Veteran comedian Andrew Dice Clay proves he hasn’t lost his edge as he delivers a scene-stealing dramatic turn playing Augie, a divorced working-class dad, in Woody Allen’s new film, Blue Jasmine shot on location in San Francisco and New York City. The drama examines what happens when everything in life falls to pieces and explores the dire consequences that can result when people avert their eyes from reality and the truth they don’t want to see. The strong ensemble cast also includes Cate Blanchett, Alex Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K., and Peter Sarsgaard.
I recently landed an exclusive interview with Clay who talked about his surprising comeback, the emotional moment when he realized Allen had cast him, what appealed to him about the role, what it was like working with the legendary filmmaker, how he geeked out with Allen about jazz and stand-up comedy, and why he’s never stopped believing in himself. He also discussed his upcoming autobiography, The Filthy Truth, which he’s co-writing with David Ritz, his collaboration with Entourage creator Doug Ellin on a documentary about his life and career, and the very real possibility of an Entourage movie. Hit the jump for the interview.
Clay: I wasn’t expecting to have it happen like that, but it’s what I always wanted to do. It was my original aim in show business. I always loved movies and bigger than life characters. My career as a stand-up has been incredible, but for a long time it hindered these kinds of things because of what went on with me in the early 90s. It’s okay. It’s been a roller coaster ride and now I’m getting to play it. I just love the whole art form of acting, of being in front of a camera and playing different things. Not that I would ever say I’m the greatest actor in the world, but I am capable of playing different kinds of roles that emotionally I could get into.
What was it like getting the call that Woody Allen wanted to meet with you?
Clay: Well, that’s the thing. It’s the last call that I would ever expect to get. If I would have gotten a call from let’s say Martin Scorsese… When my manager called me and said it’s Woody Allen, I thought he was teasing me. I love Woody Allen, but I just didn’t think he would ever use me in a film. If he’d said Martin Scorsese, I would be, “Alright, I get it. It’ll probably be a gangster thing.” And I love it. I want to play those roles, but I also like playing the everyday guy which is what I got to play in this. I wasn’t the star of the movie, but yet the part itself has a lot of layers. That’s what I liked about it. If he just gave me three lines, I would have done it, but the fact that it was a full character role in this film, I really enjoyed doing it and getting into it emotionally.
What was your first reaction when you heard you got the part?
Clay: When I heard I did get the part, I was actually alone in my home in Vegas. My wife was out and I was freaking out, because I know I’ve got to tell her first, and then I’ll call my kids. It was emotional for me because both my parents have passed away. It was funny because as big as I got as a stand-up, my parents knew me better than anybody. Years ago, when I’d call my mother and tell her I’m doing this movie or that movie, she’s go, “Well what kind of movie is it?” And I’d go, “It’s a comedy. I’m a comic.” And she’d go, “I know, and you’re fantastic, but you could do so great with drama.” It’s because she knew me. A mother knows her kid. So I know they’re up there looking at me going, “You see? We told you.” And that’s a great feeling.
What appealed to you about your character?
Clay: I related to him in so many ways because I’ve lived all of that. It’s funny because the two women he’s involved with, the wife who’s just no good because you see through the film she’ll just go with another guy, and she’s constantly drinking. And then, this guy getting ripped off, and he’s just broke and down, and he doesn’t have the wife anymore because of how it all fell apart. I went through a lot of this with the recession and my career not being where I wanted it to be at that time. If I would have met with you five years ago, and you would have said, “Where is your career?” like I’ll never lie. I don’t lie. I would say, “You know what? It’s nowhere. I’m out there making a buck wherever I can.” And that’s a hard place to be after I did over 300 arena shows that would sell out in minutes. I did arenas from ’88 to ’95. And then, life derailed. The marriage fell apart, but yet the kids I needed to bring up. I always look at my sons and I go, “I had to wait and bring up my two best friends.” But to me, bringing up my sons, I always tell my kids, “If when I went through the divorce with your mom, if I was just so narcissistic and so into me that I just barreled on about my career and getting movies and television shows…” And then, I take one look and now my two kids are 18 and 22. “If you guys were a mess today, then what did I really accomplish?” To me, bringing up my family is the biggest accomplishment. And then, I was able to move forward with my own personal dream of rebuilding and resurging and coming back to life as a performer and an actor. Through those times, bringing them up, is when I’d go, “What way do I turn? Where am I going to make money?” To go from places like the LA Forum to playing a 200-seat comedy club in Utah, it just plays with your mind, but I’ve always had such a belief in myself.
Doug Ellin, the creator of Entourage, is now doing a documentary movie on me. Doug always looks for the story in something. When we initially met, he said, “The story of Andrew Dice Clay is that this guy has more belief in himself than most people ever have. Everybody says they believe in themselves, that you’ve got to believe, that you’ve got to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But he really does believe that, and because of that, he takes himself there.” Honestly, if I was any different kind of person, anybody else who was in the different situations I was in over the last twelve years would have folded to at least the business, and said, “You know what? I’ll just bang around. I’ll do the clubs. I’m never coming back in any one way, shape or form.” I’d even tell my own children. I’d go, “I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m going to teach you kids by example how you get there.” Even at one point – and I’m not embarrassed to say it because we all go through financial stuff – when my house was nearly foreclosed on, my youngest son, Dylan, went and typed out the speech from the last Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa. In that speech, there’s a line that says, “Life will beat you into the ground and keep you there if you let it.” I’m one of those guys that won’t stay like that. I’ll always push myself because that’s the journey of life. We do go through things. Some of it’s incredibly great and some of it’s really bad. When you’re at your own parents’ funeral, when you’re at somebody that you love’s funeral, you realize how precious life is. And you say, “As long as I can walk and I’m healthy, there’s always tomorrow.”
Comics, a lot of them, are really depressed people, and I happen to be somebody that does have a lot of confidence. That’s the odd thing about my stand-up. I am very confident. I always was. If you look at comics from years ago, guys like Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles, these weren’t great looking guys. They were so insecure, but when they’d get those laughs, they knew they’d meet girls. That was never my case because I was not so into comedy than I was performing. I was a drummer. I loved rock. I loved big band music. I loved everything from Sinatra to Elvis to the Beatles. I didn’t really study comics, but they’re so insecure that the ones I know, when they would talk to me, it was like, “Everything stinks.” And I’d go, “Are you kidding? Look how beautiful it is out. So what if you didn’t get the pilot deal you wanted this year? So what if you didn’t make exactly what you wanted? As long as you can walk the street and you know there’s a tomorrow, there’s always that chance.” That’s how I’ve always been. I’ve always had complete belief that I would make something out of myself again, because to me, it’s always been about accomplishment.
Can you talk about working with a filmmaker like Woody Allen who works very fast? What was that experience like?
Clay: I think a lot of Woody’s directing goes into his casting, the people that he casts. As he’s writing a script, he starts thinking about who could possibly play the role. And once he gives you that role, he knows who he is, so he knows whoever gets that role, if they’re smart, is going to put everything they can into it and really think about it, especially something like this that’s not a comedy. This guy gave me a heavy role to play and I just wanted to do a good job for him. I want him watching me on that set – because it was his idea to bring me in – and I don’t want to disappoint this guy. I have too much respect for him, and he’s too talented of a guy, and I’m not going to be the one in one of his movies that wrecks it. His directing came from him casting me and the things he would say to me on the set, which were pretty unbelievable compliments coming from a guy like him. I knew I was doing the right thing by him and that’s what I cared about. When I hear about things that are being written about me, or in the press conference earlier, when they read some of the quotes [and mentioned the rave reviews that appeared] in different papers and The Rolling Stone, I go, “It wasn’t about that to me.” I haven’t heard any of that. (laughs) I couldn’t even believe it. It took me off guard. I wasn’t expecting it. I just wanted to do a great job. I hadn’t done a movie in twelve years.
Did he do a lot of takes or was he pretty economical?
Clay: Some scenes we did a bunch of takes, then with other scenes, like my end scene with Cate Blanchett, that was a very emotional scene, and I knew what it meant in the movie, so I was gearing myself up for it and thinking about it, and we got it on the first take. Woody came over and said, “Well, we could do one for safety, but that was a brilliant performance.” I said, “Do it anyway, just so I feel good that you have a choice.” You’re so psyched to do it, you just want to keep performing. But I did get it and he used that first take. The other takes I couldn’t go where I went in the one that’s in the movie because it’s so emotional. You don’t want to be yelling at her. You don’t want it to be explosive like that in the street, but you want the audience to feel how deeply hurt you are that you had to leave your family, and you have no money, and her husband stole from my character. You want to tell her off, but I didn’t know her situation with that guy in the street, with Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). It’s just like I’m running into her and I’m going to tell her how I feel and that’s it. It’s just to clear myself.
Other scenes, like when we’re coming down the stairs, when I’ve got my two kids, and the scenes with Sally Hawkins at the beginning, that we did a few times, because it was either a technical thing or you’ve got kids you’re working with and they’re not coming out at the right cue. But a scene like that (with Blanchett), it’s emotional, yet I know it’s going to get explosive. I know what he’s looking for when she just keeps frustrating me in the street and that I’m not going to yell at her. I just think about it all. Woody would come over and give little notes, like “That was really good, but we’re going to do it again.” So I knew he was waiting to see the way he was picturing it on the page. It was great doing it.
Were there any moments during production where you got to geek out with Woody about jazz or stand-up?
Clay: When we were in Long Island, we were shooting a party scene so there was time to hang out. We would talk about jazz. We both play instruments. I’m a drummer. He was interested that I was into the big band era and drummers like Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Stan Getz, and all these different jazz musicians, like Thelonious Monk. We would talk music and talk about also how we both started in comedy and the kind of clubs we would play. He’s actually thinking of doing stand-up again. He’s saying that Mort Sahl inspired him. That’s pretty cool. I’d love to see that. He’s incredibly talented – from comic to filmmaker. He’s unreal.
What do you have coming up next? Are there any roles you’re looking forward to or any scripts you’re currently reading that have got your attention?
Clay: Right now we’re finishing up…David Ritz is doing my autobiography with me, The Filthy Truth, that’s going to come out through Simon & Schuster. It’s coming out in May 2014, so we still have a lot of work on the book. And Doug Ellin is doing a Dice documentary movie because I filmed my life from 1988 until around 2010. I just filmed everything. And so, we’re doing that movie. There’s a lot going on. It’s just a real exciting time again. Plus any concerts. But I love the acting field, so if more movies come, I’ll be thrilled to do them.
Do you think there will be an Entourage movie, and if there is, will you have a role in it?
Clay: Well there’s probably going to be an Entourage movie for sure. It’s written. It’s just gotten the go ahead. I don’t even ask Doug if I’m in it, because he’s doing a project with me. We became friends after Entourage. I don’t know which way he went with the story, so I would never want to back the guy against a wall and go, “I’m in the movie, right?” I’m not going to ask for parts. That’s his baby. So, if he sees me in there, I’ll be in there. If he doesn’t, he’s already…between Doug Allen and Woody Allen, they both gave me such a new life as an actor so I’m appreciative to both of them.
Clay: It’s sort of advice that I’d give anybody. My two sons are also in the business. They both have a band together. A year and a half from now they’ll be stopping traffic. They’re just one of the best out there. My son, Dylan, goes to acting school. My son, Max, is a comic. So when they talk to me about the business, I give them the advice I gave myself throughout my whole life, which is, if you’re willing to take ‘no’ for an answer, you can be in show business, because you’re going to hear it all the time. When you get a ‘yes,’ that’s easy. You got the part. But you have to be willing to accept ‘no’ and it’s not necessarily because you’re not good when you go into an audition. You might not have the color hair or the accent or just a certain look, but yet your acting chops are just what they’re looking for. You’re going to have to accept “no.” If you can do that, you can succeed in show business. I go, “You never really succeed in show business. You survive show business, but it’s the greatest business in the world.” It just is, and I’ve always loved it since I was a kid. And so, you have to be able to accept the word “no” and not walk out. If you do an audition and you get the call where you didn’t get the part, but you know you left everything on the table in there and did a great audition, you go, “Okay. It’s not my talent. They just went another way, another type, another look.” If I wasn’t a comic, I would have wound up a manager. I love talent. I don’t care if you’re a singer, a dancer, an actor, a comic, I can always see when somebody has that “X” factor. I just love talent, so when I get to work with people like Cate and Sally and Peter, I’m like, “I’m working with the best there is.” And that’s what’s so humbling for me in this particular movie. If I couldn’t take “no” for an answer, I would have quit a dozen years ago. But that can never happen. It’s not how I’m made up.