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  1. #1
    oceanflower Guest

    Dr. House in Rolling Stone Magazine

    Dr. Feelbad
    Hugh Laurie became the dark prince of prime time by playing the best Vicodin-addicted TV doctor with the worst bedside manner

    Behind Hugh Laurie's back, crew and producers complain about his behavior on set. They gripe that he rarely says no or admits when he's tired. A leading actor with actual manners and genuine humility is a shock to them. He shows up on time, nails his lines, often works over sixty hours a week and rarely if ever protests. Consequently, they never know if they're pushing him too hard or not. And today, that seems to be the case.

    The set under observation is that of Fox's House, M.D. -- first building on the left on the Twentieth Century Fox lot in Los Angeles. For three grueling seasons there, Laurie has faked an American accent, a limp and a bad attitude to play the role of Dr. Gregory House, America's most lovable curmudgeon, a bitter diagnostician who lives by the motto "Everybody lies."

    He has faked it well -- down to the remorselessness, work-shirking and drug-taking that couldn't be further from his nonfictional self. In the process, he has almost single-handedly made a rote idea -- a crime show transposed to a hospital, replacing murders with mysterious diseases -- one of the best dramas on television, earning him a Golden Globe two years running.

    The forty-seven-year-old Laurie was raised Scottish Presbyterian and taught to value work and eschew fun. He lived several career lifetimes before becoming TV's meanest doctor, first garnering attention playing simpleton aristocrats -- most notably as the hilariously incompetent Prince George in Blackadder. Later, he starred in Sense and Sensibility and Stuart Little, as well as a wide swath of hit-and-miss films. Despite these roles, Laurie didn't find his footing with American audiences. But that never bothered him: Restlessly creative, he wrote scripts, played keyboards, wrote a novel and continued taking role after role, most of which underserved his talent.

    But everything changed when a half-assed audition tape he recorded while on the set of a film shot in the African desert, Flight of the Phoenix, ended up in the production office of House. When executive producer Bryan Singer saw it, he knew that he'd found his leading man.

    During lunch break on the House set, Laurie heads to his trailer. A sign on the door congratulates him on his recent Screen Actors Guild award. Inside, artifacts from well-wishers are scattered about, including a photo of a big white bucket with the word "antidepressants" scrawled in black marker.

    Laurie settles into the couch, places a to-go salad in his lap and shakes his head in mock shame. To prepare for the interview, he has researched my writing résumé, which includes a book with Mötley Crüe. "I feel like I'm such a disappointment to you," he says, beginning his fourth warning that he will be a horrible subject for an interview. "I mean, you're hanging out with Mötley Crüe, and now you're talking to some middle-aged fucking actor on a TV show. I wish I could give you some Mötley Crüe stuff. I wish I had a tour bus. I wish I had -- oh, fuck, I wish I had something. What can I give you?"

    Well, for starters, what's up with that picture of a bucket of antidepressants?
    Oh, oh. Yes. Yes. That was from a friend. A friend from England. Yeah. Well spotted. You don't miss a trick. Now I'm terrified of what else you've seen.

    People have mentioned to me a period in the Nineties where you were depressed. Was that just a dark patch in your life, or does it continue?
    I have continued on and off to see a therapist, as lots of people do. And I do feel like for the most part it's behind me. But I have some very, very black days on this show, very black days. But a lot of that has to do with just finding the situation I'm in overwhelming. There are days when I feel very exposed and very lonely and vulnerable.

    Do you mean overwhelmed and exposed in the sense that there's too much attention on you and every movement you make?
    That sort of stuff, yeah. And there is no escape from it. It never stops. I can never just say, "I need a couple of hours to just go walk in the park and stare at a tree." There's always someone rapping on the door of the trailer saying, "The camera is ready." It's just relentless. Whatever mood you're in, however you feel physically, whatever situation you're experiencing, the machine goes on. [A cautionary note to the reader: In print, Laurie's words sound darker, more depressed, more self-pitying than they do in person. So imagine, in these passages, not the negative monotone of House but, instead, a voice with a charming British accent, a loopy smile, a self-deprecating sense of humor and a neurotic tendency to overthink everything.]

    Have you found that playing House has affected your personality and made you more cynical or misanthropic?
    No, though I suppose being on television has changed my life. I feel very self-conscious and I feel like I can't go out. I hate being looked at. I hate being photographed. I have this weird superstition about the camera stealing part of your soul. I sort of believe in that, actually.

    Are you serious?
    It does. Well, obviously, in terms of my molecular structure, I haven't lost anything by being photographed. I understand the laws of physics. But if the photographer has something, you must have lost something. And the idea that any image of you will be looked at and distributed and pored over and commented on is depressing. You feel intruded upon. Most people would say, quite rightly, "That's the price you pay."

    (continued below)

  2. #2
    oceanflower Guest
    (continued from above)

    What are your ambitions now, for when the season ends?I'm a pretty ambition-free sort of person. I never had a career plan, much to the frustration of the people who are supposedly directing my career.

    Maybe "ambition" is the wrong word. What do you want to do next, considering that you also write books, screenplays, music?
    Well, being the sort of general malcontent that I am, I always want to be doing what I'm not doing. So I'm here, actually, and the idea of sitting at home writing a novel appeals to me. But of course if I was sitting at home writing a novel, I would love to be playing music. I'm always wanting to be doing something else. That's a definite defect. A flaw in the character.

    I noticed that two different people since I've been around you have called you sexy. Has House become an accidental sex symbol?
    I don't accept it at all. I don't see that character as sexy, but he has a sort of Byronic charm. He's damaged, and he's sort of a loner. But those people who said that are barking up the wrong tree. [Pause] Who said it?

    I think it was the -

    I shouldn't even ask that. Never mind.

    When you look back on your movie career, how do you feel about your body of work?
    It's been a mixed bag. A very mixed bag, frankly. One thing that happens when you have kids is you become less precious about what you can and can't do. There is no denying that I took some gigs because the rent had to be paid and I was trying to feed five people [a wife, three children and himself].

    What were the influences that inspired the character of Prince George on "Blackadder"?

    I don't know. I think I've always felt a strong affinity with stupidity. I simply find it easy to play stupid people. That can only be because I am myself stupid and I am baffled by the world. I find the world incomprehensible and can't make sense of it. My most common, most predominant emotion is one of bafflement and that's what comes out in that kind of character. Just playing the fool. It may also at one time have been a desire not to appear threatening to people.

    You have this sense of humility that . . .

    It's all a front.

    See: You're even humble about being humble. What is it about life that baffles you?

    Absolutely everything. I'm just constantly surprised by the way people behave, the things people say. I so rarely see it coming. And I'm so envious of people who do.

    What would be an example of when you felt like that?

    See, that. You asking me -- that is an example. I suppose I should have seen that coming. And yet you surprised me. And I'm sitting here with my mouth open and scratching my head, going, "Wow, I just never saw that coming."

    Do you feel like your personal evolution mirrors that of the characters you play, going from innocent buffoons to this intelligent, world-weary expert?

    No. I actually feel stupider and less experienced with every year that goes by.

    Why is that?

    I don't know. My memory of how I was at the age of eighteen was that I knew absolutely everything there was to know. There were no subjects on which I didn't have a coherent and forceful opinion. And as the years go by, that has just fallen away. I feel like a baby now. I feel as if I have less and less technical expertise. I feel like I know nothing about anything. I suppose what's actually happening is that the arrogance of one's youth is just sort of disintegrating. And the truth is, I never knew anything.

    Did you have an experience that humbled you or made you less confident?

    Almost every day and in almost every scene I do. I never feel like, "Oh, boy, I hit that one out of the park." In fact, I usually feel slightly embarrassed, slightly humiliated, and I slink away like a man who has come out with his pants off. On the weekends, I voluntarily go through the same thing when I go boxing. The whole point of the exercise is to be humiliated by someone who knows what they're doing. And it reminds me that I don't know anything. And I find that very bracing.

    Maybe you have a strong sense of guilt, and that's your Achilles' heel.

    Yeah, guilt I can do. If I have any expertise at all, it's in the area of guilt. I have a black belt in it. If you ever want a guilt-off, next time we meet let's see how we match up. I'm pretty confident in that area.

    Because you were raised in a strict manner?

    I wouldn't say strict, but traditional. My dad was a gentle soul and by no means a disciplinarian. My mother exerted a firmer hand. I don't know if that was a question of discipline or whether I just annoyed her. It was more the latter. She just found me annoying a lot of the time. And quite rightly.

    You were the youngest of four siblings, and the youngest often tries to get the most attention, so I suppose that can be annoying.

    Well, according to my sisters and brother, I did get all the attention, and that annoyed them. But that's not how it looked to me. Maybe I really am a typical actor who just can't get enough attention.

    What was their form of punishment if you misbehaved?

    My mother would smack me. My father never did. But that makes it sound like I was knocked around. I absolutely wasn't. Why am I even bringing it up? I should say, "No, that never happened." Her daily form of punishment was sulking. She was a good sulker.

    So that's where the guilt comes from.

    Yes, I inherited that skill from her.

    Who were the actors or comedians that you admired when you were young?

    Peter Cook, Peter Sellers and Michael Palin. I had a hankering to follow in Peter Ustinov's footsteps. He projected the aura of a gentleman amateur. He was fantastically accomplished. He could write a book or act or direct. He made them look like enjoyable pastimes instead of backbreaking work.

    If House is such a misanthrope, why does he sacrifice so much to save his patients?

    The show's creator, David Shore, has been quite candid about his debt to Sherlock Holmes, and Holmes cared very little for people. The one thing that could rouse him from his languor was the puzzle, the solving of the problem and it's the same with House.

    Since House is a Vicodin addict, did you try it to understand the character?

    I did, yeah. And I recommend it. It's very -- no, I don't recommend it. Kids, if you're reading this -- no, but it is good stuff. People tell me that it has a very different effect if you're actually in pain, though. If you are using it for fun, it's quite different. And the fun side is excellent. It really is.

    In the same way, did you have to try LSD and a prostitute for the episode where you did that?

    No. That didn't come up. You know, I should have thought of it. Damn it.

    Do you worry about House becoming a parody of himself, especially as the seasons go on?

    Absolutely. The show is now in its late adolescence. But what will the show be like when it's middle-aged? Or what kind of a death can the show look forward to? He died peacefully in his sleep, or he had a long, drawn-out miserable existence.

    Do you worry about developing skeletal problems from walking with a limp on set?

    Yes, I do. I remember watching a movie about someone escaping from a German prisoner-of-war camp by pretending to be mad. But the twist is that he ends up going mad. So by affecting something for long enough, it actually becomes real. There may come a time when my pelvis is shot and I just can't move. I actually have some shoulder problems, which I figure has to do with walking on the cane. But it's good to know that I'm suffering for my art. I feel good about that. A bit of pain makes it feel better.

    Posted Mar 21, 2007 2:17 PM

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    United States
    Thanks for posting that Liz!

    I love him. Well, I really should say I love House. And then I guess Hugh Laurie would be annoyed, because he's insisting that House isn't a sex symbol. Whatever.
    "Use your natural powers - of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity - to do work you love and work that matters." - Susan Cain, Quiet

    "[Y]ou are not too busy to write, you are busy because you do not write." - Wendy Belcher

  4. #4
    oceanflower Guest
    I love Hugh Laurie in everything I've seen him in namely Black Adder, Jeeves and Wooster, and House, M.D.. I think he's a brilliant actor..and he looks mighty fine, too.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    The Lighthouse
    Very interesting. The contrast between Laurie and the character of House intrigues me, but also the similarities, or at least, what Laurie might tap in to when creating House.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    In the same way, did you have to try LSD and a prostitute for the episode where you did that?
    -No. That didn't come up. You know, I should have thought of it. Damn it.

    I love him in everything, too. He's so awesome.

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