Steve Buscemi: An Off-Beat Icon

In this publicity photo, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics, Steve Buscemi, left, appears as disgruntled journalist Pierre Peders and Sienna Miller, right, as pop star Katya in a scene from the movie "Interview."
JoJo Whilden/Cinemavault
Sunday Morning movie critic David Edelstein says that Steve Buscemi may be on the verge of becoming a cinema legend.

The new two-character psychodrama "Interview" is so lively and creepy and exciting to watch I thought I'd use it to celebrate Steve Buscemi. He's the sallow guy you see in so many indie movies — who got his head blown off on The Sopranos and also shows up, weirdly, in Adam Sandler comedies. He wrote, directed and stars in "Interview;" he's also the star of the upcoming "Delirious." Could this be the point he becomes a demigod?

Buscemi is a former firefighter and a life-long Brooklynite. He's prickly, yet he's magnetic; he's like the world's hippest ghoul.

Buscemi made his mark as a haunted, romantic figure in the 1986 drama "Parting Glances," a milestone in independent and gay cinema.

Joel and Ethan Coen gave him a great sad-sack role in "Fargo" as a kidnapper in over his head. Tom Dicillo cast him as a luckless director in the riotous "Living in Oblivion," which confirms my opinion that luckless directors see in Buscemi their inner-loser.

Buscemi doesn't just do low budget. He was the life of the party in the overblown "Armageddon." And he gave two of last year's best off-screen performances as the voice of the weird old man in "Monster House" and the rat Templeton in "Charlotte's Web."

As for his new movies — I wish I could rave about Dicillo's "Delirious," but it's kind of a bummer. Its treatment of Buscemi's lowlife celebrity photographer is so contemptuous it's boring.

"Interview," though, is a small masterpiece. Buscemi plays a war correspondent stuck doing puff pieces on celebrities; Sienna Miller is a gorgeous primetime soap goddess.

Their interview goes from typically dumb and awkward to momentous: a wary game of cat and mouse, a psychological duel to the death. As your sympathies teeter back and forth between these flawed people, you're gripped by every thrust and feint and parry in their struggle for control.

"Interview" is downbeat, but it's a still a turn on, and Sienna Miller is stupendous: Who knew?

When I say Buscemi has arrived, I don't mean he hasn't always been here doing remarkable work. I just mean I want you to share my awe.