William H. Macy

William H. Macy's 'Gotta See' Movies Share an Inexplicable Magic

When William H. Macy talks about movies, it’s with the authority of an acclaimed actor who’s been in many beloved films and TV shows.

But not even Macy can explain why his “gotta see” films — “Chicago,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” — turned out so great.

“There is a touch of magic that happens when a film goes from really good to great,” he says. “I don’t know what it is. If I did, I’d be a lot richer and a lot more famous. They’re films that worked. It’s easy to deconstruct them and figure out why they worked, but it’s a small target, man.”

Macy marvels at how the two Broadway hits, “Chicago” and David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” were translated to the screen. “Dave Mamet is not easy. His dialogue is complex. It’s musical. It’s hard as hell to memorize. It literally feels good to say some of those speeches. It just feels good coming out of your mouth. They’re that clever.”

Of “Chicago,” he says, “It’s a great musical, great music, great story.” But he adds “Filming musicals has been fractious. It works sometimes, but (stage and screen) are two different animals. I thought ‘Chicago’ was just wonderfully done.”

David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” is a World War II picture, but Macy admires its relative lack of violence. Paradoxically, he’s always wanted to make a war film, but violence onscreen repulses him.

“You kill someone; that’s dramatic. You kill 40 people, and that’s just pornography. It doesn’t mean anything. One person means something. That’s why I like ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai.’”

To watch Macy’s “gotta see” films, “Chicago,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai,”* and other movies like these, start your Tribeca Shortlist free, seven-day trial here.

*Titles subject to availability

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