Sally Field recalls being unmercifully screamed at by legendary Actors Studio guru Lee Strasberg, who had a method in that madness. Matthew Broderick tells of being at odds with Harvey Fierstein, replete with a dead-on imitation of the famously sandpaper-voiced playwright-actor. Carol Burnett is prodded to do her Tarzan yodel. Tommy Lee Jones repeats his standard message for all directors: “‘Listen, boss, if you can say it, you’ll see it.’ ”
These are among dozens of lively, touching and informative bits and anecdotes that have been spliced together from 35 interviews from the four-year run of “Inside the Actors Studio” for the special “Inside the Actors Studio: A 50-Year Celebration,” which airs at 6 p.m. Sunday on Bravo.
While the special celebrates its illustrious guests — from actors Paul Newman and Jessica Lange to directors Mark Rydell and Norman Jewison to theatrical giants Steven Sondheim and Neil Simon — it also emphasizes the studio’s roots and its half-century as one of the most prestigious theatrical training institutions in America.
James Lipton, the “Inside” series host, takes the special’s viewer on a structured guide on the series’ regular set — the John L. Tishman Theatre at the New School for Social Research in New York — through sections including craft discussions, humorous moments and his own role as researcher and host.
But 90% of the value of the special is in listening to and watching Hollywood’s leading stars and its great talents reveal techniques and discuss their careers.
Anthony Quinn recalls his reconciliation with his father-in-law, Cecil B. De Mille. Sidney Lumet discusses his technique of concentrating on the actor’s role as intensely as the actor. Sydney Pollack expresses his position that stage and film directing are direct opposites. Nathan Lane explains how humor often comes from rage. Lee Grant recalls being blacklisted in the 1950s. Meg Ryan grins about her soap opera days. Anjelica Huston, who has begun to direct, talks about her admiration for actors.
The special is a smorgasbord of statements and reactions from famous faces who are usually not this relaxed. And it does preserve the show-ending responses to Lipton’s several standard questions, one of which is “What is your favorite curse word?”
“The men were so reticent,” Lipton says, “the women weren’t.” For the celeb scorekeeper, even though the partial bleep for multisyllable words was invoked and that most fondly barked rustic epithet is the root word du jour, Holly Hunter’s and Jessica Lange’s enthusiastic responses require no lip-reader.