James Cromwell: a bundle of contradictions

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James Cromwell

Actor James Cromwell, whose film credits include ┬┐Babe┬┐ and "Still Mine" takes a few moments for photos outside Streeter Place in Chicago, Friday, July 19, 2013. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

Q: So why take TV jobs?

A; Good question. What do you think?

Q: Money?

A: That's one thing. You know, it's what comes along, what's presented to you. You can turn (TV work) down and wait for a film, but films are getting harder and harder as you get older. There are fewer and fewer parts.

I like to work. And I take care of a lot of people. I want to be able to provide for the obligations that I have and the people I support. Mostly, though, I like to work.

I have a bucket list: I want to do "King Lear" (on stage). Nobody wants to do my "King Lear" because my version is very political and risque. But if this TV series meant that somebody said, "Oh, we can sell this 'King Lear' because he's in this hit television show," well, that would be good. I guess "The Artist" or whatever else I've done have not meant enough. I don't know what the deal is.

When I first started, I played situation comedies. All of Norman Lear's shows. So when my agent would try to get me jobs in film they would say, "No, he does comedy," and she would say, "No! He's classically trained!" I couldn't get to first base.

Then I went to Australia and did a little film about a pig ("Babe"), and nobody cared at all. And then the film came out, everybody loved it. And the one after that, "L.A. Confidential," I played this horrendous cop. Now the studios are confused: What is he? Where do we put him? Is he a bad guy or a good guy?

I'm on a list. Duvall. Used to be Hackman. Peter O'Toole. Donald Sutherland. There's a very nice list of wonderful actors, and I'm right at the bottom — but I'm on the list! So if they're gainfully employed, I get the job. But otherwise, if you're going to make a really big picture, and you have the choice between Robert Duvall and James Cromwell, you're going to chose Robert Duvall. It's a no-brainer for a casting person or a studio. For the most part, and I don't mean to diminish my participation, (my name) doesn't sell as well.

I don't think I have that cache.

Q: I'm sorry, but I totally disagree.

A: Thank you. And I think you're totally full of crap!

"Betrayal" airs 9 p.m. Sundays on ABC beginning Sept. 29. "Still Mine" plays at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema and at the Renaissance Place in Highland Park.

Celluloid cats

What is the Internet, really, but a large-scale ongoing cat film festival? Even before YouTube made cat videos ubiquitous, there were people documenting feline quirks. A number of these short films have been unearthed for the Cat Film Festival (presented by Chicago Filmmakers and South Side Projections), including 1969's "Cat Food," featuring a cat reclining, adorably, and then nibbling on a dead fish as waves crash somewhere nearby. The fest will be held outdoors, the films projected in their original 16mm format. 8 p.m. Friday in the Chicago Filmmakers parking lot and 7 p.m. Saturday at Cafe 53 (1369 E. 53rd St.). Go to chicagofilmmakers.org.

Dumb or funny or both?

Adam Sandler's reputation takes a hit with each derivative comedy he makes, and yet audiences still go to his movies; the widely derided $80 million "Grown Ups 2" broke even last weekend. Bobby Budds takes a look at Sandler's staying power and offers an appreciation of his specific brand of lowbrow comedy with a screening of 1995's "Billy Madison". Midnight Saturday at Facets Cinematheque. Go to facets.org.

Casting news

Former Second City mainstager and "30 Rock" co-star Scott Adsit has been cast opposite Plainfield's Melissa McCarthy in the comedic coming-of-ager "St. Vincent de Van Nuys" (currently filming in Brooklyn), which will feature yet another Chicagoan, Bill Murray, as a grizzled war vet who becomes a mentor to Adsit and McCarthy's son.

nmetz@tribune.com

@NinaMetzNews

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