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Steven Bauer on his role in ‘Ray Donovan’ and why ‘Scarface’: ‘Was such a pariah of a movie’

Noel Phillips
Steven Bauer and Al Pacino 300x195 Steven Bauer on his role in ‘Ray Donovan’ and why ‘Scarface’: ‘Was such a pariah of a movie

(c) Universal Studios

Ever since his breakout role as Al Pacino’s right-hand man in 1983’s Scarface, Steven Bauer has built an impressive filmography that boasts over 100 television and film appearances. And while playing a tough guy certainly has its advantages, Bauer is now taking the plunge into more serious drama. He recently landed a role in Sky Atlantic’s Ray Donovan, which stars Liev Schreiber, as an eponymous “fixer” who steers the rich and famous through their predicaments.

Created by Ann Biderman, who also gave us the acclaimed Southland, Ray Donovan is prime time cinema at its finest—overflowing with remarkable talent.

With the show already renewed for a second season, we spoke with Bauer about real-life fixers in Hollywood, working with Al Pacino—and why he would like a part in the next James Bond film.

When I told my mom I was interviewing you, the first thing she said was, “You know he slept on Ray Liotta’s couch, right?”

No, he slept on my couch [laughs]. I had moved to California to start working in television at the same time when he was doing a soap opera in New York. He then came to visit me and ended up staying for a while as he explored possibilities in Hollywood.

It’s 30 years since the release of Scarface, and it seems to still have a rabid cult following, even Jean-Claude Van Damme, has a dog called Scarface. What do you think is the secret behind its age-defying appeal?

I think there is no longer any concern about political correctness. It was a very different era when it was released, and the critics were in a different state of mind about the themes portrayed in the film. Luckily, we survived that era and every generation now embrace the movie as a great moral tale. I think because the performances were so strong and consistent, audiences until this day still relate to them very strongly. It’s a great movie, but at the time it just wasn’t appreciated.

You’re known in the film for your role as Al Pacino’s sidekick. How has your relationship with him evolved since those days?

It’s hard to always be in contact as he is a very busy man – but we’re still friends. He is an amazing and funny person. I mean, we were very close for a few years while we were making the film – but afterwards because the movie was moiled for so long, it felt like something you couldn’t really admit to being involved with. Here in Hollywood it was terrible because it was such a pariah of a movie. People used to say to me, ‘You’re that really good actor in that really bad movie.’ I couldn’t believe how people could not get it.

As an actor, you seem to have an broad range, not only in terms of the kinds of characters you’ve taken on, but also in the types of films you choose. Do you have a preference?

I really do like the independent way of working. You don’t get much studio intrusion compared to when you’re working on a big Hollywood film where there tends to always be loads of people interfering. The only problem, though with independent features is that they are hard to sell.

I take it you’re pleased to see Ray Donovan receiving so much admiration?

I’m very happy. It was really a good sign when you see the president of Showtime spending a lot of time on the set, not interfering but just supporting the cast and crew. I also knew in some ways that this was something that had the potential to go on for a few years.

The show presents the idea that Hollywood is a place that hides many secrets. Do you know any real-life Ray Donovan’s?

No. I don’t have any personal contact with any, but they are out there. They have been in Hollywood for a long time and they really do exist. Because of the amount of money invested in celebrities, they can’t afford for them to get into trouble, so they will do whatever they can to help sustain their image.

How different is Ray Donovan to ABC’s Scandal?

It’s very different. The only thing that is similar is that the main character in Scandal also does the same thing what Ray does, but in Washington. However, this is different because there are real crimes and some really horrible stuff that we have to try and fix.

Your character, Avi, is man who plays the bad guy very well. At 56, how do you prepare for the role of a lawbreaker?

Fortunately, I’m very healthy and my body is still intact. It hasn’t aged very much, I feel like a very young 56. I exercise regularly and when I do I always learn new things about my body.

Ray Donovan has been confirmed for a second season. What more will we learn about your character?

You will find out a little bit in this season about my connection to Ray. In the next season there will be a lot more about my personal life, but you will notice that in the second half of this season, I start alluding to my private life.

You’ve appeared in at least one movie every year since 1987. What’s next?

I’ll be playing a priest in Chavez Cage Of Glory, which is a fight movie. I’m not sure if it will make the jump to Europe, but it’s very appealing in the Latino culture. I play the brother of a fighter opposite Danny Trejo, who plays a very bad villain.

Are there any British actors or directors that you would like to work with?

I’m very fond of the British cinema. I’m a big fan of Martin Campbell and Daniel Craig. I actually find Daniel very inspirational, especially on the physical side of things. He really inspired me to get back into shape when I started to add on a few pounds. I think he’s a great role model.

So what about the possibility of a role in the next Bond installment?

I would love to be big enough for a role in the next Bond film [laughs]. I’m not too keen on playing the big bad villain, but I wouldn’t mind being one of Bond’s helpers.

Ray Donovan airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on Sky Atlantic.

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