Danny DeVito Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters | GQ

we all have masks we all try to find the special things inside of us but when you get to sit in a chair like in like in Batman Returns and have some artist like mess you up it’s like really cool it’s like when you know when you put on a costume where you go again Halloween or anything like that it’s kind of you have this freedom the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey’s book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I was fortunate to do the play off Broadway like they did the plane on Broadway years ago and then in 1970 I think they did it in San Francisco we revived it by that time all the everybody was hip to Kesey’s work and they really appreciated the fact that what was going on in the country they weren’t staying in hospitals people were giving them drugs you know outpatient kind of stuff anyway I did the play off Broadway and then in 1974 I did the movie and that was with Mila Forman directing it even though Nicholson and I were born in the same hospital and as in New Jersey in Neptune New Jersey I was I lived in Asbury we’d never met but I used to hear about him all the time when I was a kid his sister and my sister were both in the beauty but there were inherent hairdressers and then one day you know I I saw one of his movies right in the drive-in movie theater and I said this guy ain’t so good you know nobody was any way during Cuckoo’s Nest at 74 is when we first met and that was was it was a fun trip I had a great time too martini martinis whole thing was that he was a pilot in the war and he was shot down and and he was in water and everything was sinking so if you notice in the movie besides being like really very agreeable really good guy and enjoying the company of everybody like always wanted causative that was part of the smile that was going on I also sat on my feet I was on a piece of furniture sitting on a chair on the armed when we playing cards or if I was in the group therapy I always wrapped myself up in my feet because as the tension built that was like part of the idea the water rising when I that kept coming back if I can’t hit you because it ain’t your turn yet I understand you see these other people these are the real these are real people here so that was more TV taxi actually was like a kind of a gift in a way it was 1978 I done Cuckoo’s Nest was in the movie theaters already it was in 75 I think and was really a big hit and you know I was in the is kind of like juncture of like one a direct one of act I couldn’t you know you actors you can’t find it it’s really difficult to find a job basically we’re all looking for work you know that was yes he did everything like to policewoman and I did a Starsky and Hutch I think I did gone south which was a movie that Jack directed casting director seduces once you guys doing this thing that were from The Mary Tyler Moore Show now I not being a television free especially in that era because it was you know how looking for work all the time with acting I didn’t watch all these The Mary Tyler Moore Show in room 222 and whatever they you know Brooks Jim Brooks and Ed Weinberger stand Daniels but it didn’t really resonate with me because I had never watched so casting director says you got it this part is like amazing he should go and I I I said okay and I went in and I read the script it was like a great part really can’t tankers telling people looked at the book don’t put your hands like that perchance down okay telling people what to do you know who is like in that spot we turn take the hat off this kind of stuff you know all that so I figured to get this part I wanted to do something really you know someday would remember me died so I walked in with the script and they were all sitting around and I said one thing I want to know before we start who wrote this and I threw it on a coffee table and there was this moment of Terror where I just walked and then all of a sudden like everybody just laughed their asses off and from that moment on like when when I was in the audience I mean anything I said was they found funny you know like I said and so it was like really a cool way to get apart one time with that backfired on me but that’s a whole of the story there was a guy doing a movie not know what play and I’d seen a play that he directed and I thought the best thing to do it would be to do something crazy to go in I did something really wacky and I didn’t get the part so it doesn’t

always work yes I was great well you know the whole thing about that being a gift I said it before but the idea is that you know we were all out there looking for the thing you know and you can do tons and tons of parts and you can be good you got to be prepared so you go you that’s what you to classes you do everything acting studies all the things that you do in all the little parts then once in a while you get lucky I got really fortunate because at that moment that character came along louise de palma it was like a god it’s your mother calling she says somebody’s trying to break into her apartment now get back to it at that time there were three networks ABC CBS NBC and everybody watched television at that time and I don’t think this matters you understand this but there’s a share of the audience and the share of the audience’s was based with the Nielsen they used to have little boxes on as a percentage of television that share was based on how many TVs were sold and we had a lead in show that came before us called Three’s Company which was very popular was really popular so we were also very lucky to have that lead-in for our for our show our first show and if you can imagine that on a Monday I walk around and everything was like you know normal Tuesday night the 60% of the people that had televisions were watching the show I mean it’s mind-blowing now if you’re like you know why do sunny you know if you get a you a share that’s like it’s like nothing compared to that or any any show there so modernized now there’s so many different places for you to get entertainment that the share was like this little band it was only there were only three walking down the street supermarkets LOUIE LOUIE LOUIE it was so it was just the power of this so we sunny in philadelphia from the very beginning with those guys and Caitlyn with Charlie and Glenn and Rob we hit it off right away they had done eight shows and I watched the shows I’m friends with John Landgraf who runs the affects who we used to be my partner at Jersey television and I saw the show and I thought it was really really terrific and I loved the whole style of it they write all the scripts but we get to screw around you know in between and right from the very beginning and I’m a little older than they are I was the the you know the dad of sweet Dan you know Dennis of course my wife was a war but did that fit in later on but I raised them anyway never never and look at how what upright standing its citizens they are right now because they’ve been you know mentored by Frank anyway from the very beginning with all of them we became like really close and I feel like they’re my family you can’t beat that because when you go to work everyday and you have people who you love and you care about it’s like being on the set with your buddies you know the kind of radical crazy stuff you know where they slimy or they throw me out of when i’m kami black I was a shadow like hiding in a corner you know it was really cool the idea is that you know going into the makeup trailer and getting puffed up like them for max show when he came out you know all that stuff is like I did that stuff obviously like all the parts that I like to play we all have masks you know and I figure that you know with Frank that’s a certain mask like in the movie I’m doing now with the you know in Jumanji it’s a it’s a certain thing all the movies you do but when you get to sit in a chair like in Batman Returns you get to sit in a chair for three hours and have some artists like mess you up it’s like really cool it’s like when you know when you put on a costume where you go again Halloween or anything like that it’s kind of you have this freedom you know that’s really really cool so all the shows that we have done that we’re a little bit out in the stratosphere those are my favorites when I read the scripts and I say wow this is gonna be a fun one you know to do yeah Frank Frank Frank and take your clothes off and come out of a couch yeah yes yeah my rum hand which is very good

by the way if you soak ham and rum it’s very good it’s not good for the pig but it’s rude yeah there are tattoos I’ve seen of people you know what kind of I mean I I i think the trashman is like him I guess rum ham is good too I remembered that day we shot the rum ham was like really great we were in that raft oh man and the ham got out and it was floating away it was like so cool stop being so dramatic man throw on from the train was an ramsey rest of soul she was like the icing on the cake Billy Crystal came to me with stew Silver’s script and he said you know would you like to play Owen and at that time I was just like kind of feeling Mike I wanted to direct so I did I’ve done a couple of taxis I did some short films in this done yeah they I said yeah I’ll play on if you let me direct the movie because I really have a feeling for this and they went for it now we looked everywhere for leg mama I mean I looked you know casting I mean just couldn’t find it and all of a sudden one day and Ramsey who I had worked with on on another movie but had had this like some problems with her physically she had some operations and she had some cancer taken out and when she walked into my office and recognized her I swear to God nobody even give me a big hug and then I want to hold it it’s an it’s like my yeah I had to salt $10 she was talking like this and I said don’t move stay right where you are and I went in Billy Crystal and Larry president’s office and I said you got to come with me mama it’s my office she was so amazing and game-like do anything we did all kinds of green screen and stuff and we owned on the upside down and we had a ball and she was like it was so much fun Billy’s a good really dear friend and and we had we had lots and lots of one give you everything he just gives you you know more and more and more it’s fun that friends who you you know you you love to work with and it’s also you can take a little bit of license and abuse them a little that’s good gets to your friends what are you gonna do I’ve done it Michael Douglas I’ve done it with Jack I’ve done it with him and we’re still friends so it’s cool winds Arnold my man my good man he’s a good friend we had a ball doing that that was out of left field kind of thing the first time I met him I have three children now at two at the time the two girls and I was in New York and I was like you know full of like diaper bags and all kinds of I was getting out of a car I remember it late which I was going to a hotel in New York this was before we did twins right and I was struggling I guess with coming out of the car and I thought it was a doorman helping me and the guys just come on Danny yeah and it was Arnold I though it’s like now he took everything with me then we help the three was cut to the chase somebody called me and said would you like to do a movie with Arlo be his twin now I think that was Ivan Reitman and I said absolutely you know it’s really fun I like contrasts I like you know all kinds of like wacky things and that was beautiful look okay look better let’s put it that way you know you know we have to do tools we gotta work on the way you’re walking a little bit for you little stiff you know you see Frankenstein I read the book that’s not gonna help you see when you walk you gotta walk like you’re moving to music you know I don’t need a military watch I’d be like you know Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding Wilson Pickett a couple of white people he’s

like really you know plays a lot of practical jokes and stuff you know I’m always on a diet I’ve been on a diet since I was 10 and he liked it and he you know what I’m doing the movie he knew I was like trying to lose weight and actually had a big gym and we would go and I do like 15 minutes at level 4 on the cycle thing and he’d do like you know half hour 11:14 you know something and then we’d go to my trailer and we’d have a little light and I’d do the thing like we’re gonna really light lunch of salad and try to like you know really good and then 10 minutes later somebody would walk in with a little all kind of gooey desserts that he is trying to tempt me with and I succumbed as you can tell and returns lovely wonderful it was a great Batman Returns also wonderful to do work with Tim Burton I’ve worked with him four or five times now it’s like really it’s a great relationship but Batman Returns our first it was really terrific his vision is like you know beyond beyond he’s an artist everything in the movie that you see basically was done he he draws everything to a really good artist he draws everything he showed me the penguin boy and then we talked about all kinds of great stuff about the penguin being thrown away by his parents and the whole idea of the basket floating down that when to where the Penguins are to us that was the birth canal and the penguin was actually being born into the world that he wound up living in he’s a bird fly understood and come on dreaming away I had V meal who is a wonderful makeup artist and all the great people who are supporting me in the look of the penguin and also the material was very operatic I like gone big you know Kevin like some wound to move and the penguin Oswald gave me all that I’ve spent three hours in the morning just go I used to watch films in those days before you were born there was a we put the TV on the back and I’d be there’s the mirror and she would be doing my makeup and I would watch TV I would watch movies in the in the mirror so almost all the movies that I’d watch were backwards like people entered from the left or entered from the I always saw him backwards and of course I could never watch films with subtitles let’s old Mattila one of my favorites when my kids were younger and the girls and the boy was we were just starting to read picture books like the crystal on hallsburg and no Jumanji I mean all the picture books and then we started moving into chapter books and they brought me this book that I had never heard of it’s called Matilda by Roald on and so I read the book and it was like mind blowing and I said I’d love to make this into a movie do you make money do you have a job can’t you some good cars dad listen you a little wiseacre I’m smart you’re dumb I’m big you’re little I’m right you’re wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it little dark little twisted you know these these rotten parents have raised this kid it was like really special which we all try to find the special things inside of us and I found that they were already thinking about it they did something was really in the mix and then casting the Trunchbull was like great she was like again the way I look for mama I looked like everywhere and

then one day I got a tape from England from the Midlands and she just nailed it man and nailed a trench war scary really good kids love her I dig it I really like it because I map out everything might do so all my movies that I’ve directed I have already Irene Oh generally kind of sketchy what they’re gonna how they’re gonna be and then I you know insert myself and you live with it so much as a director you know that that’s like a thing that you you’re constantly imagining what the what the thing is gonna be like but it’s it’s a trip I’m it’s really fun are when you have kids the idea is that you want to be on Sesame Street you want to do animated movies you want to see what their reaction is – yeah I loved doing Philip Tottie’s too old to get mixed up in this stuff again but if I don’t become a true hero I’ll never be able to rejoin my father Zeus hold it Zeus is your father right mr. lightning bolts read me a book would you dad dad once upon a time it’s the truth please I did I don’t remember did I say oh my god I felt I must have thought I was in a shower yeah I don’t know how was it oh good what do they what I sing can you do it really come on try what is it over here I’ve been out to pound my own but you need an advisor a state of adviser a good merchandiser knowing I can’t I can’t remember that experience but like I said I really enjoy being thrown into stuff you know so that you know if you’re there and somebody says I probably you know don’t remember but it probably was in the script I just liked it when it when things come out of left field LA Confidential I got beat up I got killed iodine named Russell Crowe beat Academy he’s really bad guy no he’s a good guy this is the thing about working with people who have a vision Curtis Hanson that vision of LA Confidential I remember when I first met with him he had just you know folds folders and folders of still pictures from the era you know exactly like what he wanted the movie to look like and there were characters in it you felt like you know you could emulate you could just get into it’s almost like the Ouija photos of you know the great photographers of the day it really was a pathway into the movie so you get get the you get the texture and the feeling of what what he wanted and it was a lot of fun I mean oh you know what yeah I mean I’m like I don’t know it’s like scrolling around and having a good time pushing the envelope if I can it’s fun to do a comedy it’s good to be serious mix it up for a budgets Lucy’s an actress who she’s in the budgets and she asked me to come and see a play at the ensemble Studio Theatre a few many years ago it was a one-act play I went to see it David Margulis was in it when we came out of the play she said this is a great subject it’s a great relationship is a great par for you you want to so I said you know let’s think about it and talk about it and the the guy Josh cockle who wrote the play we talked to him and we just figured why not let’s have some fun we loved doing it Josh wrote a great screenplay and and David and I played the parts and we just had a good time doing hello dummy you in a wheelchair and a tuxedo it took me two hours to put the on with you in a wheelchair or surgery and he had of the editor let’s not make a big production yeah it’s just three days and my son Jake produced it and I I went and found location was a funny story because I said I found the perfect apartment and the woman is willing to let us use it right and he said where is it and I said where it was and we went over there and all the apartments are the same in the building I picked one on the fourth floor so has

a filmmaking you know what I mean you understand equipment you know what I mean in in New York so you go oh why didn’t you pick the one it’s exact same apartment once I said we were gonna do it there there was no way I could say to the woman you know we’re not gonna use it so I I said that’s so there you go that’s what you do you look these things around don’t they what are you doing then let’s live together Rafi or whatever time we got left marry me why don’t you holy wow it’s legal now why shouldn’t we do knew about this yeah a little has a paddock to munch the next level the idea of me working with Dwayne the rock and all these everybody in it it was it was so I saw the first movie I dug it so much Jake Kasdan who directed it I knew when he was a little kid he’s to come by they hand his dad and his mom and the brother would come by and hang out with the kids they lived at the beach and he said would you do it I said oh my god yeah this is it sounded like you know the cast has so much fun so I want to be part of it and the part is like yeah it’s really a fun part you know I get to head through the hip work you know play old I am old but I mean I get to be on it’s really fun working with Danny Glover’s really it was a exciting thing for me grandpa Anthony this is a Martha and Bethany this is a grandfather meet you morning sort of bargain on you you’re not barred he’s barging my little Walker yeah did you guys see Spencer Vicki went back in we gotta go I had so much fun making the movie again it’s like one of those things with a little family comes together and then you you know you you bust apart but now we’re back together again it’s really fun I just saw the movie a day I loved it and I think he’s a great job really exciting and and 1ups the the other movie which was good but this one here is even better