Before last night I had John Goodman pegged for an almost certain Best Supporting Actor nomination because of two highly likable, big-sell performances — a swaggering, self-amused drug dealer in Flight (his second entrance has audiences cheering) and as amiable makeup artist John Chambers (a real guy who died in ’01) in Argo. Plus he plays a highly sympathetic Atlanta Braves front-office guy who cares a good deal for Clint Eastwood‘s aging scout in Trouble With The Curve. Plus he’s lost all that weight. At least a nomination, right?
Then I read a 10.26 interview with Goodman by The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks, and it persuaded me that while Goodman might get nominated because he’s always been a gifted actor and the industry knows this, he won’t take the prize. Because as Brooks’ piece indicates, he doesn’t have the temperament to play the chit-chat bullshit interview games you have to submit to in order to win. He doesn’t have that politician gene.
This isn’t to suggest in the least that Brooks is a bullshit chit-chat interviewer. He’s not. He’s one of the more thoughtful and intelligent guys out there, or so it seems to me, but the aloof and somber-toned Goodman couldn’t be bothered to get the conversational ball rolling with Brooks, and if he can’t relax and schmooze a bit with one of the good guys how is Goodman going to fare with all the shallow Ryan Seacrest guys? As well as schmooze and joke with the Academy rank and filers? That’s why I think he’s done.
Brooks vs. Goodman excerpt #1: “It is perhaps unfair to expect an actor to put on a show when the cameras aren’t rolling. But after barely five minutes, I’m floundering, rattling through the questions, desperately attempting to snag his interest. Forgive the preconceptions: I walked in to meet a warm, funny, abundantly gifted actor whose work I’ve loved for years. Instead, this feels like dinner with Grendel.”
Brooks vs. Goodman excerpt #2: “But that’s the thing about this business, [Goodman] shrugs. You can never predict which film will take off and which one will bomb. ‘If I could do that, I wouldn’t be sitting in this room,” he says. ‘I’d be at a desk the size of a football pitch. Barking orders, or having someone else bark ’em for me. One thing’s for sure: I wouldn’t be sitting here with you, my friend.'”
Brooks vs. Goodman excerpt #2: “‘[Drinking] was getting to be too much,’ he tells me. ‘It was 30 years of a disease that was taking its toll on everyone around me and it had got to the point where, every time I did it, it was becoming more and more debilitating. It was life or death. It was time to stop.’
“Was the alcohol affecting his work? ‘Yes, it certainly was.’
“In what respect? ‘Erm,’ he says. ‘Temperament. Memory. Depression.’
“All at once [Goodman] swivels on the couch and stares off at the wall. He is silent for the longest time. His jaw is set, his colour is rising. Finally, he speaks: ‘This is not something I want to chat about to sell a fucking movie. You understand? I don’t know what you do. I’m sorry, I’m very tired. It seems a little cheap to me.’
“OK, I say. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. ‘It’s not your fault, it’s the process,’ he says. ‘I can’t just waltz in here and talk about the movie, I have to dredge up some very unpleasant things and it’s just not worth it. What’s the fucking point?'”
Wells Commentary: Goodman’s comments about “the process” and the vague humiliation in which a non-drinking actor is urged to talk about his failings when he was drinking are sympathetic and spot-on, but Brooks is only asking Goodman to discuss matters that he would normally bring up if he was speaking in front of an AA meeting. And the line about how discussing alcoholic dependency “seems a little cheap to me” implies that Brooks is being cheap by asking him about the ravages of booze. That’s not a fair or accurate thing to say.
Goodman’s a cool guy, but he just doesn’t get it. He’s a world-class actor who has many more mountains to climb, but he’s not cut out for the awards circuit. And that’s fine. The Best Supporting Actor Oscar will probably go to Silver Linings Playbook‘s Robert De Niro. Why? Because Lincoln‘s Tommy Lee Jones or The Master‘s Phillip Seymour Hoffman also don’t have the temperament for an Oscar campaign.