Working on Magnolia with Jason Robards was definitely one of the highlights of my life. He was so much fun to be around, and more professional than most actors, with his preparation and the fact that he just wanted to act. He wasn’t in the best health at the time, which worked for the part, but he had all the energy he needed and he gave an incredible performance. He was so alive, so vibrant. He had to learn this 10-page monologue that’s in the middle of the movie and he came in and knew it front to back, and acted it beautifully. Most actors would not have that memorized for a movie and would be struggling through it, but boom, there he was. The idea that I was working with an icon sank into me as I was working with him, and the fact that I had that experience makes me very happy. I’m proud of that film for many reasons, but one is that my role had to do with him. My character had to take care of him, which was an easy task. It was easy to care for him and pay attention to him as a person.
It’s rare that you’ll get this respect for acting. That it’s an art form, that it’s a craft, that it’s something that’s important, it’s your livelihood, it’s what you do, it’s who you are. He was all those things about acting. People in the theater or movie business can get caught up in a lot of other stuff, and when you work with someone like him you’re reminded of what’s really important.
When you start out, you look at some actors’ careers and you say, I want to follow the path they’ve taken. And he’s one of those guys. He’s somebody who’s been a consummate actor in all ways, and fully respected in both theater and film. I feel a kinship with him in the way he never abandoned the theater, and he reignited that urge in me. Through just example, he’s telling younger actors, if you truly are passionate about both these mediums, and you work hard in both of them, you’ll not only be more satisfied, but you’ll also be a better actor, and I think that’s true. I miss him, and I feel bad for the people who won’t have a chance to work with him.
(Robards died of cancer in Bridgeport, Conn.)