|From his frequent collaborations with director Hal Hartley
(Simple Men) and other indie successes (High Art, I
Shot Andy Warhol) to edgy studio fare (American Psycho,
Boiler Room), actor Bill Sage has built an impeccable
body of work by seeking challenge over commerce.
With a slate of new films horizon and an intense, raw and
funny performance in the new Texas beat cop character study EvenHand,
the Staten Island born actor appears on the verge of expanding
his reputation beyond the art houses of the New York City.
Directed by fellow New Yorker Joseph Pierson and shot in San
Antonio, EvenHand traces the mundane and extraordinary
events that comprise a year in the lives of a pair of South
Texas cops (Sage’s Officer Ted Morning and Bill Dawes’
Officer Rob Francis).
A graduate of the State University of New York (SUNY) who got
his break when friend and SUNY alumn Edie Falco took him to the
set of Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth, Sage had to
look no further than his own family to crawl into the alpha-male
mindset of a police officer.
“I have a father who spent 34 years in the military and my
uncle was career law enforcement,” Sage said. “I get along
great with my father, though I differ politically on his views,
and I respect what he has to say. But I think there’s a
mentality I noticed with my dad and my uncle in the way they
view the world. They are good people, they’re good, good guys,
but there’s a self-righteousness about them and I tried to
bring that to the role.”
While his family served as inspiration and a role as a police
officer partnered with John C. Reilly in 1996’s Boys
helped as well, it was during a series of pre-production ride-alongs
with San Antonio police officer Richard Hodge that Sage truly
discovered the character of Officer Morning, a well-meaning but
rage-filled man who yearns to connect with people but isn’t
equipped with the ability to do so.
“As an actor I love research and I became good friend with
Richard Hodge. He’s the real deal. He’s not a cop like
Morning, he's a really good cop, but the cadence in which he
spoke, the way he moved, were the same,” Sage said.
While the extreme antics of Sage’s Officer Morning clash with
and the by-the-book friendliness of his recently transferred
partner (Francis’ Officer Dawes), so do the film’s dueling
tones of comedy and tragedy.
“I think with Bill Dawes it was a relationship that worked
from the very beginning. He’s a smart actor. There was a
camaraderie with Bill, we worked out an awful lot together
because these guys were really fucking buff and it was in the
script that they took care of themselves,” Sage said.
“What’s great about (the San Antonio cops) is that they
play to each other, they try to make each other laugh. It’s
all done for their partner’s sake. They’re like a bunch of
little boys on a certain level. They’re like a high school
homeroom and part of the reason why is the reality that they
have a job that’s really dangerous. There was a cop shot when
we got to San Antonio and there was a cop shot when we left, and
how they deflect that fear is what was of interest of me.”
As EvenHand and Sage’s dynamic performance make the
festival rounds in search of theatrical distribution, the actor
has already finished Salma Hayek’s directorial debut Maldanado
Miracle and the Gary Oldman/Ving Rhames New York revenge
drama Sin and is preparing to shoot Mary Harron’s The
Battle of Betty Page and another Hartley film co-starring
Chloe Sevigny, Jaime “Billy Elliot” Bell and Saffron
"My character is a hard-boiled detective type of guy who is
a revolutionary," Sage said of his most recent teaming with
Hartley. "He narrates the movie as it's going along and a
little bit of that is a dime-store detective novel sort of
thing. I think it’s very timely."
originally published on 04/17/03 19:50:31.