Q: Give us your analysis of the key difference between the original Broadway show and film.
AR: To me, the key difference is that you can get close in on the characters in a way that you simply can't on stage. Through the use of closeup and reaction shots, there's an incredible new level of intimacy into the actual lives of these characters. With the play, I think that's partly why so many people see it over and over again because they then get more familiar with it; it keeps revealing itself. But on film, it's right there. There are no questions in anyone's mind about the nature of the relationships or the plot points. Sometimes when people saw the play, they were confused by things or didn't quite get everything, but they were kind of shaken and moved by it because it was so intense.
Q: What about reinterpreting your character for the film? Was it a challenge to you to get into the cinematic mindset of the character as opposed to what you do on stage?
AR: It's really not that different. Performing on stage and film, what's different are the technical aspects of it. On stage, technically you have to project out to an audience; and on film, you just have to allow the camera to record. Just technically there are differences. Other than that, in both mediums, you're telling a story; you're in a scene with another person; you're expressing something from your core to another human being--all the rest of that is more or less the same. Then it just becomes a matter of levels of expression of it, degrees of intensity.
Q: What about the tango scene?
AR: When I read the script, I thought it was really smart and interesting and fun, and I was just curious how it was going to all turn out. It just required a lot of rigorous rehearsal with Tracie [Thoms], and I couldn't have had a better partner because we both are not great dancers, and we both need a lot of rehearsal when it comes to dancing. [laughs] Taye is a real dancer. He's a gorgeous dancer, and if he had been taught the tango, he wouldn't have needed nearly the rehearsal that we did.
Q: When you do a musical movie, obviously you go into the studio to record all the vocals. Because you know it so well, how much of the vocals were you able to do on set?
AR: No, we pre-recorded everything because logistically it's almost impossible to do [live], especially with rock-'n-roll music. They could do it in Hedwig [and the Angry Inch] because John Cameron Mitchell is in a band, and all of the instruments are feeding live, and it's not the same kind of ambience going on in the rest of the room, whereas we're on the street, and it would be nearly impossible to record our vocals live and hear the music and feel the music. We had an incredible experience in the studio where we could take time with it in a way that we couldn't with the original Broadway cast because of budgetary reasons. And then there's a thing called "comping" I never learned before--you do six takes of a song, and then they literally can sometimes take a word or a line, and that's kind of a cool experience to sit in the studio with [director] Chris [Columbus] and Rob Cavallo, our [music] producer, and in a way you're crafting your performance that's going to be on film. You're really choosing with them what it's going to be.
TD: And like with the scenes, with the editing, they take the best cuts or whatnot, so it was very interesting.
Q: When you were told that it was looking like the filmmakers were going to go with the original Broadway cast, did you think they were really going to do that, or that they were just playing lip service?
TD: There's been talk about doing a film ever since we started doing the play. Personally, I never thought that they were going to go with us because at the time, none of us had had any film experience, so none of us had any draw.
AR: Speak for yourself.
TD: Excuse me; you're absolutely right--maybe it just would've been you. [laughs] But I thought it was all lip service. I remember the closest we came was Spike Lee [was going to make it], and I remember he had a meeting, and everybody made a whole big deal because he met with all the original cast members. But it was made known to us that he didn't have any real intentions of casting us.
Q: He said that?
AR: That was a few years ago. They were on the cusp of it happening, and then they couldn't agree on a budget, and the rug got pulled out.
Q: So he said that to you?
AR: No, no, no, no.
TD: He didn't say that to us, but we heard it through the grapevine that there were names like Justin Timberlake [pursued].
AR: But once Chris was interested, I didn't feel it was lip service at all. The meeting I had with him, right away I felt within like ten seconds that--I was knocking on wood and crossing my fingers, but I felt like it was going to happen.
Q: Taye, for you I understand they humanized your character for the film. Do you feel that it was altered for the film?
TD: I feel that it's one of the positives of being able to use film; one of the main differences is that it's much more intimate, so you're able to see all these characters far more closely than you did on stage. So I think you're just able to zone in and hone in on specific characters at specific times, and it allows you to see more of them and the different aspects that they possess.
AR: Like the little smiles that he has during [Maureen's] performance piece.
TD: Exactly. The subtleties.
AR: You wouldn't able to see those on stage.
Anthony Rapp at the press junket
(photo by Michael Dequina)