It’s not surprising that an actor who found success through small indie films like “Singles,” “Roger Dodger” and “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” would choose to perform off-off-Broadway. Then again, the Great White Way isn’t as flexible. “I have a crazy schedule,” says Scott, who lives with his 10-year-old son two hours outside of Manhattan. “I can only do the show every other week. Most theaters won’t touch that, and I don’t blame them.”

Scott, 47, jumped at the chance to dive into the role of Augustine Early, a slimy newspaper reporter who blackmails a Congressman, beds his wife and puts it all on the front page.

“Campbell is charmingly mischievous, and that’s why he’s perfect for the part,” says playwright Ronan Noone. “And he has a certain amount of dashing good looks that separate him from the vulgarity of the character.”

Scott spoke with WWD from his home upstate to discuss Augustine’s attributes, the anxieties associated with a one-man show and his upcoming labor of love, the film “Company Retreat.”

WWD: How is it doing a one-man play?
Campbell Scott: I had never done it before. I always find myself comparing it to an athletic event. As opposed to playing with a team, against or for someone else, just imagine yourself cross-country skiing out in the middle of nowhere. You can make mistakes that only you know about, I guess, but you know about them, and you also feel quite lonely. If someone’s around to watch, they become your only allies.

WWD: Yes, but Augustine’s actions are pretty tough to agree with. How would you justify his character?
C.S.: I would never behave like Augustine, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel like him sometimes. I’m the original angry Irish motherf--ker [laughs].

WWD: Seriously?
C.S.: Oh yeah, from a long line of angry Irish people. But one tries to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, and manipulating and abusing people is not anything I have any energy for. But I can slightly appreciate someone who constantly tells their own truth. In fact, I am envious of it sometimes. I feel like, segueing back to journalism, you find that with certain writers you like in papers or magazines. You’re like, you know what, this guy is a d--k, but he always is this way. So you begin to read him or her and you begin to appreciate it, because they’re consistent.

WWD: Are there any columnists or writers you follow?
C.S.: I read The [New York Daily] News. I read the Times. I don’t read the Post. But I read everybody. Who’s the guy, [New York Daily News contributor] Stanley Crouch — he makes me laugh. The other guy scares me, [Republican columnist Charles] Krauthammer. I read them all. I am one of those people when someone makes a good case I think, “Well, they’re right.” Then I’ll read someone who’s contradictory, but also makes a good case, and I’m like, “Well, they’re right.” Ultimately, I just want people to get along.

WWD: You’ve done film, stage and television. Which medium appeals to you the most?
C.S.: Practically, I am interested in television because it keeps me home and it’s fast, and I exist in independent films mostly, and you don’t get paid for those or you don’t get paid enough. So now that the [television] writing is good in a lot of cases, it’s a great place to go and make money, but not feel like you’re slumming. Films in general have always been hard to make, but I think are even harder now, which is why, when I do them, I’d rather be directing or producing. Then I can kind of do what I want.

WWD:
Speaking of doing what you want, tell me about your next project, “Company Retreat.”
C.S: “Company Retreat” is something I wrote and directed and produced last summer. Frankly, I got sick of trying to get movies off the ground. So I got an HD camera and paid for it by myself and got all of my friends and made a movie upstate here. I can’t even afford an editor right now. A few people have kind of sniffed around and said they would give me money to finish it, but I want to be the guy who does it all. Just to see what that experience is like, to do it from A to Z.
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