BWW Interviews: Actor George Hamilton Talks Wittily About LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and More!
Legendary actor George Hamilton, a major film star since the late 50s, is currently treading the boards in the national tour of La Cage Aux Folles, opening July 11 at the Pantages Theatre. Known for such film hits as Love at First Bite, Zorro the Gay Blade, All the Fine Young Cannibals, Light in the Piazza, Where the Boys Are, Your Cheatin' Heart, and Crime and Punishment USA, Hamilton has been referred to as more "famous for his debonair style and his perfect and perpetual suntan". He admits to it himself and in our chat, with his self-deprecating sense of humor, jokes and tells very amusing anecdotes.
Good morning. How are you?
(talking from his car) It's amazing. I think I'm in Los Angeles. I'm right near my star on Hollywood Boulevard. I sit there sometimes and sell star maps to homes. You could make a good living just sitting there on that star. The people that move on don't know what they're missing. (he laughs)
Let's talk about La Cage Aux Folles. How long have you been on tour?
For nine months, I think. I've had stretch marks for nine months. Let me think about it. In October we started, and I started rehearsals in August.
Are you having a good time playing Georges?
I try to make it fun. Work is always work, but I've never worked with a group of people I like as much. The cast and chorus, the understudies knock me out, I mean their ability, the swings, to go on...it's just like me going to school is what it is. Every one of them has been incredibly nice to me. It's a really interesting adventure. I never thought about doing it, and then I did it, and it was so physically demanding, I pulled my achilles (tendon) the very first show...but...256 shows later... it's your attitude about a lot of the stuff. I like the challenge. Doing Dancing with the Stars, I had to have a knee replacement after that. This is just an achilles. I don't know what other organs I can give up. (laughs)
Are you enjoying working with Chris Sieber?
He's an incredible professional. I only have to look at Chris to say, "Well, you do the next line". He knows both parts and all the music; I some times feel like a ventriloquist.
You also did Chicago, right?
Yes. When I came into Chicago, I thought the trick was, it's nice to have a good director. I went to Walter Bobbie and asked him who the character (Billy Flynn) was. He said, "He just never bends over for anybody". That was all the direction I got from Walter. I went back and got the real word from my dresser. "You have to pop up over here. You have to pop up there. You have to say this line, and do it this way." I thought, this is perfect. The dresser knows more than anybody. I mean Bobbie's advice was as good as Jessica Lange's line here about Hollywood, "Take Fountain!" You know that's the street that very ingenue, every star gives to get to their apartment or so as not to miss their callback audition or whatever, "Take Fountain". (he laughs)
What other stage work have you done?
Chicago was my first Broadway show. I've done maybe 26 plays...dinner theatre and summer stock. I used to make people think I was in the south of France while I was actually trying to learn to act. I went on the road. I did Funny Girl with Barbara Cook. We had such a great time together. (he laughs) I'll never forget...we were in Westbury, theatre-in-the-round. (He sings) "I want to be seen, be seen with you, with you on my arm..." All of a sudden I remember seeing a vertically challenged fellow, nowadays, we'd say a dwarf or little person...he was walking across the stage as we were singing this. I realized he must have had to go to the bathroom on the other side of the stage. Barbara's in the middle of "People", and he's coming back across the stage. I went over to him and said, "Forgive me, but since you missed it, I want to do that number for you again." So I repeated "I want to be seen, be seen..." Fun! It was as much fun as what happened recently in Orlando during Cage when all the lights went out. The lights went out, the air conditioning went off , and out there was... me, singing a duet...I'm singing away and all of a sudden I realize it's completely pitch black, there's no sound, and all I hear is my voice. I turned around, and everybody had left the stage. I looked at the audience and said, "I always wanted to do a one-man show." It was the moment of my life. I never enjoyed anything as much. I had such fun and the audience saw that I had fun, and I got more applause for that than anything I had done. Finally, it came back to normal. It was about eight seconds, but in my mind it seemed like eight minutes. This is an experience of acting on the stage. But it's amazing, and the Cagelles (dancers) are spitfires, they're fun, and I really like them. I'm going to stick with it and see what happens. I have fun every time I do the show.