Alfred Molina: An Appetite for Extremes
Actor Alfred Molina plays Dick Suskind, loyal friend and reluctant co-conspirator to a literary huckster in The Hoax — a new movie based loosely on a true story.
A true story about an untrue story, that is: In the 1970s, Suskind and writer friend Clifford Irving hoaxed the publishing world with an "authorized biography" of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.
As Molina tells Michele Norris, Suskind stuck by Irving (played in the film by Richard Gere) as the scam went south — for the sake of friendship more than anything.
"Essentially that's what bound them together," Molina says. "They respected each other, they loved each other; they were very, very close friends. I think he stayed because he was concerned about his friend."
Molina, in movies from Chocolat and Frida to Spider-Man 2, has drawn attention for playing dark characters, as well as vulnerable ones, and he confesses to "a predilection on my part to go to those edges."
Partly, he says, that's because for an actor, "extremes of human behavior are always the most attractive areas to inhabit. Because that's where all the dramatic juice is to be found. ... People are always sort of apologetic about mentioning the fact that I play a lot of villains, and of course I'm not apologetic about it at all. I love playing villains."
In the end, Molina says, he came to admire hoaxer Clifford Irving, at least in part.
"Not because he broke the law or because he ended up really wrecking other people's lives," he qualifies. But the scandal that ruined his career "started off as an intellectual prank," and like most of us, Molina enjoys it when someone successfully thumbs his nose at the powers that be.
"I think there's always something wonderful about people in high places being slightly ridiculed." Besides, he says, Irving "was a very charismatic figure."
"And he still remains very attractive in that sense. I don't think he was an out-and-out villain."
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