To play the role of a morally and ethically challenged Hollywood producer in David Mamet's showbiz satire State and Main, character actor David Paymer had a specific exec in mind. But when asked the identity of said industry big shot, Paymer regrettably takes the high road.
"If I answer this totally honestly, then I no longer work for a certain person," hedges the Oscar- nominated star of Mr. Saturday Night. "But the truth is, it's more of an amalgam of people I have run into — and not just producers."
Still, Paymer concedes that he has yet to encounter anyone as flat-out demonic as his State and Main alter ego Marty Rossen — whose crimes include helping cover up an affair between his film's star (Alec Baldwin) and an underage local (Julia Stiles) and berating his leading lady (Sarah Jessica Parker) for not baring her breasts on camera. "I never really have worked for someone as brutal as Marty is to Sarah," Paymer admits, before adding, "Actually, I have been fired, so I guess they have done the worst to me."
Dredging up such painful memories was a small price to pay to appear in a film by acclaimed playwright Mamet, who wrote and directed State and Main. "You don't get a chance to say these kind of words very often, especially today with the movies that are in the marketplace," says Paymer, who currently can be seen in the Gwyneth Paltrow–Ben Affleck romantic drama Bounce. "[So] to me, this part was a gift. I mean, people come up to me and quote these lines. Usually you get one quote of a line per decade. I think I got four or five of them in this movie alone."
That his character has no soul, well, that's just icing on the cake. "I get cast as the nebbish a lot, so it is kind of nice to be the guy in control or the guy in power," he says. "I think most actors are inherently insecure just because of the nature of the profession and never knowing what's coming next. So, to step in the shoes of the guy whose got the money and the power and makes the calls and bosses actors around is very different for me. It's a lot of fun."