Denis Leary on 'Rescue Me,' Oscars and Lindsay Lohan
By Mike Hess Posted Jun 28th 2010 10:10AM
So, last season ended with the "is Tommy dead" cliffhanger. Obviously he's not, but when you're mapping out a season, do you look for that intriguing close?
Yeah, because unfortunately in television, it sometimes becomes necessary for the audience to have something to hang on to. But I also like it as a storytelling device, because like a good book, it ends a chapter making you wonder what happens next. The thing I'm happiest about is we've already finished season six and season seven at the same time, so about a year from now is going to be the last season. We worked our asses off. And I'll tell you this: A second before the credits roll on the final episode, there's a sudden dark and funny twist which is the end of the whole series. It's not going to be like 'The Sopranos.' We enjoyed what we came up with.
Are you concerned that, like with any series finale, people will be unhappy or feel ripped off?
You can never make everybody happy. I'm sure part of the audience will love it and part will hate it, but with that in mind, that's good because if they all love it, we watered it down.
The show is constantly snubbed from Emmy wins. When will the dam break?
Oh, I don't know. We're one for eight. Michael J. Fox won one for his guest spot. We've been on eight years and been nominated eight times, but I want to set the record of going winless in the acting category. I want to be zero for 12 -- they'll remember it forever. You win one and nobody cares. Lose 12 -- that's history.
You mentioned Michael J. Fox's guest role. The show has had a ridiculous amount of stellar guest stars. Do you have a favorite?
Michael was fantastic. Susan Sarandon was just amazing. I was always astounded that friends of mine were calling asking to be on the show. The most fun was Mike because we've never worked on screen before, but I can say the same about Susan and Marisa Tomei.
The obvious ending for the show is a big fire where everyone dies. Are you already thinking of ways to not have it shake out that way?
We didn't shy away from that idea just because it's part and parcel of what these guys do, and we've never really done that. The fires are always based on firefighters telling us stories about real fires. I'm trying to find fires that viewers haven't seen.
All I can say about season seven is there's a couple of big fires, which are really interesting. A lot of it is trying to get the actors doing real work with real fires in situations where the stuntmen weren't involved. There were some fires and we had a blast. It adds an authenticity when it's the actual actors surrounded by fire. Whenever you can get the audience convinced ... there's no way around it. The people at home are so savvy, they'll know when we CGI and if it's stuntmen. If you can keep a camera pointed at your actors, the audience subconsciously is on the edge of their seat because they're not getting tricked. Even if you don't know it yet while you're watching it.
'Rescue Me' has also had some remarkably funny moments. Do any stand out as tops for you?
In the upcoming season there's stuff that makes me die laughing. It would be impossible to pick. I'd have to say when Stephen Pasquale was on the Ambien in the supermarket, that s*** was so damn funny. I wrote that scene and it was based on a fireman who took Ambien and did exactly that. They got a call and left without him and he walked to the store, and I just wrote that and wrote a general idea and said to Stephen, "Here's the premise." The real fireman bought a few things and said something insulting to a fat lady, and that's all I told Stephen. When it came time to do it, he said, "Just give me a steadicam and have the guys follow me." What he did is what you see on television. We almost ruined the take because we were laughing so hard.
Given the comedic talent on the show, are you laughing half the time you're on set?
Even on camera, everyone would agree that there is no question John Scurti and Stephen Pasquale ... Every piece of work you give them, they make it better. A lot of times, we'll go into it saying, "Here's the idea, and Scurti, this is what we need Lou to do and this is what we need Garrity to do." And they just go and make it better.
On the comedy front ... is there any harder job than doing stand-up comedy?
The truth is, comedy is an innate talent and can't be taught and involves a natural rhythm and instinct. For an actor, it's the ultimate method technique because while you're improvising, it can't sound false. Some actors have that ability and some don't. Some great dramatic actors can do comedy, and vice versa, but comedy can't be taught. There's nothing worse than watching an actor who can't do comedy.
Here's the dichotomy: Marlon Brando, who was a legendary actor, wasn't that funny. DeNiro, his characters were always funny. Travis Bickle was funny ... even in 'Casino.' He's always been funny. He's been known for his dramatic work. We got so lucky to have a guy like John Scurti.
Take Ben Stiller. How do you take a movie like 'Tropic Thunder' and what he got out of the people he cast. Ben Stiller deserves an honorary comedy Oscar. I should create the Comedy Oscars. Guys like Ben, Judd Apatow ... they don't get any awards. I'm taking this interview to announce the Comedy Oscars. We'll get Comedy Central to do it and give out awards. I think I'm doing it. You've got the exclusive.
Sweet. On a final comedic note, is there something that's just always funny?
Yeah, people falling down. People getting hit in the b***s. Lindsay Lohan cracks me up. She's just fantastically talented when it comes to comedy. Sarah Palin makes me laugh. These are my comic heroes.
- Jennifer Aniston
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