Kevin Kline on film

jholmes@bradenton.comApril 8, 2010 

Film festivals bring out the usual things — red carpets, dressed-to-impress celebrities, flickering cameras held by determined paparazzi and, of course, film fans.

Academy Award and Tony Award-winning actor Kevin Kline knows the drill. Though he hasn’t been one to frequent the film festival circuit during his multifaceted career, he’s appeared at all the important ones: Cannes, Sundance, the New York Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival — and now the Sarasota Film Festival.

Kline is bringing his comedy, “The Extra Man,” which will be presented as the opening night film at the Van Wezel Performing Arts at 7 p.m. Friday.

He hopes to squeeze in a little R&R, too, while on the Suncoast.

“If I get an hour or two to myself, I plan to have a very brief holiday of sorts,” Kline said during a recent phone interview.

But he knows he’ll be busy promoting his film, which just last week was picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. The company plans to release “The Extra Man” in theaters in July.

Kline is known for playing a range of roles from William Shakespeare’s greatest characters to United States presidents.

Kline said his role in “The Extra Man,” though, is considered to be one of his funniest next to his Oscar-winning role as Otto in 1988’s “A Fish Called Wanda.”

“It’s certainly the best comic comedy role that I’ve read,” said Kline, 62. “It’s somewhat of an outrageous character.”

The film, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, has Kline as Henry Harrison — a man of peculiar tastes who seems to have no steady job when Louis Ives, an aspiring writer, meets him. Louis, portrayed by Paul Dano, is on a mission to turn his life around.

He moves to New York and rents a room from the eccentric Henry.

Louis discovers his new roommate is an “extra man,” or more specifically, a social companion for rich elderly women.

Henry shows Louis the ropes of mingling with high society as the pair form an unique and unexpected friendship.

“Henry is as large as life gets,” Kline said of what attracted him to the role. “He has a grandiose self image that he has kind of earned in a way. He has an outrageous sense of life — an outrageous sense of his own value — and tremendous wit. He says funny things and takes pride in his locution. He says things we sort of wish we’d said after we left the party.”

Essentially, that’s how Henry survives, Kline said.

He gets by with his wit, living “parasitically” off wealthy high-brow New York widows.

When asked how he prepared for such a role, Kline said jokingly: “Just live, you know. I live in New York City. I think I’ve seen some of these people.”

“The Extra Man” also stars Katie Holmes, who plays Louis’ love interest. Kline didn’t have any scenes with her on the project but enjoyed working alongside Dano.

The pair worked together before in the 2002 film “The Emperors Club.” Dano was 16 years old at the time, portraying one of the students in that film. Kline played a teacher.

Kline said that ironically, his character in “The Extra Man” serves as a teacher/mentor of sorts to Dano’s character.

As for Kline’s next project, he may star in a play and direct another but things aren’t definite yet, he said.

In the meantime, he’s been reading scripts and making tentative plans, as actors often do.

Part of those plans include this short-term goal: “To survive the Sarasota Film Festival unscathed,” Kline said jokingly.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057. Follow her on Twitter at @accentbradenton.

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