Jeffrey Tambor will forever be loved for his work on TV, having played patriarch George Bluth Sr. on “Arrested Development” and sidekick Hank Kingsley on “The Larry Sanders Show.”
But the 65-year-old actor got his start in theater. He spent years in repertory companies, made his Broadway debut in “Sly Fox” opposite George C. Scott in 1976, and returned for the 2005 revival of “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Despite withdrawing from a leading role in the current “La Cage Aux Follies” revival in February due to what producers called “complications from recent hip surgery,” the stage remains one of Tambor’s great loves.
So he was instantly drawn to the starring role in “Meeting Spencer,” a new film set in the Broadway universe, about a legendary producer trying to secure financing for a show over a dinner with aspiring actor Spencer West at that Great White Way mainstay, Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse.
amNewYork spoke with Tambor about the film, which opens at the Quad tomorrow.
What drew you to such an old-fashioned film?
I looked at it and I said, “Wow. This is so original [for this day and age]. So new. There’s not a car chase in it. It’s no gimmicks and it’s straight-on acting.”
What’s appealing about that sort of project?
It’s a celebration of acting and a celebration of all of show business.
In what ways does the character of Spencer remind you of your younger self?
Well, the idealism. I remember we all walked around with our D.H. Lawrence book [in one] pocket and Carlos Castaneda in the other and our backpack where we had our Henry James and in our other backpack where we had our “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” … I think I had arrogant with a capital arrogant in school.
When you were living in New York, how did you perceive Frankie & Johnnie’s?
It always had this iconic stature. There are two places in New York that had that iconic stature to me. One was Frankie & Johnnie’s, and the other was the Russian Tea Room. … I would say Sardi’s as well.
Do you ever miss living in New York?
I had a really good time there. We visit and have friends there. We live out here [in Southern California] by the ocean and I’m sort of outdoorsy, so I’ve changed my druthers. … [But] we’re actually thinking about coming back and moving someday to Upstate New York. I love it up there. … You know what I really miss? I’m going to sound like something from Aesop’s fables. I really miss the seasons. I really do. I want my children to have that.
What’s the latest on the “Arrested Development” movie?
It looks really good. We know the script is being written, which is tremendous. We know that [creator] Mitch [Hurwitz] is excited about it. The cast is “go.” … I’m in very high spirits about it. ... I wouldn’t be surprised if you and I are talking about this particular subject a year from now.