Category: Archive

For Leary, it’s Diego to the ‘Rescue’

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“Things are going good. We’re getting ready to go back in and start writing Season 6. We just have to make up our minds about whether it’s going to be the end or if we keep going,” the 51-year-old Worcester, Mass. native told reporters in Manhattan recently.
“You don’t want to overstay your welcome, but you don’t want to kill it before it’s time to go,” said Leary. “I’m a firm believer that [movies and TV shows] should be over before you want them to be over.”
As much as he enjoys playing Tommy Gavin on “Rescue Me,” Leary revealed he has pleaded with the show’s creative team for a while to kill off his hard-dinking, womanizing alter-ego.
“I’ve been pitching Tommy dying for three years because I just think it would be so outrageous as a plot twist that the main character dies,” explained the multi-talented son of Irish Catholic immigrants. “What better show to do it? It doesn’t mean he’s gone, he comes back as a ghost. The first time I brought that up . . . they probably called Willem Dafoe to find out if he was available.”
Going from “Rescue Me” where he has so many responsibilities to his new film, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” where he just lends his distinctive voice to the character of Diego, the saber-toothed tiger, is a welcome change of pace, the actor confided. Although the “Ice Age” flicks also feature the voice talents of Ray Romano as Manny the mammoth and John Leguizamo as Sid the sloth, the three comedians tape their lines separately.
“[Leguizamo] is the one who gets to improvise his way around the first draft of the script because he’s the main guy. We’re just his straight men,” Leary said, referring to himself and Romano. “It really is always to me more about what John has done to the script because he is like the Robin Williams of ‘Ice Age.’ . . . He’s always the set-up man for the rest of whatever the story is. I’ve got to say, three movies in, he’s still unbelievably funny. The kids flip out for that character. The rest of us are just window dressing. Most of my stuff is just reacting. I’m sure Ray would have the same answer.”
Asked if he even has to think about whether to participate in another installment of the “Ice Age” film franchise when he gets the call that a sequel has been greenlit, Leary replied: “I think it’s an automatic ‘yes’ because they are so successful, but, also, we’re under contract, so, even if they [weren’t good], we’d still have to do them. But it’s not a hard thing to say ‘yes.'”
The married father of teen-age children said his younger nieces and nephews know him only as the “saber-toothed tiger guy,” not as a stand-up comedian, an author, or the star of the film classics “The Ref,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Wag the Dog” and “The Matchmaker.”
“I’m their favorite character; I’m their favorite uncle,” he laughed. “This is all built on ‘Ice Age,’ by the way. It has nothing to do with my actual talents or abilities as a human being. It’s all the fact that I’m a character they usually get free toys of and they can go to school and say, ‘My uncle is the saber-toothed tiger.'”
Accustomed to working in ensembles for many of his TV and movie projects, Leary said he doesn’t mind recording his lines alone in the studio for the “Ice Age” movies because he doesn’t have to collaborate directly with other actors, who can occasionally be prima donnas.
“I like acting, but it’s no secret that actors, myself probably included, can be a real pain . . . in terms of motivation and ‘My trailer’s not big enough’ and ‘Why does he get to have this?’ ‘And how many close-ups do I get?’ It’s all stuff you’ve heard about because it’s all true,” he said. “So, it’s really nice to just go into a room in pair of shorts and flip-flops on and no makeup and just the technical guy telling you, ‘Louder, less this, more this . . .’ There’s no trailers, there’s ostensibly, no other actors because you’re the only one there. It’s kind of nice.”
“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” opens nationwide July 1.

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