the graduate directed and adapted by Terry Johnson, from the novel by Charles Webb, with a screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, with Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs and Alicia Silverstone. Presented by John Reid and Sacha Brooks with StudioCanal at the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). Runs to February 17, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday and January 24 at 2 pm, January 27 at 1 and 6:30 pm. $30-$93. 416-872-1212.
baltimore -- what is it about jason
Biggs and sex?He is, after all, the actor who's best known for shtupping a baked good.
That career-making scene came in his breakthrough film, 1999's American Pie. In last summer's sequel, his randy character's ever-curious cock got Crazy-Glued to his hand. Ouch.
And now he's mounting the boards -- and Kathleen Turner's Mrs. Robinson -- in the stage version of The Graduate, where he plays the aimless and horny Benjamin Braddock, the role that made Dustin Hoffman a star.
You can tell a lot about a straight guy's psychosexual makeup by which woman in the film of The Graduate he's attracted to -- Anne Bancroft or Katharine Ross.
Biggs is turned on by both.
"Anne Bancroft is so sexy," he says, in that horny-boy-next-door way that's become his signature style. "And Katharine Ross is so damned cute.
"Gee, does that makes me a slut?"
No, Jason, it makes you a diplomat.
We're sitting in the empty lobby of Baltimore's Mechanic Theatre, where in about eight hours Biggs, Turner and Alicia (Clueless) Silverstone make their first American appearance in the show. After Baltimore, it travels to Toronto (where it's completely sold out), then Boston, climaxing with a Broadway run starting in early April.
Biggs is pumped. For someone who hasn't appeared on a stage in 10 years (at 13, playing opposite Judd Hirsch in Herb Gardner's Conversations With My Father, he earned a rave from the Times's Frank Rich), he's totally relaxed.
Sure, this is only Baltimore, not exactly a theatre capital. The stakes aren't high -- only the crime rate. Even the marquee outside the theatre looks vandalized. It reads: THE GRADUATE, JANUARY 10 -- 2, the second zero having dropped off somehow, never to be replaced.
"I hope I'm not coming across as cocky or overconfident," says Biggs inside. He's testing me. Unfailingly polite, he asks how I am, makes sure he doesn't dis anyone he's worked with, excuses himself when he chomps down on his bagel with cream cheese.
Not for him the monosyllabic you-figure-it-out groans of a Leonardo or a Jared.
Fact is, he's never had the insurance of pretty-boy looks. And he's smart enough to know that the teen sex comedy trough has dried up and he'd better look elsewhere for more sustenance.
"I'm proud of all the films I've made," he says. "I have no regrets."
Hmm... Saving Silverman?
"I got to work with Steve Zahn and Jack Black, two brilliant comedic actors."
"It gave me the chance to work with director Amy Heckerling."
...Boys And Girls?
"Uh, that's a tough one."
Taking time off to do a Broadway play, especially a piece with the pedigree of The Graduate, could turn out to be a smart career move (see sidebar), enabling him to graduate to more mature film roles later on. Or, if it backfires, it could place him in limbo -- too old to play teens, too lightweight to play adults. He knows this.
"Sure, I'm thinking about longevity," says Biggs, who admires the career of John Cusack, who made the move from teen to adult film actor smoothly. "I know the choices I make now could set me up for a long career. If," he pauses, "I'm lucky enough.
"But it's ultimately about the material. This is a great role. The character is complex, with all these levels. He's totally messed up, borders on unlikeable. And yet, how can you have an unlikeable character at the centre of your story?"
Hoffman succeeded, in his mumbling, ironic fashion. Biggs doesn't do irony well. He's OK with sarcasm, but he's fated to be sincere, open and likeable. Less counterculture, more counter help at the Gap.
"Dustin Hoffman was brilliant," admits Biggs. "His performance in that role was one of the best ever. But I'm confident that once people see me, they'll allow me to give another interpretation."
A lot of attention has centred on Turner's two nude scenes, one of which is full-on full frontal.
"Kathleen's been great about making everyone feel welcome and comfortable. We talked about those scenes even before rehearsals. She wanted to make sure I was OK.
"But as everyone knows, I'm someone who'll do just about anything if it's appropriate. Hump a pie. Glue my penis."
Later that night, at the performance, Biggs earns lots of laughs; the physical comedy skills he's honed in filmmaking are paying off. His deadpan reaction to the classic "One word... plastic" line is priceless.
In the audience are plenty of middle-aged couples who probably saw the film together. They've brought along their cellphone-toting daughters, who are more familiar with the Biggs and Silverstone oeuvres.
Even more than in the film, it's clear that The Graduate -- which is still set in the 60s -- is Benjamin's story. Biggs doesn't falter, and occasionally shows glimpses of the kind of performer he could become with time and luck, a good light comedian, pleasant and unthreatening, like Matthew Broderick.
After a group bow, the top-billed Turner, smouldering and spectacular, strides out and the audience roars. But then the two kids walk out hand in hand, and the response, remarkably, is even bigger.
Goodbye pie, hello firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Biggs isn't the only Hollywood star who's pulled out of the fast track to do theatre. Here's a list of others who've tried, and how it's affected their careers.
NICOLE KIDMAN -- The Blue Room (1998 to 1999). Kidman's high-profile turn (in London and New York) in David Hare's La Ronde-like play made headlines, especially with its nude scene. At the same time, it deepened her rep as a serious actor and paved the way for big film roles like this year's Moulin Rouge! and The Others.
KEANU REEVES -- Hamlet (1995). After the excellent adventures of his earlier films like My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Speed (1994), Reeves's misguided tackling of the biggest male stage role was no walk in the clouds. It took him until The Matrix (1999) to fully recover.
GLENN CLOSE -- Death And The Maiden (1992), Sunset Boulevard (1994 to 1995). After her series of Oscar-nominated performances (Fatal Attraction, 1987; Dangerous Liaisons, 1988; Reversal Of Fortune, 1990), Close's decision to perform in Ariel Dorfman's political play irreparably affected her film career. Her next hit was 1997's Air Force One. Sunset Boulevard earned her a Tony, but the only sizable role she's had since has been the very Norma Desmondish Cruella De Vil. Was it worth it?
MADONNA -- Speed The Plow (1988). OK, she was never a movie star, but for a brief moment the material girl won some theatre cred thanks to David Mamet's rapid-fire play.
ALEC BALDWIN -- A Streetcar Named Desire (1995). A respected thesp before he got to Hollywood, Baldwin's turn as Stanley Kowalski earned absolute raves, upstaging his Blanche, Jessica Lange. But after a string of OK leads (Prelude To A Kiss, 1992; Malice, 1993; The Getaway, 1994), he never recaptured the glory, unless you count his voice work in Thomas The Tank Engine (1998).