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Here's the original location of Steven Brophy's article "Looking at the movies":

Campbell Scott

9 April 98

Campbell Scott, the star of David Mamet's new entertainment, "The Spanish Prisoner," came to Boston recently to help publicize his new movie. But it was not his first visit here. A couple of years ago he spent several weeks at the Huntington Theater, playing Hamlet. "The Huntington was a very good place to work," he reminisced, "but I don't remember very much. When you're doing Hamlet, you just sleep and act, sleep and act."

He evoked this memory while answering a question about how much pressure he felt playing the central character in a complex story. "Sometimes, speaking of Hamlet (I used to drive people nuts by saying it was the easiest part in the play), when your in the center, its the other people who have the hard parts. Because they have to leave and come back, and they have to bring on a lot with them. but you just bounce off everybody else, you're just reacting a lot of the time, so it becomes easy. It's harder with this one [The Spanish Prisoner], because obviously you have to do a lot with a little. I'm sort of the innocent guy in the middle, though not completely innocent..." Scott's voice trails off as he declines to give away too many plot details.

Asked about the different, more contained acting style he used in his latest role, Scott responds, "Mamet is a writer and director who demands a certain kind of levelness, because he is a writer first, and he wants the script to shine through, and the more intricate the plot is, the more he wants actors and their idiosyncrasies to stay out of the way. It's challenging, so you try to get on board and go along with it."

It's the characters and what they say that keeps things going," Scott continues. "And really, in a Mamet movie nobody really says anything right out. Most movies are full of drama and saying all their feelings, but in Mamet nobody ever does that. But he still manages to make the wants and desires of all the characters very deep and very rich, and that makes you follow them."

Commenting further on Mamet's writing style, Scott points out that "David loves to collect aphorisms and proverbs and fit them into his story, but he's also a musician, which you can tell by the way he writes - his lines almost have a meter to them. Some people find that kind of distancing, but in something like this that's actually kind of good, because you don't really know how to take everybody, who's really vulnerable and who's not, including my character I hope.

The film is build upon a maze of illusions, and has more than one trickster acting in it. "David is an old friend of Rickie Jay's, who's in the movie, and who makes a living as an illusionist," Scott explains. "And Steve [Martin] is a very accomplished amateur magician. This is a crowd who really loves to pull the rug out from under people. We all like to do that in this business, but they like to acknowledge it and try to get really complicated with it. Rickie doesn't like the word magician, he prefers to be called an illusionist, and he's so steeped in the history of it - he's a fascinating guy. And of course if you ask him to do a trick he'll never do it, because he hates to call them tricks."

Scott has had an extensive career on stage, screen, and television, and one of the things he is most proud of is his work with his friend Stanley Tucci on "Big Night." Tucci co-wrote the screenplay for that popular film with another friend, Joe Pantoliano, and asked Scott to co-direct. Meanwhile Tucci was already working on another screenplay and also invited Scott to share that with him.

"At one point during the shooting of "Big Night" Stanley asked me if I wanted to direct 'Ship of Fools' with him, but when I read it I said 'no, it's too funny - you're the guy who should direct this one.' There's a huge ensemble of actors in it, but it's very different from 'Big Night' because it is just complete insanity, it's like a Marx Brothers movie, with everyone being as crazy as they can. He and Oliver Platt are they two stars, and they're like Laurel and Hardy, two idiots in the middle of all this madness." "Ship of Fools" is scheduled to hit movie theaters in the fall.

His work on "Big Night" has given Scott a new perspective on his craft. "The ideal career for me would be directing films and acting in the theater. Now that I've directed, when I'm acting I try not to give the director a hard time, because I know directors are usually sleep deprived and just trying to get through the day. It also makes you recognize a good director from a bad one much more quickly. You can tell right away, 'I need to protect myself' or 'I can let myself go here.'"

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