James Lipton has interviewed a who's who of Hollywood elite since his show's debut in 1994, but Hugh Jackman holds his own among an impressive repertoire of Inside the Actors Studio guests. Returning for his second time, the Best Actor nominee graces Bravo's stage on Wednesday, Feb. 13 (8/7c). Host and executive producer Lipton gives TV Guide Magazine exclusive insight into Jackman's episode and weighs in on the upcoming Academy Awards.
TV Guide Magazine: Inside the Actors Studio is widely popular among home viewers, but the show is intended to be a master class. What can audiences learn from Hugh Jackman?
Lipton: When you see the Hugh Jackman episode, you will understand perfectly what I mean by master class. It's a master class in acting, in singing, in every moment of it. He is highly articulate, needless to say. About four minutes into our show, he's singing. Then he tap dances. He did an Elvis impersonation and sang "Heartbreak Hotel" so damn well. That's four minutes into the show.
TV Guide Magazine: Hugh Jackman was a guest on the show nine years ago. Why did you decide to bring him back for a second round?
Lipton: Hugh Jackman on stage with me for five hours, twice? We've spent ten hours together in front of the world and I just love him. Here he was doing this extraordinary musical and doing it fantastically well. So it was certainly the fact that he was doing a musical and doing it in this revolutionary way — they sang live. Music is a part of my life that is very, very important to me. I've written two Broadway musicals and I've written many songs as a lyricist.
TV Guide Magazine: What sort of insight does the episode reveal about Hugh Jackman's role in Les Misérables?
Lipton: There is nothing that our audience won't know about Les Misérables or about the mysterious craft of translating musicals to film. I wanted all that on our show, and we really dig. Les Misérables is his dream come true. It's a very emotional occasion for him. I don't set out to make anybody cry, but I knew his personal history with his father and his mother and there is an element of Les Misérables that plays right into that. I knew that this affected something in his life and I asked him if there was anything of his father and he said, 'Yes.' He didn't realize it until half way through the movie, but there is so much of his father in [his character] Jean Valjean.
TV Guide Magazine: Even though he is this mega superstar in commercial films, he seems so down to earth. Where does that genuine quality come from?
Lipton: I think that it comes from his heart and soul. He's a nice guy. On the show, there is a one-minute segment on his charity, a coffee and tea company he created. [The company] was inspired by Paul Newman, who was the president of the Actors Studio when we created the show and the school. [Hugh] is such a decent human being and a marvelous actor.
TV Guide Magazine: When you filmed this episode, he had not been nominated for the Oscar yet. Have you since reached to congratulate him?
Lipton: I have not because he has been frantically busy. He has been traveling the world publicizing his movie and then before the Golden Globes, he was very sick with the flu so I thought I'd just leave the poor soul alone. But he knows how I feel. And the show indicates how I feel.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of the Oscars, he's up for Best Actor against Bradley Cooper, your former student. Are you rooting for either one of them?
Lipton: When it comes to that, I've got too much skin in the game. I'm not going to choose between the two of them. I like it best at the Golden Globes where they have drama and on the other side, they have comedy and musicals so they don't have to compete with each other because it is comparing apples and oranges.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you think both Hugh and Bradley are strong contenders for the Academy Award?
Lipton: I think Bradley [Cooper] was brilliant, and what he did was a shock to the public. This is not the person they knew in the films that made him famous. Suddenly, he's a serious actor. His masters' degree thesis for us at the Actors Studio Drama School was The Elephant Man, a very serious play, so I knew what he could do and now the public knows what he can do. As for Hugh, he does something that no one has ever done in a musical before. Nobody. And what Hugh has done is absolutely the best I've ever seen in an American musical film. We all remember Gene Kelly and Singing In The Rain, but what Hugh and the whole cast and director has undertaken, which is to have them sing live, is a shockingly risky way of doing the show. And Hugh sings, dances, acts — this is a guy who literally can do anything. So does he deserve it more than Bradley? Does Bradley deserve it more than he does? Does, for that matter, Daniel Day-Lewis deserve it more than they do? That's something I can't say because I admit to a bias towards both these guys.
TV Guide Magazine: You mentioned Daniel Day-Lewis. He has never been on your show and either has fellow Best Actor nominee, Denzel Washington. Why is that?
Lipton: It's very complicated getting [scheduling] done, and I've never been able to do it either for Daniel Day-Lewis or for Denzel Washington. If you're asking whether I would like them to be on the show, you're damn right I would. I'd love it. Do I hope that they will someday? Of course. When it comes to The Oscars, it is generally conceded by many in the industry that our show is the most reliable forum. Look at the people who have come to our show — Colin Firth, Natalie Portman. Virtually, everybody who was nominated has been on my show. We're besieged at this time of year.
TV Guide Magazine: Another nominated actor who has not been on your show is Jennifer Lawrence. She reportedly denied your invitation, which has made some recent headlines. What happened?
Lipton: Jennifer Lawrence said that loves the show and is not ready for it. I talked to Bravo and said, 'What do you think? She's 22. Should we take a shot at it?' And we all agreed that she was so brilliant in Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley was urging me to do it, saying he would come sit in the front row if we did it with her. I got back to her people and then they said she wasn't available. I perfectly respect her. I mean, she's 22 years old. She's got time.
TV Guide Magazine: You've had Seth MacFarlane as a guest on your show. How do you think he will do as the host of the big night?
Lipton: Stand back, America. I think the man's a genius. Once again, Seth MacFarlane sings, acts, writes, draws. I mean this guy...
TV Guide Magazine: My last question may be too difficult for you to answer, but do you personally have a film favored to win Best Picture this year?
Lipton: I can tell you the ones I think are probably going to win, but do I have a preference? It's impossible, I cannot choose among these people. I mean that stage is crowded with people who have been on Inside The Actor's Studio, so choosing between — I'm incapable of it. It isn't that I'm being cute with you, and I'm not coquetting with you. It's just that I search my soul and say, 'Well, Bradley did this and it was extraordinary, and Hugh did this and it was extraordinary. And Daniel Day-Lewis, who will probably win, has given us a portrait for the ages, and he's very hard to compete against.' But could Daniel Day-Lewis sing Jean Valjean? Not in a million years. Could Bradley? No. Actors have been notorious for this — [Marlon] Brando wouldn't accept his Oscar because he hated being put into competition with people who he respected. And that's the highest respect you can pay to somebody.
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