A real joy

Kyle MacLachlan on high school acting and playing a father in Giant Little Ones

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Kyle MacLachlan with Anne-Katrin Titze in Batsheva on his role in Giant Little Ones: "It's the language and I think a perspective that is one that we don't necessarily hear that often."
Kyle MacLachlan with Anne-Katrin Titze in Batsheva on his role in Giant Little Ones: "It's the language and I think a perspective that is one that we don't necessarily hear that often." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Keith Behrman's perceptive Giant Little Ones stars Josh Wiggins as teenager Franky, Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello as his parents, Darren Mann as best friend Ballas, plus Taylor Hickson, Peter Outerbridge, Stephanie Moore, Olivia Scriven, Kiana Madeira, Hailey Kittle, and Niamh Wilson.

In David Lynch's Twin Peaks, Kyle MacLachlan eerily transformed from Agent Dale Cooper to Dougie Jones and in last year's highly successful The House With A Clock In Its Walls, starring Cate Blanchett and Jack Black, Kyle morphed into a fantastically eldritch warlock, a role he enjoyed playing very much, he told me when we met. In high school he performed in Cole Porter's Anything Goes, Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers' Oklahoma!, and Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner's My Fair Lady, and for Ian Iqbal Rashid's Touch Of Pink, he channeled the spirit of Cary Grant by watching Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Stanley Donen's Charade and with Ingrid Bergman in Indiscreet.

Kyle MacLachlan on Ray, Franky's (Josh Wiggins) father in Giant Little Ones: "Something that felt real and hopeful at the same time."
Kyle MacLachlan on Ray, Franky's (Josh Wiggins) father in Giant Little Ones: "Something that felt real and hopeful at the same time."

Donen, who died on February 21, looms large - or at least should loom large (see the Academy's disrespectful omission at this year's Oscars) - for anyone in love with cinema. I met Stanley Donen in 1992 at the Filmmuseum in Munich, where he presented two of his own favourite movies. He chose Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (fashion designer Batsheva Hay and I had marveled about the fabulous costumes in that film just three days before his death), and Charade, which he introduced together with its star, the inimitable Audrey Hepburn.

Kyle MacLachlan without much hesitation mentioned Indiscreet as his favourite Donen film over lunch. In On The Town, co-directed with Gene Kelly, Anne Miller at the American Museum of Natural History sings and tap dances of her affinity for prehistoric men and bearskin - ("I really love bearskin"). MacLachlan, who produces wine, christened his creation Pursued By Bear and told me about his close call with a bear in the wild.

In Giant Little Ones, Ray Winter (MacLachlan) is divorced from Carly (Bello), the mother of their son Franky (Wiggins) who is finding his life at high school and the relationship with his childhood pal Ballas (Mann) growing more and more complicated. Ray is living an openly gay life with his partner and does his best against all odds to reconnect with his estranged son. At a restaurant on the East Side of Manhattan, Kyle told me why he was able to get to the character's core. His pivotal presence raises the Giant Little Ones to another level.

Franky (Josh Wiggins) with his mother Carly (Maria Bello, who is also an executive producer for Giant Little Ones)
Franky (Josh Wiggins) with his mother Carly (Maria Bello, who is also an executive producer for Giant Little Ones)

Anne-Katrin Titze: The father you are playing - he is such a wonderful father.

Kyle MacLachlan: It's the language and I think a perspective that is one that we don't necessarily hear that often. So it was a real joy to be able to play that. Something that felt real and hopeful at the same time.

AKT: It's so subtle and nice when he just says "I'm proud of you." It's the casualness and the care I liked.

KM: That's nice to hear.

AKT: The labels in high school are very extreme. Every time I see a film that really captures this, I'm so glad I didn't go to an American high school. It feels like a nightmare. The pressures. I went to an only girls school and didn't feel that kind of pressure. Any thoughts on special pressures in high school?

KM: There were definitely groups. There were the athletes. My school had another group which was nice. A lot of the athletes were also in the choir and in the spring musical. It was more of a social activity. It was somewhat accepted.

Kyle MacLachlan in the spirit of Cary Grant for Touch of Pink
Kyle MacLachlan in the spirit of Cary Grant for Touch of Pink

Now you couldn't take a drama course, because those were just the drama guys. So I never took a drama class. But I did the spring musical. Definitely there were variations on a theme there. The jocks didn't take the drama class, but they did the musical.

AKT: What musical did you do?

KM: We did Anything Goes one year. And we did Oklahoma! one year. And we did My Fair Lady.

AKT: Do you have a favourite Stanley Donen film?

KM: Off the top of my head, Cary Grant …

AKT: Charade?

KM: Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman?

AKT: Indiscreet.

KM: Indiscreet, yeah. In Touch Of Pink, I did play Cary Grant. That's how I know, because I watched all the Cary Grant movies. They're pretty fantastic. That's a nice bit of research.

Kyle MacLachlan on Ingrid Bergman with Cary Grant in Stanley Donen's Indiscreet: "I watched all the Cary Grant movies. They're pretty fantastic. That's a nice bit of research."
Kyle MacLachlan on Ingrid Bergman with Cary Grant in Stanley Donen's Indiscreet: "I watched all the Cary Grant movies. They're pretty fantastic. That's a nice bit of research."

AKT: I think your Twin Peaks association really also adds a dimension to this film [Giant Little Ones]. There's hardly anybody who is more himself than Dougie or whatever else you are playing.

KM: Right.

AKT: Nobody is in a box [only literally, of course, in David Lynch's universe]. Having you play the role of the father, I think, adds that extra dimension to it. I don't know if that makes sense.

KM: Thank you. Good thinking.

AKT: You are giving him [his son Franky] wine in one scene. [Kyle produces his own wine under the label Pursued By Bear]

KM: It always looked not right. Maybe that's a Pinot Noir, maybe. Because it's always not the right colour. I was worried about that. That's my own point of reference. It didn't look real. It's okay. He [Franky] asked me. I'm offering him orange juice and soft drinks. He says wine and I'm like "okay".

AKT: Did you ever meet a bear in the wild?

KM: No. Well, I did sort of meet a bear. He passed by me. We were in … A long time ago I was hiking in Yosemite with a group. And we had made camp. Our first night, in fact, up at 10,000 feet. Right next to a lake. And we had put our food in a tree, as you do, and suspended it. It was a large group. Like 20 people. And we all had our tents out and there was a fire. And I woke up early in the morning and the inside of my tent was totally full of water. In every inch there was condensation.

It was not a very good tent. When you moved it felt like it rained on you. So I was awake and uncomfortable. So I went out and sat by the fire. It was like four o'clock in the morning. The moon was out and I was like, ahhh, what am I going to do? I'm so cold. Maybe the sun will be up soon. I don't know. I can't go back into the tent.

Kyle MacLachlan on his high school musicals: "We did Anything Goes one year. And we did Oklahoma! one year. And we did My Fair Lady."
Kyle MacLachlan on his high school musicals: "We did Anything Goes one year. And we did Oklahoma! one year. And we did My Fair Lady." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

And I look up and about where you are, there's a bear. He's going towards the fire and I'm here. And there's the bear walking right past me. I was thinking to myself, oh my god, how am I going to get into the tent? [The bear] didn't seem to care. He didn't even look at me. He just walked past. But it's weird seeing something so big, an animal, walking past you.

AKT: There's a film called Braguino, which was nominated for a César. A French short which features a bear, I recommend to you.

KM: Okay. Braguino.

AKT: It's in Eastern Siberia. [Clément Cogitore created] an art installation and a short film.

KM: Braguino, okay, good. How is Siberia this time of the year?

AKT: Cold, I'm sure.

KM: We're complaining about here, like it's only 20 degrees!

Giant Little Ones opened at the Angelika Film Center in New York on March 1

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