Bruce Davison has quite a list of professional accomplishments to his name, ranging from guest starring on shows such as Designing Women to blockbuster movie roles like Senator Kelly in X-Men and X2. Mr. Davison graciously took the time to sit down with one of our Daily Dragon reporters.
Daily Dragon (DD): How did you get started as an actor?
Bruce Davison (BD): Well, [as a child] I used to play “Flash Gordon” but I didn’t know it was gonna go anywhere. The Catholic kids were the clay people who used to beat us up on the way home from school. We were always trying to get a new Dale Arden to bend to our will. But I got involved in college and was an art major when I was at Penn State when I auditioned for a play and didn’t get it. I got the bug and ended up being swept away.
DD: What aspect of acting do you feel the most passionate about?
BD: Per diem. Lately [I’m passionate about] the money, because that’s the one thing that’s missing in all the arts right now. It’s the part that’s gone and it’s a crass, philistine answer. I love doing stuff and doing everything, the theater, the passion of it, but I think a more reasonable answer would be when everything gets big it’s not fun anymore and everything’s gotten big, with Fast and Furious and blowing things up and that’s it.
DD: Do you think acting has changed? Do you think the atmosphere of acting has changed?
BD: Well, very much so. The atmosphere has to do with that there’s no real way for a middle class actor to make a living anymore. Supporting actors are pretty well cut out of the loop. There was a time when a person would build up a reputation and be paid his quota and now that’s all gone. Everybody’s working for scale; there are only poor and rich [actors] in the business. A few rich as the actors go, possibly a few series regulars and everybody thinks that’s who it is but everybody else is poor and everybody else is making scale or no money. An example would be top of the show … oftentimes for a guest star would be $25 grand and you’d get that again in residuals and you could do two or three of those a year and make a pretty good living. Now those shows are six grand with no residuals. So people are losing their homes and houses. That’s the nature of the business now.
DD: That’s the nature of the economy now.
BD: And even more so in our business. People keep saying, “You immoral, rich [expletive deleted]s are ruining the world.” Guess what, we are the world.
DD: You have been a part of arguably the two most poignant and honest movies dealing with the AIDS epidemic, with Longtime Companion and It’s My Party. What compelled you to want to be a part of these movies?
BD: Well, I was in New York and I knew (Longtime Companion director) Norman Rene and (Longtime Companion writer) Craig Lucas through my ex-wife at the time who’d done Blue Window with them and it (Longtime Companion) was an American Playhouse production. It was just one of those scripts that you read and had to do it. That’s just it. As far as It’s My Party goes, it was a personal story that was written by a friend of mine who is actually my son’s godfather, Randal Kleiser, and it’s the most personal story ever. My (ex) wife and I were in Hawaii and Randall was telling me about this [person] Harry, who Eric Roberts plays, we were part of his family, too. He knew him quite well and, as a matter of fact, Randal called me up drunk from the party, crying and weeping. So it’s obviously a personal story that we helped our friend tell.
DD: Is there any kind of role that you haven’t played that you want to play?
BD: I’d like to play a silent cowboy on a horse with a lot of per diem. [Laughs] Not a lot of lines but still live out some of those childhood fantasies.
DD: How do you see the role of actors in society as a whole?
BD: Just a voice that isn’t necessarily smarter than anybody else in society. I’ll just leave you with this [quote from Arthur Miller], because I quote this a lot. ‘There is a certain immortality involved in the theater that comes not with the awards or the products but with the knowledge that, on a certain afternoon, an actor casts the shadow of a being that was not himself but a distillation of everything he had ever thought or felt. All the unsingable heart song that the ordinary man may feel but never utter, he gives voice to and, in so doing, somehow joins the ages.” [sic]*
* The original quote reads:
“There’s a certain immortality involved in theatre not created by monuments and books, but through the knowledge the actor keeps to his dying day, that on a certain afternoon in an empty and dusty theatre, he cast the shadow of a being that was not himself but the distillation of all he had ever observed. All the unsingable heart songs that the ordinary man may feel, but never utter, he gave voice to and by that, he somehow joined the ages.” –Arthur Miller