Kevin Kline may have finally found the perfect role.
The star of dozens of comedies and dramas — In and Out, French Kiss, A Fish Called Wanda, The Ice Storm and Grand Canyon to name a few — looks like he is having an absolute blast in The Extra Man, out Friday.
That’s because he is.
The St. Louis native, 62, plays Henry Harrison, an eccentric, sharp-tongued New Yorker who takes in a sexually confused tenant (Little Miss Sunshine‘s Paul Dano) to pay his bills.
As a former bon vivant who now squires elderly women around to society functions as an “extra man”, Henry could use the money. Infested with fleas, Henry can’t even afford socks, so he paints them on with shoe polish.
“The part caught me right away. By page two of the script,” said Kline by phone from his NYC home. “I have an uncle just like this — sort of living in this bubble.”
But Kline’s character is not to be pitied — the crotchety codger is hysterical, uttering wicked one-liners like, “I need codeine, alcohol and civilization!” after an excursion to the Hamptons (the Jonathan Ames book on which the film is based is even funnier).
“I thought this person has such a distinctive, unique voice and such a wild manner of speaking, in full sentences. His peculiarities weren’t typical. He’s a one-off.”
Kline, with his Juilliard training and superior diction, was the man for the job.
“How this person speaks, just how he utters his thoughts — his distinctive tone, with this affected sort of pronouncement — I
found it amusing and unusual.”
Safe to say, old Henry was a favorite on the résumé.
“He’s up there,” he says.
‘‘This is someone I’ve never played before. They just don’t write these characters. It was stimulating and therapeutic to say whatever you think and be totally socially unacceptable.You had this license — anything goes.”
Kline had a way of making the old coot endearing, despite the misanthropic rantings.
“I love him,” he laughs. “Yes, he can be very rude, but what I love most is his spirit, his theatricality and extravagance and
“He insists on being who he is, even though he’s living in the wrong time and the wrong place without the financial means that he’s accustomed to. There’s something sort of heroic about him.”