Introducing: 60 Minutes All Access Learn More +
Unlimited, ad-free viewing of 60 Minutes archives, Overtime and extras
Toggle

Mandy Patinkin

Bob Simon profiles the famously energetic "Homeland" actor, who is never at a loss for words

The following is a script of "Mandy Patinkin" which aired on Nov. 16, 2014. Bob Simon is the correspondent. Graham Messick, producer.

Mandy Patinkin may not be a household name, but he is one of the most versatile performers we've ever met. He is a classically trained but barely restrained stage actor. A no-holds-barred concert singer and a scene-stealing star of the big and small screens. For four decades, Mandy has put everything he has into every role he's played. But a funny thing happened along the way to stardom. Again and again, Mandy's career has unraveled at the hands of an unlikely villain: himself. Now at 61, his raw talent has carried him to the top again, with his portrayal of a CIA spy chief in "Homeland," the critically-acclaimed drama airing on CBS' sister network, Showtime.

Mandy Patinkin: This is our point of view. So it's what we're seeing.

We met him at this outdoor location, in of all places, Cape Town, where two streets have been transformed into a remote town in Pakistan. The show came to South Africa because of the light, the ethnic diversity of the extras and primarily because of the tax breaks.

Mandy Patinkin: So I'm going to give you a little tour.

They even relocated the entire "Homeland" soundstage here. Mandy, who plays spy Saul Berenson, was happy to show us around, at breakneck speed.

"I think the question of this particular season that I rarely see in American television is: Who is the bad guy? Is America possibly the bad guy?"

Mandy Patinkin: This is the Hall of Presidents...

Bob Simon: Does Saul walk this fast?

Mandy Patinkin: Yes he does.

For the uninitiated, "Homeland" is Hollywood's depiction of the 14-year clandestine war between the CIA and Islamic terrorists. Patinkin's character, a former top CIA official, is the moral center of a messy, complicated world, where spies spin webs of deceit in a struggle most of us never see.

Mandy Patinkin: On occasion, a well-constructed drama, can do what no reality or news program can do, what Shakespeare does brilliantly, is it can show both sides' opinions.

[Haqqani: We did not fly those planes at the World Trade Center. Al Qaeda did.]

[Saul Berenson: You harbored Osama Bin Laden.]

[Haqqani: Bin Laden was a Saudi. I don't see you invading that country.]

[Saul Berenson: We came here to kill or capture those directly responsible.]

Bob Simon: Did you talk to CIA people before you played the part?

Mandy Patinkin: Yes, I did. And I continue to. And I'm not allowed to tell you who they are.

Bob Simon: Don't tell me who they are. But tell me what they tell you and how you react to it.

Mandy Patinkin: You know, I talk to a variety of them. So I'm going to pick the one that meets Mandy's slash Saul's heart and tempo and temperature. And so I found that guy and he tells me stuff because he wants me to understand how he cares about the world and why he does some of the horrible things that he does, quote unquote, "horrible."

Bob Simon: But he does it.

Mandy Patinkin: He does it because he's a soldier.

This season begins with an American bombing of a wedding party, kicking off a new cycle of vengeance and violence.

Mandy Patinkin: I think the question of this particular season that I rarely see in American television is: Who is the bad guy? Is America possibly the bad guy?

Heavy stuff, for an actor who made his name in musical theater.

[Mandy Patinkin: Bit by bit! Only way to make a work of art. Every moment makes a contribution, every little detail plays a part!]

This was Mandy 30 years ago, starring in Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George." He'd already won a Tony for "Evita," and critics' praise for his "fiercely intelligent" performances.

[Mandy Patinkin: Putting it together. Bit by bit!]

His preparation is legendary. He learned to fence for his most famous role in "The Princess Bride," which also gave him his most memorable line.

[Mandy Patinkin: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.]

People ask him to recite it to this day. So we did too.

Mandy Patinkin: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Then there are the people who know Mandy for this...

He does nearly 50 concerts a year in cities across the country, singing an eclectic blend of show tunes, rock anthems and folk songs. Not bad for a guy who doesn't read music.

Mandy Patinkin: I'm a lyrically driven person. I am not a musically driven person. That's why I love Sondheim. That's why I love Shakespeare. That's why I love Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein and Tom Waits and Paul Simon and Randy Newman. They're storytellers.

Bob Simon: Have you always talked so fast?

"I think we all lose in the end because we don't get to stay here forever."

Mandy Patinkin: Yes. And I was horrified. I saw an interview that I did with someone, and I was horrified by it. And I said to my wife, "This is unbearable how I talk."

Bob Simon: It's unbearable for me, it's hard...

Mandy Patinkin: I'm sorry, I'll shut up.

Bob Simon: No. It's not a question of shutting up. I mean, you go for two minutes without taking a breath. It's very hard to pop in a question.

Mandy Patinkin: I guess the reason is there's various things that have popped up that I really want to say before I check out. If I can leave something behind.

The next time we met, at his rustic retreat in upstate New York, he told us he'd already cleaned the house and taken a 10-mile bike ride to burn off some excess energy. He also went through a ritual he conducts before big interviews and performances.

Mandy Patinkin: I recite every name of every person that I've known who's passed on. And I do that because there was a line in the libretto of "Carousel." And the line is: "As long as there's one person on Earth who remembers you, it isn't over." And I, it's a game I play that gives me...

Bob Simon: It's not a game, it's very serious.

Mandy Patinkin: It is a game, the whole ball of wax is a game -- your life, my life, politics, economy, hunger...

Bob Simon: By definition a game has winners and losers.

Mandy Patinkin: Yes, it does. I think we all lose in the end because we don't get to stay here forever. That is a part of the game at this point, I think, is a profound flaw.

Despite roles in a handful of films, including "Ragtime," he never became a leading man, partly because of two epic mistakes, career blunders that he rarely discusses in public.

"Is it cancer? Is it world peace? No, it's a movie, it's a TV show. Try!"

Bob Simon: You actually think I'm not going to ask you what those mistakes were?

Mandy Patinkin: That's fine, I'll tell you what they were. One was having said yes to do the movie "Heartburn" with Mike Nichols and Meryl Streep when I knew it wasn't right for me. That how could I turn down Mike and Meryl? And I wanted to be a movie star, and I wanted to be powerful, and I wanted to be more things than I was at that time. And I didn't like the piece.

And it showed. Director Mike Nichols fired him after one day and replaced him with Jack Nicholson.

[Jack Nicholson: I'm Mark Foreman.]

After that, his leading roles were mostly on television.

[Mandy Patinkin: Come on!]

He won an Emmy playing a doctor in "Chicago Hope."

[Mandy Patinkin: I'm Jason Gideon.]

Then starred as an FBI profiler in "Criminal Minds." But in an infamous real-life episode, Mandy abruptly quit that show, saying he objected to the content, leaving his cast mates, crew and CBS, high and dry.

Mandy Patinkin: Wasn't their mistake. It was mine. I chose it because I was greedy. I wanted more money. I was always worried about money. And I was always worried that I needed more money and I needed to be more famous to get more money, and this, and that, and everything. When the fact of the matter is, which my wife always says to me, we have never wanted. She said, "Where do you get this fear from?" I don't know. Maybe it's genetic, maybe it's nonsense. But it's greed.

He thought he'd never work in television again. For years, his reputation as an obsessive, hard-to-handle actor preceded him.

Bob Simon: You have such a clear vision of what you're doing. Is it ever painful for you to take instruction from a director?

Mandy Patinkin: It used to be, and I wouldn't do it for years, and I was ashamed of myself. And I apologize. I've apologized in print, I apologize here because...

Bob Simon: But I'm sure sometimes you were right and they were wrong.

Mandy Patinkin: Who cares? Who cares if I was right and they were wrong? You're a person, you're directing me, you're talking to me. Be a human being, listen to you. Is it cancer? Is it world peace? No, it's a movie, it's a TV show. Try!

He can be hard on himself, tracing some of that anger back to the loss of his father when Mandy was 18.

Mandy Patinkin: I remember he dreamed of things, "I'm going to go do this, I'm going to go do that when the kids are older," and then he died from pancreatic cancer and he didn't do it. And I remember that 18-year-old kid said, "I'm not going to wait." And I became impatient for anything I dreamed of, I wanted it done by sundown.

And he wanted to remember every moment of every day.

Mandy Patinkin: This is recreating my father's junkyard, the Scrap Corporation People's Iron and Metal Company was the name of it. It was on the South Side of Chicago at Loomis and Hoyne.

He showed us how he's documented his life with an electric train set. He spent decades building this world. It takes him back more than 50 years.

Mandy Patinkin: In many ways they saved my childhood. I lived under that train table and it was like a little tree house. Like a refuge to me.

Bob Simon: Mandy's retreat.

Mandy Patinkin: Yeah. Those trains right up there on that shelf, those are the trains my father bought me when I was eight years old. Those are the first trains and every one of them works perfectly.

train2.jpg

Mandy Patinkin: This is my ma. She was a great cook, so we named a diner after her.

Every piece has a story. And we found ourselves still shooting late that night.

Mandy Patinkin: Guys? Somebody come over here with us. This is a real fun thing!

By then, Mandy had talked us under the table.

Mandy Patinkin: I like the trolley because it doesn't break down.

Bob Simon: There it is. There it is. It is great!

Kathryn Patinkin: I think one of the best-kept secrets about my husband is how damn funny he is.

Mandy's wife of 34 years and the mother of his two sons is actress Kathryn Grody. She says what attracted her was his authenticity, even though he could put some people off.

Kathryn Patinkin

Kathryn Patinkin: He doesn't know the intensity that he comes off as. He can certainly be obnoxious. And he has three members of his family that have no problem in saying, "Dad, that was obnoxious."

Bob Simon: So the family is not scared of him?

Kathryn Patinkin: Well, not anymore. I mean I would, you know, it's an interesting, the nature, nurture thing. I think my youngest son was never, ever afraid of this guy, ever.

Mandy Patinkin: He taught my older one and my wife more about how to handle me. Before I learned to handle my moods. And I'd had mood struggles.

"Homeland" has turned out to be an antidote to those struggles resurrecting his career, and giving him something else, the role of the quiet, wise Saul Berenson, which he says is not so much a stretch, as an aspiration.

Bob Simon: Saul comes across as very calm, almost avuncular. This about as far as you can get from Mandy Patinkin.

Mandy Patinkin: Mandy is not calm. So that's acting. I'm acting. And, and I love playing someone calm. I wish I'd had that role earlier on in life. There's a lot of Saul I like to take with me in my life.

Bob Simon: What would you like to take with you?

Mandy Patinkin: His quiet, his ability to truly, legitimately listen. His lack of a need to speak first, to get his ideas out.

Bob Simon: Has this really affected you?

Mandy Patinkin: Not enough.


[Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac: Sometimes I think we're on the right track...]

When he finishes playing Saul, he'll go back to being Mandy, diving into an experimental musical with his longtime pianist Paul ford and actor Taylor Mac. He told us his purpose in life can be summed up in a single word: "connect." Singing and performing have always been his surest means of doing that.

[Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac: Didn't mean to make you cry. If I'm not back tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters.]

Mandy Patinkin: Somebody just offered me a part the other day, the older guy in a film. And I remember saying to the guy, "I'm so sad that I'm old enough to play this part, and I'm so grateful that I am." Because, you know, all that clichéd things, you really do learn something if you get the luck of being able to hang around. Even if it's a rough ride, you learn.

  • Bob Simon On Twitter»

    Bob Simon is among a handful of elite journalists who have covered most major overseas conflicts and news stories from the late sixties to the present. He has contributed to 60 Minutes since 1996.