Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q: You studied to be a physicist in your youth. Did that
inspire you in taking the role of Alfred Kinsey?
A: I went to Queens University in Belfast, and I studied
Physics, Maths and Geology, so I did rub shoulders with very starred
Professors and met some extraordinary characters.
There was one man, Professor Bates – one of the top professors
in the world at that time, in the early 1970s – and he would
come into his lectures like a little pussycat.
And just start putting equations on the board, totally in another
world and obsessed with things.
Kinsey got obsessed with his research. I can see how it could
come about but he was driven by… he hated ignorance in the
world, especially when it came to young people and sexual ignorance.
In the 1930s, it was common to find girls who didn’t know
how babies were born. In the 1940s, there was a famous survey
done of high school boys; 70% didn’t realise a man was necessary
for a baby to come into the world. That’s a staggering ignorance
that Kinsey deplored.
Q: What sort of research did you do on Kinsey? Any archive
material to look at?
A: There is footage. Not a great deal. I knew from these
diseases he had as a young boy – because he was bed-ridden
for months, especially with rickets and what it can do to the
curvature to your spine – so I used that the older he got
to get a bit more stoop-shouldered.
But the one thing I didn’t do was… Kinsey was a more
fleshy individual than I am. My original intention was to make
myself look heavier but when I do that, I just look stronger.
So I did the opposite and dropped quite a bit of weight for someone
my height, just to look at bit more vulnerable and delicate.
Q: What do you think of him as a father and how he treats
A: Well, if the apple doesn’t fall far from the
tree… he was much more like his own father than he would’ve
given himself credit for. I have tapes of his children, who are
now in their Seventies, talking about their upbringings. They
love him very much and they had a very healthy childhood. But
with the son, there was a certain distance between he and his
father, that he doesn’t quite want to go into.
Q: What about his marriage?
A: His marriage was the bedrock of his life, and his
wife’s too. He couldn’t have done that research without
that relationship. Mac to him was like his left arm and vice versa.
Q: It’s taken a long time for the film to reach
the cinemas. How come?
A: I think there were two or three versions of different
scripts going around Hollywood at certain times over the past
20 or 30 years, and no-one was quite able to crack it. Just how
to treat him and that whole subject…
Q: Do you think it’s a pertinent era for a film
like Kinsey to be released?
A: We are living in a neo-conservative time. Sex is a
contentious issue. We have everything from over-population to
sexual abuse to gender equality to HIV/AIDS.
These are sexual issues that are shaping the world. Kinsey was
one of the first to analyze sexual health on a grand scale. There’s
a lot of ignorance about him, so it is timely. Gail, the producer,
spent eight years trying to get the film made. Studios didn’t
want to touch it because it was too contentious. But it is amazing
how human sexuality defines us as a species and is yet still the
least understood aspect of our existence.
Q: What does sex mean to you?
A: What does it mean to me? I believe it defines you.
I guess the older I am, because I’m a father, it is a very,
very special thing. When I was a young boy, I was running around
and trying to kiss girls and stuff… now it’s like
here’s the issue of sex. You can have these incredible children.
I’m not saying all sex leads to kids, of course not. But
it’s something I do not treat lightly. There’s something
very sacred about it, still. But I’m blessed because I’m
in an extraordinary marriage and blessed with these two amazing
Q: Do you believe a man can be monogamous?
A: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You have to work at it. It’s
not easy. But, yeah, I think so…
Q: Did you have any problems
with the scene where you had to kiss Peter Sarsgaard?
A: I had no reservations about that. I just wanted to
get it right. The scene in the film is very delicate and important,
and Bill directed it with incredible sensitivity but I had no
compunction about kissing a guy. I played Oscar Wilde on Broadway
and had a couple of kisses in that – every night, twice
on Wednesdays and Saturdays!
Q: How would you describe Peter?
A: He’s very talented. He has a quality like Dirk
Bogarde, I think. His persona can be menacing but also very sweet.
Q: You’ve also worked with co-star Laura Linney
before, notably in a Broadway version of The Crucible…
A: I do love it. She’s a great performer and a
dear friend – to me and my wife. Doing The Crucible on Broadway,
we just had a really fantastic and open relationship. I liken
it to a dance. We never analyze it. We rarely ever talk about
the scenes that we do. We just leave them alone.
I’m a big believer that if the door doesn’t creek,
don’t oil it. I’d work with her in a heartbeat. She’s
one of America’s great actresses. I can’t think of
anybody else who could play that part.
Certainly, there’s nobody else – apart from my wife
– who I have that relationship with. She’s very, very
giving. I like to think I am too. Rather than taking and stealing
all the time.
Q: Would you like to work with your wife, Natasha Richardson,
A: Hopefully, yeah. We’d like to do something on
stage again. She’s going to do Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on
Broadway next year, and I’m supposed to do Eugene O’Neill’s
play A Touch of the Poet next Fall. Just for a short season. But
we’d love to do something together again.
Q: You were a teacher in the past, briefly. Did that
help you key into Kinsey’s way of thinking?
A: It was one of the keys that opened the little door
with Kinsey… the Kinsey Institute sent me an audio tape
of a lecture he gave about a year before he died, in 1955, and
it’s only 30 minutes long, but you can tell on the tape
that he was speaking to a huge auditorium of people – you
can tell from all the coughs and stuff.
He’s introduced onto the stage and you can hear him fumbling.
I knew he was very ill then, and he starts talking and his voice
is very frail. But once he gets into his subject, the voice gets
stronger and more dynamic. And I thought, ‘That’s
what he is – a teacher. He loves disseminating knowledge.’
And it was quite remarkable. I still have the tape.
Q: Bill Condon hasn’t made that many features.
Plus, you’ve also just worked with the relatively inexperienced
Chris Nolan on Batman Begins.
Are these guys hungrier than other directors?
A: That’s a good description. In Bill’s case,
I’d been a fan since Gods and Monsters. I was on the Deauville
Jury when that came up, and I remember championing it in the jury
room. I thought it was quite extraordinary. It was also made on
a shoe-string in 28-30 days. I thought he was a real fresh new
talent, who can write and direct. There are very few.
I’ve worked with Neil Jordan, who’s wonderful. Chris
Nolan is too. But they do have a freshness that’s kind of
wonderful. I’m not saying other directors are jaded but
they are very talented.
Q: You’ve just worked with Neil again, on Breakfast
A: Yeah, I just finished it about three weeks ago. We
did Michael Collins together nine years ago, and his cinema language
was just phenomenal. The pace he works at is staggering.
Q: You’re also in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom
of Heaven. Do you prefer blockbusters or small films like
A: I’ve had good and bad experiences with big epic
films. Thankfully, most have been good. Certainly, working with
Ridley Scott was a fantastic experience. A great, great director.
It’s going to be a very special film. I can feel it.
It’s about the Crusades – an event that happened after
the Second Crusades, the battle between Islam and the Crusaders.
I play Godfrey of Ibelin, who was a Crusader and a warrior. Orlando
plays my son.
Q: You were going to do Alexander,
weren’t you? Was it the time spent away from your family
that put you off?
A: It was a big decision because it’s an extraordinary
chance to work with Oliver Stone but it did mean being in a desert
for weeks and I knew I’d be doing Ridley’s film –
where the time commitment for me was just five weeks.