Les Sellars and Keir Dullea.
Photo by Michael Brosilow
At 76, Keir Dullea isn't interested in slowing down. The veteran actor is making his Guthrie debut this week in Tales From Hollywood, the first show in the theater's Christopher Hampton celebration.
"I'm having a ball in every way," says Dullea before rehearsal. "I got my Equity card in 1957, and I don't remember being treated as well at any theater, ever."
In the more than half a century since getting his union card, Dullea has made numerous trips to the stage, film, and television. He is best known for iconic roles in David and Lisa and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but his career stretches to Broadway, off-Broadway, and beyond.
Tales From Hollywood -- which premiered in Los Angeles 30 years ago and has been little seen since -- explores the diaspora of German artists during the run up of World War II to the very different environment of Hollywood.
"It blew me away when I read it," Dullea says. His character is Heinrich Mann, the older brother of Thomas Mann and -- at the time -- the better-known writer in Germany. His character "came out against Hitler much earlier than Thomas. His books were at the top of the list when the Nazis had book burnings."
While based on an actual person, Dullea isn't trying to recreate the historical Heinrich Mann. For any character, "you use aspects of your own self. You isolate the parts of your own persona that fit and leave the other things out," he says.
The company, made up of a mix of national and regional actors, has worked with director Ethan McSweeny to bring the kaleidoscope of characters and situations to life -- including the deploying of accents. It ended up being more complex than first thought.
"The only time we use a German accent is when we are talking to Americans. When we talk to each other, we speak with our normal accents," Dullea says. "It took an adjustment, because the accent infuses the character. Now that we've all adjusted, it is working well, and we don't have the crutch of an accent."
Working in the show has been "the kind of thing that made you become an actor in the first place. When you get older, the roles aren't quite as plentiful. The leading roles in plays and films tend to be for young people. That's fine by me. There are fewer lines to learn and more time to spend on character," Dullea says.
As a film actor, his most recognizable role was as David Bowman, the astronaut who bests HAL and then takes a trip down a stargate to complete human kind's journey to the stars in 2001 (and again in the lesser regarded 2010).
"It has become an iconic film," Dullea says. "I do a lot of science fiction autograph shows, and I am amazed by the cross-generational aspect of this. There are people who weren't even born when it came out who come up to me."
Working with Stanley Kubrick was also a thrill. "It was a subtle challenge. He didn't want us to be typical goateed scientists or a Flash Gordon type. It was a challenge to be real and believable as that character," Dullea says.
Though making films has been a great experience, Dullea feels most comfortable onstage. "It is a greater challenge. I'm not a snob about film acting, but there is a constant challenge to get it right... The live audience is different every night. And it's a real challenge to make it as real for the person in the front and then project to the person in the last row. All of those things make it a greater challenge," he says.
IF YOU GO:
Tales From Hollywood
Through Oct. 27
818 S. Second St., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online