Got a room that needs painting? Call Eddie Redmayne. He currently stars in the two-man Broadway play "Red" at the Golden Theatre, and one of its most riveting moments is when he and Alfred Molina prime a canvas with blood-red paint. Molina, as the legendary abstract artist Mark Rothko, and Redmayne, his harried apprentice, start on opposite sides of a huge canvas, slapping on paint like it's some raucous athletic event, taking huge brushstrokes, back, forth, back, forth, making a mad dash to see who can cover it with red first. They wind up beat, spattered with paint . . . and now, each nominated for Tony awards (Molina for best actor in a drama; Redmayne for featured actor).
Redmayne, 28, won an Olivier Award when he played the role in London. His movie credits include playing Angelina Jolie's son in "The Good Shepherd" - he credits his big lips for getting him the gig - and Julianne Moore's son in the creepily incestuous "Savage Grace." Throw in a Burberry ad campaign for good measure.
Redmayne grabbed coffee in the East Village with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio to discuss art, bomb scares and nasty-sounding English cuisine.
That scene where you prime the canvas stopped the show opening night. Everybody applauded.
We started rehearsing that from day one - and it was disastrous. The director would have to resurrect us out of this suicidal depression. [He laughs.] "We cahhhn't do it!" It looked so bad - streaky, messy. It's harder than it looks.
But you finally got it down.
It's something we love - getting our hands dirty with pigment, hammering the frames. . . . It's a wonderful sense of "not acting."
Because you're actually . . . doing stuff?
Yes. And it's just the two of us onstage. So part of our process is learning that studio, so if stuff does go wrong - like one night I tripped carrying a bucket, and paint went all over. But I know where the towels and mops are onstage. Another day a light shattered . I took out a dustpan and brush but there were shards of glass everywhere.
How do you like New York?
Love it, man. I'm having the time of my life.
Aside from yahoos with bombs. The bomb scare was near your theater, right?
What's incredibly weird - my brother got married in Scotland that weekend. So I was on a dance floor in the Scottish Highlands at 5 in the morning.
That's right - you Europeans party till all hours at weddings.
We do. [He smiles.] And suddenly I start getting text messages, "I hope you're safe, mate." And I'm like, what? And then I look up on the Internet and see that it's on our street! They closed off 45th Street. So the show played to a very small house that night.
I heard you don't cook much but you make a mean bread sauce.
That's true! [He laughs.] That's amazing, how did you . . . ?
So what the heck is bread sauce? Some weird English . . . ?
My dad always says it's the reason you have roast chicken. Do you want my recipe? You saute an onion, crumble slightly stale bread into a bowl, add milk, salt, pepper and cloves, and reduce it down so it's this thick sauce. It's absolutely delicious and goes with roast chicken. It probably sounds revolting.
What's up for you next?
"The Pillars of the Earth," a miniseries that will be on Starz in July. It's based on a Ken Follett book - one of Oprah's favorites, so it sold through the roof. It's an extraordinary story of the building of a cathedral in medieval England. It's historical fiction, with Donald Sutherland, Ian McShane . . . I play Jack, who starts off . . . mute . . . and ends up, after eight hours of miniseries, as some master-builder. It's an amazing part, actually.
Your parents are OK with this crazy career choice?
They've always been amazingly supportive. You take a massive amount of pounding as an actor. Fundamentally, you're pretending to be another human being, and because we're all human, we know what other human beings are like. So anyone can criticize an actor for not looking or sounding real.
That's a nice way of saying "Everybody's a critic."
You have to grow a thick skin.
Uh . . . I'm in the process . . . yeah. I hope to get there eventually.