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Peter Falk: Inside The Actors Studio

Peter Falk: Inside The Actor's Studio

by Billy Ingram

You may know him from 'Columbo' but Peter Falk was considered an actor's actor. Comedy, drama, Falk gave his all for any character he played.

WIKI: Falk was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for Murder, Inc. (1960) and 'Pocketful of Miracles' (1961), and won his first Emmy Award in 1962 for 'The Dick Powell Theatre'. He was the first actor to be nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy Award in the same year, achieving the feat twice (1961/62).

Falk made his Broadway debut in 1956, appearing in Alexander Ostrovsky's 'Diary of a Scoundrel'. In 1972, he returned to the Great White Way in 'The Prisoner of Second Avenue'.

In 1999, the actor sat down with James Lipton of 'Inside The Actors Studio' to discuss the art of acting. I always found Lipton to be a somewhat persnickety interviewer, crafting questions more to show off how intelligent he was than anything else - but he did have a college age live audience and that attitude works well in that environment. And his questioning always led to a fascinating hour of insights into Falk's varied career.

"Acting is so personal. I'll give you example where... thought precedes behavior. Thought precedes emotion. Any one emotion is triggers by some thought. Now the trick is how, in the take, are you gonna get a fresh thought? A new thought. A thought that never happened before. Believe me, it's very rare, in all the years I've been doing it I could count it on my hand. They're very, very, very rare. But, I can only say that, when you do get a fresh thought on a take, you know that you're acting well. If something enters your head that you didn't think of before.

"And in 'Mikey and Nicky' (1976) there's a scene on the bus and I was taking him to his death. And what Elaine [May] said to me before the take, 'Just pick one thing about John [Cassavetes] and just concentrate on that. And I concentrated on the pores in his skin. And I'm just looking at him just thinking about that. And, you know, John has high cheek bones and when he laughs it's a devil kind of laugh. And I thought it looked like a skeleton, like a devil's skeleton. And the next fresh thought that I had during that take was that we were not in a bus, we were in a hearst."

On 'The In-Laws', one of my fave comedies of all time, "Probably the funniest scene in that picture, at least for a lot of people was 'Serpentine', right? I mean, you walk down the streets and guys open up the window and yell 'Serpentine.' We were about to do that scene and I said to Alan [Arkin], 'Alan, you think this is funny?' And he said to me, you are the dumbest actor in America.' My feeling is, that was an inspired script."

On his most famous role...

'Columbo' producer William Link wondered about the existence of Colombo's wife, "It is possible that there is no Mrs. Columbo. And that she is utilized and created by him in order to make a point."

"I disagree, " Falk replies. "I disagree, I think he does have a wife. But I'm not sure how many relatives he has. The reason I say that about the relatives is that, the way the relatives came about is, and it's very important that Columbo never be a showoff. He's got a big brain but he should never wear it on his sleeve. It's very important that he appear harmless to the adversary. One of the easy ways of doing that, you would say, 'Oh my nephew, this kid is an egghead. You know, he knows about giant snails, I didn't even know giant snails existed!'"

Of course, there was the 1979-80 TV series 'Mrs. Columbo' starring Kate Mulgrew to consider, although that series existed in another universe so the speak.

Watch the entire interview here:

 

 

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The Prisoner of Second Avenue, produced by Saint Subber and directed by Mike Nichols, premiered on November 11, 1971 at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The show closed on September 29, 1973 after 798 performances and four previews. The play starred Peter Falk, Lee Grant, and Vincent Gardenia.ad


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