A Talk With Jon Cryer: Sundance, Superbowl, and Suds
by Allison Joseph
It’s Superbowl Sunday and we have gathered at Jon Cryer’s
condo in Deer Valley to watch the pigskin get taken by the
Packers, and throw back a couple of requisite beers. With his
dancing eyes and propensity for off-kilt jokes, I am not
surprised by Jon’s endearing openness and warmth. I also learn
how smashing he looks in my bikini top…which is less of a
surprise. Possibly the most self-deprecating person I have
ever met, Jon possesses a wit about himself and his
experiences that is seldom seen in Hollywood. Having a
post-game soak in the outdoor hot-tub, Jon and talk of John
Tesh, childhood summer stock, his work as a Sundance
interviewer, and his upcoming projects.
Speaking into tape-recorder as though it were a mic:
Jon Cryer: That sucking noise you hear is me sucking on a
cigar…which I normally wouldn’t do, except that I am with
Alli, who is an extremely bad influence….(laughs)…and I
don’t even think she likes cigars!
indieWIRE: Sure I do! I have just been holding back….So I hear we
went to the same high school…
Cryer: We both went to Bronx Science! I can’t get over that! I
went to Bronx Science because I had gotten in to Music and
Art….I had auditioned to be in the singing school…which is
part of the Fame legacy. Then they started having race riots
there, and me being the skinniest, most weasely white boy I
know…I decided it would be better if I went to a nerd
school. (laughs) Like Bronx Science. I went there, didn’t
realize it was mostly Asian…So I felt out of place anyway.
Also, they didn’t have a theater department to speak of…
iW: But they did have Mr. Sodikow!!! Remember him? He was the
speech and debate coach.
Cryer: Mr. Sodikow! Sure! He looks like Henry the Eighth!!!
iW: Did you do Sing, that big high school production that the
kids write and produce?
Cryer: No, but we did West Side Story…the worst production of
West Side Story ever done. We did our damnedest…
iW: And no one came…??? (laughs)
Cryer: I built the set, actually, out of old shit that was lying
around, and it fell down a couple of years later during the
Good Doctor and apparently injured an actor…(laughs) I was
doing a movie, and this kid comes up to me and says, “You
almost killed me! You built that thing?!” and I said “I told
them to take it down! It was hanging by a thread.” But, that’s
my history there….
iW: Damn, who did you nail with it? Was it someone who became
Cryer: Oh, what was his name….good actor….he was in Morgan
Stewart’s Coming Home with me…Brendan someone…I have to
explain about that movie…It was lousy, OK fine, fair enough,
but the reason it was bad was that originally it was a
different script called Home Front which was much better. A
week into it they fired the director and rewrote the script,
and I hated the new one. There was nothing I could do because
I was hired already.
iW: Were you in big-budget Hollywood mindset and then had to
deal with this?
Cryer: Oh, no…there was a budget for that one…it was years
later that I switched over and started doing independent
films. The first bunch of movies that I did…No Small Affair
was mildly successful, and Pretty in Pink was very successful,
and then I did whole boatload of movies that sank like a
stone…and often took the studios with them (laughs)…so
sooner or later I was just running out of people who would
hire me. That was bad news.
iW: Was that your blue period? (laughs)
Cryer: Oh yes, my blue period….I did Superman 4 for Canon, and
then they went under…I did Hiding Out for DEG, and they went
under, I did Dudes for Vista and they went under…let’s see
what else…I did The Famous Teddy Z for CBS the year they hit
iW: Didn’t someone screen your projects? Like pick them out? I
hope you fired them….(giggling)
Cryer: Yeah, it wasn’t very lucky…but actually overall I have
been very lucky in my career. I have had a great time. So
iW: So what got you interested in independent film, then? Did
the succession of tankers motivate you?
Cryer: Well, basically, I just got really frustrated because I
wasn’t making movies that worked…I made a movie called Hot
Shots that I had a great time doing, but it took a year before
I got that job…I had a year where I wasn’t doing very much,
and I just said forget it, I am going to start writing and
making them myself.
iW: Did the Sundance folks pick you out to be a moderator?
Cryer: I had done some introductions of films for the Independent
Film Channel that were extremely goofy, and they were
generally for films that were extremely serious…like La
Strada..(laughs)…I guess they saw them.
iW: What did you do?
Cryer: Well, Fellini’s wife was in that movie, and she’s
wonderful in it, but she plays a retarded person, and I just
pictured Frederico sitting at home, going, “OK, honey, I got a
great role for you to play. She’s retarded.” And I could hear
the dishes flying in the Fellini household at that moment…So
I did a take off on that. I guess the Sundance people saw it
and said, “you make independent films, and it would be good to
have you as an interviewer.” It’s not John Tesh interviewing
people, mind you, it’s a guy who has a little experience in
the area. John Tesh would be a great interviewer for, you
iW: And he could sing, too….and we would all run!
Cryer: He is actually one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
People surprise you like that…they who have a certain kitsch
value, end up being the nicest people…I can’t figure that
iW: Well, kitchy could be nice…peculiar, perhaps, but…Hey,
have you been out here in Park City before?
Cryer: I have, actually. My dad is an actor, David Cryer, and he
was in Phantom of the Opera at the big theater in Salt Lake,
and I came in to see him. It was cool because everybody
dresses up for the theater in Salt Lake…they wear evening
gowns! We went up to Park City for breakfast, and it was a
really beautiful ride…Going up the canyon was tough…My dad
has the saddest little car, because he has three kids in
college…but the pay on the road is high. Phantom will go
forever, it’s like Cats. “Now and Forever!” (laughs) He also
sang with the Mormon Tabernacle. It was fun…I watched…OK,
fun is a relative term, but he’s an amazing singer and so is
my mom. I am, however, not.
iW: So, did you get to see any of the films?
Cryer: I didn’t see any of the films in competition…but I saw a
lot of the films that were premieres…my favorite was the
Greg Araki film called Nowhere…it’s nuts, crazy weird
satire. I really loved it. I also liked “Last Time I Committed
Suicide“. What else…”Lost Highway“…”Dream With The Fishes“,
too. David Arquette is the snappiest dresser….
iW: What did you think of David Arquette in that? Oh, did you
see him around? He was natty this week! He pointed out his
electric blue Forties pants to me…At the Miramax party last
night he had on this spiral black and white
Cryer: Yeah, but he gets away with it! We were sitting in a pizza
place, and he went out for a smoke without his coat on……he
was wearing these mismatched plaids, and there was also some
thrift store gear he was wearing; and so he started coming up
against the window like he was begging for money, and people
really looked at him like, “oh, poor bum…” with a look of
sadness in their eye. People in Utah are very merciful..
iW: Did he get any money out of them?
Cryer: No, I think he ended the ruse shortly after…(laughs)
iW: So you’re a New Yorker at heart…
Cryer: I like LA, too…I don’t mind it, I do like the movie
business as stupid as it is…You kind of have to be on film
and stage, or else you lose your timing. I did Neil Simon’s
Brighton Beach in New York some years ago…I took over for
Fisher Stevens after Matthew Broderick had the role…
iW: Didn’t Jonathan Silverman do one of the Simon plays, too?
You guys are like one-up the Jewish Posse!
Cryer: (laughs) Well, I am a pseudo Jew…sort of honorary…I
was raised by a pack of wild Jewish wolves.
iW: So the stage/screen disparity doesn’t matter to you? Just
Cryer: I just did a play at Circle Repertory…so I try to get
on-stage at intervals…summer stock, too.
iW: Oh, me too. (laughs) I was a hack at the Berkshire Public
Theater the summer I was fifteen! I was Madame Stage Left.
Cryer: Hey, I went to a camp called Stagedoor Manor up there!
Near Liberty, New York…in the Borscht Belt. We would put
together shows to tour around the local hotels, but
unfortunately we fancied ourselves avant-garde theater
artistes, so we would put in these songs like, this song
Class, from Chicago! With these women, talking about “Now
every son of a bitch, is a snake in the grass, whatever
happened to class?!” and we’d have these little 12-year-old
girls singing the songs, and these ancient Jewish couples were
sitting there “tsk-ing.” It sounded like we were in a field
full of crickets. Everybody disapproved. It was a great
experience, we did like eight million shows a summer. After
that I went to the Royal Academy, and then I started
working…so I never went to college.
iW: What was your worst experience….no, funniest, traveling
for a production? Mine was in Monza, Italy…someone beat off
on me at a Michael Jackson concert…fortunately I noticed in
time. He was jumping up and down, I thought he was dancing.
Cryer: (horrified) NO!!! Oh My God!!! How did you, er, figure it
out? At the moment of truth? (laughing)
iW: Oh, it was a trend…it started when I was fifteen…very
young…must have been something in my eyes…I was always
tall and geeky, a late bloomer, if you will. Basically I had
no business being rubbed on at that age. (laughs)
Cryer: At Stagedoor, we had a counselor who used to come in and
tell sex stories to the kids…but of course, it was a very
loose camp…He had a thing for green jello, as I recall.
iW: I had one of those…except that he used to SHOW the
kids…(laughs) I have a thing for German Chocolate Cake.
Cryer: There are occasional problems to food products…you use
whipped cream, and at first it’s great, and then it smells
iW: OK, enough on the food…Were you a good boy out here?
Will they invite you back?
Cryer: They might. I don’t know. It was hard work…The Sundance
Channel was great to me…Jennifer Tilly and I did it
together. I had never done live TV before, and it scared the
bejesus out of me. I’ve done live interviews, but I have never
hosted a live show. It was a good experience. Sundance Channel
is a new channel, so you can kind of make more
mistakes…hopefully one of their mistakes wasn’t hiring me.
iW: I doubt it highly…What’s your next project?
Cryer: I wrote a movie…It’s called Went to Coney Island On A
Mission from God, Be Back By Five…It’s based on a true story
that happened to a friend of mine and I. We found out that a
friend of ours from our youth was homeless, so we went looking
for him…we thought it wasn’t true, then we found him. We’re
shooting it in March, and it’s directed by the guy who did
Pompatus of Love.
iW: Well, I look forward to it…You’re the greatest. Thanks
for the cigar and the soak, baby.
Cryer: Oh, you’re so welcome, darling lady. Thank you.