The very funny, very charming Stanley Tucci was tracked down in London just before Christmas.
"I feel English when I'm walking through here," he said.
"Do you really feel English?" asked correspondent Holly Williams.
"Yeah, and I speak English when I walk through here! Yeah, just the language, not the accent!"
Tucci is that actor who you've seen everywhere, often stealing scenes, sometimes entire movies. It's earned him a cult following, though Tucci claims he doesn't understand it.
"People are saying that now. I don't know what that is!" he laughed.
"I think it means that you have people who watch a film for you, even if you're not in the starring role," said Williams.
"I guess that people really like the variety of the performances, and that's what I sort of revel in. I love that."
From an ideal husband to Meryl Streep's Julia Child in "Julie & Julia," to a deranged serial killer in "The Lovely Bones," a role that won Tucci an Oscar nomination … and now "Supernova," in which he and Colin Firth play a middle-aged gay couple. Tucci's character is suffering from young onset dementia.
Williams said, "One of the things that's interesting is that the sexuality of the two main characters is not a theme in the film at all. It's a universal love story."
"Yeah, people are starting to come around and understand that love is just love," he said.
Tucci helped get the film made, including sending the script to his friend, Colin Firth. "Having played a number of gay characters, you want to do it so that it's, as you do with any character, you just want to be truthful to it."
"It's been muted, but there has been criticism from some quarters saying that gay roles should be played by gay actors," said Williams. "What do you make of that?"
"I have difficulty with that," Tucci replied. "I think that acting is all about not being yourself. If we were to use that as a template, then we would only ever play ourselves. I think what we need to do, we need to give more gay actors opportunities. People who are gay have only recently, in the last few years really, have been able to say, 'I'm gay and I'm an actor and I can play straight roles.' They always had to hide their sexuality so that they could play the leading man or leading woman."
Tucci was born in a suburb north of New York City to an Italian American family. He started his career on the stage, but was hungry for roles in film and television. What he didn't want, he told us, were the parts playing violent mafiosos normally offered to Italian American actors.
"I didn't want to play that person all the time; it's not interesting," he said. "There are brilliant movies made about the mafia, but you can't – how often do they come along? Most of them are just sort of cheap rip-offs of the brilliant movies."
In frustration, he said, he co-wrote, co-directed and starred in "Big Night," a very different type of story about Italian Americans – two immigrant brothers struggling to survive in the New Jersey restaurant business in the 1950s.
The film also starred some of Tucci's family recipes (such as Timpano).
The film helped get Tucci noticed, and was also just the beginning of his very public obsession with food.
"I grew up in a family that put great importance on food – it was everything, seems to be just about the only thing we talked about," he said.
Tucci has authored two cookbooks, has a food memoir on the way, and recently filmed a series on CNN about Italian food in Italy.
Williams asked, "How good a cook are you, out of 10?"
"With certain dishes, 11!" he laughed. "But with a lot of stuff, I'm OK, I'm an OK cook, maybe a five."
At 60, Tucci seems to be savoring his success. But he's also experienced horrendous loss. His wife, Kate, the mother of their three children, succumbed to cancer at the age of 47.
"You never stop grieving. You never stop grieving," Tucci said. "And it's still, it's still hard after 11 years, it's still hard, and it always will be hard. But you can't let it – and she would never want any of us to sort of, to wallow in that grief and let it take over our lives. She would never want that. She wasn't like that."
In recent years he's found love again, with Felicity Blunt, a British literary agent who's also the sister of Emily Blunt, Tucci's co-star in "The Devil Wears Prada."
And his very British wife and their two young children is also how this quintessential New Yorker ended up living in London, where he's enjoying yet another cult moment. He posted an Instagram video of himself mixing a Negroni for his wife during lockdown, which quickly went viral … followed by more cocktails, garnering millions of views.
Williams asked, "Why do so many people want to watch you mixing cocktails?"
"I have no idea!" he said.
"Do you really have no idea?"
"No, honestly I don't. I don't. Why do you think? Tell me."
"You know, I don't want to be inappropriate, but they are quite sultry, some of them," Williams said.
"Yeah, there were always a lot of sexual comments in the, yeah …"
"How do you feel about that?"
"I was very flattered!" Tucci replied. "But it was great. I mean, you're incredibly flattered when people are just sort of going gaga over you."
For more info:
- "Supernova" (In Theaters January 29; available on digital February 16)
- "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" debuts on CNN February 14
Story produced by Mikaela Bufano, Jane Whitfield and Robbyn McFadden. Editor: David Bhagat.
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