Firstly, congratulations on your job in Last Vegas, did you research a lot into Madonna, so you could play her impersonator Maurice in the film?
You know it’s interesting. I think it’s really good to of course research her anyway because what drove this character to devote a good part of his life dressing up or attempting to look like Madonna, was I had to learn the things that he probably adored about her. So yeah, I did do some research and I even learned a dance move or two – to varying degrees of success.
And you know I’m generally a person who moves pretty well; I don’t report to be as good as Madonna, so it was always funny but it only became more funny once I had that conical bra on – that was just weird, as you can imagine. It is entertaining though.
I definitely enjoyed it.
Yeah and I had a great time you know. Once I got over the initial shock of removing my hair from my body. Which did look peculiar for months because there were patches that were covered and didn’t need to be removed.
Could you tell me about your experience on set? Any meetings or highlights?
I did get to spend days with Kevin Kline who is just very nice and very funny. The highlights really were improvising with [Kline] he was fantastic. And laughing with Jon Turteltaub, the director, who is really hilarious. It’s a strange thing too, to talk up to Robert De Niro and say “How you doing? Big fan.” In that outfit too [Laughs] not how I imagined!
I think some of the more interesting moments were when I had my corset on. I was about 12 or 15 pounds heavier when I shot the movie, maybe from binge drinking or eating or whatever, but it just made it so difficult to manoeuvre or do daily things. Like going to the bathroom, I would have not drunk water all day if I’d known it was going to be like that. That was pretty rotten. But even more interesting was I surrounded in one scene by an entourage of transsexuals; some of who their lives on a daily basis as people were like the film. There was a Marilyn Monroe who was really quite attractive, did an amazing job and they started laughing as soon as they saw me on set because I looked like a female performer she knew. It’s amazing actually how quickly caring about wether or not I was pretty happened, I never thought about that I just knew I was not going to be an attractive woman. But you still can’t help but wonder if somebody is admiring your legs.
What was the audition process like for the role of Maurice?
[Laughs] Well, it was funny because I got this call from them saying they had thought of me for this part and I was really not sure why. Because you certainly don’t look at my face and go “Pretty? Pretty!” So they brought me in and there was some back and forth about what aspect of me I would be bringing in as a woman. The didn’t want me coming in drag and I didn’t suggest I was going to, so I considered maybe bringing in a scarf or something else to put on my head because I was going to be reading as myself in the second part of the movie and then also as Madonna. They kind of just randomly talked and laughed and that was the end of it. Then I got the offer so really it was more of a meeting and I was shocked and thrilled they wanted me for the part and we laughed – a lot.
If you could choose someone to impersonate, whom would you pick?
There’s so many, where do I start… I like impersonating Mel Brooks.
You’re very well known for your role on Desperate Housewives as the murderous George, do you ever want to take on a villain role again?
They are fun! I’m hoping that me doing revenge, I think you get that over there right?
I had a pretty good part in revenge. I’m hoping that cleared the palate a little bit from George the sociopath. But I loved doing that; I hope so because they are really fun parts. They can be kind of defining for a couple of years. I’m glad you know that. I’ve also done a couple of movies with Russel Crowe, which I’ve enjoyed and he is a great guy. I did The Insider with him and worked with him again on American Gangster as his attorney, which was great fun. So I hope I can kind of get on the radar of Australia because if I went there now and everybody recognised me as George I don’t that would exactly guarantee me the nice corner table by the window. I don’t Madonna necessarily will either but I’ll just keep plugging.
Going back to Last Vegas and Maurice, his character breaks a lot of the automatic assumptions and ideas of gender roles. When Maurice comments the he too has a wife when we’re first introduced to him, Sam the character he’s talking with, is taken by surprise. What are some of your thoughts on gender roles and representation in film?
As a matter of fact I’m kind of thrilled today because in America you know the St Patricks day parade lost a few of their sponsors – Heineken and Sam Adams and Guinness. It was because they were opposed to St Patrick’s Day not having lesbian and gay people participate in the parade. And that’s their prerogative but the surge is great regardless. I think in a small way my movie just sort of shakes it up. Part of the joy of Last Vegas is all of these guys are trying to go through the process of what makes them happy and transitioning to another part of the genetic chapter in their life. For my character, my love and my work is doing the show in Las Vegas that’s called ‘Legends’ and they put on a fairly cheesy production of people who impersonate Elvis and whatnot and Lady Gaga and they’re kind of wonderful and funny – successful to varying degrees but you know. It’s fun but our country is still a little but adolescent but growing up quickly. I think the Aussies are a little bit ahead of us there.
[Laughs] Only a little.
Yeah. But you know it’s kind of great that I’m a part of that. I’m in this movie called the Producers too. One of the things we loved to do in that movie was me and Gary Beach who was a director and I was his common law assistant and we always showed we were the happiest couple in the movie, that we adore each other and have the perfect relationship. I think that was great because we got to get away with a lot of campiness and silliness. Because at the core of our relationship it was a healthy love between two happy people. That’s a nice thing to be able to put out there in the world.
On a lighter note now, you’ve got an expansive career so far, with some well-known roles in film, television and theatre. What are some of your own personal highlights?
The Producers was certainly a remarkable experience, I worked with Mel Brooks who is just legendary so to work with him was pretty amazing. Also it just came at an interesting time in New York you know, in 2001 and there we were you know, doing an old fashioned musical with an edge. It was an extraordinary time, and my second daughter was born on the first preview. It was just an amazing time to be both Carmen Ghia and having a second daughter, so peculiar.
I loved singing Hercules with about a 65-piece orchestra at Sony studios in New York City when I was hired to sing that ballad by Alan Menken –
Go The Distance.
Yeah, it was a remarkable experience you know? It was a real true dream come true. I loved doing Charlie Brown and winning the Tony award I just wish I had said something more intelligent and humble at the actual event but that happens, I was young and stupid.
Your two daughters Ali and Eller, do you ever sit and watch your films together when they come out? What did they think of your Madonna impersonation?
They thought it was funny. But it’s funny about children and parents, they all know your shit. So that’s kind of it you know, it’s awesome that they’ll tell you the truth about it and I got two thumbs up from my two kids and one is thirteen and one is twenty seven so it was quite a wide spectrum of exposure. I think they can probably live life without seeing The Hostile Part 2 and I don’t blame them.
Last Vegas, despite its heavier underlying meaning, is a comedy film. Recently with your role in How I Met Your Mother as Curtis, do you gravitate towards the funnier scripts?
I love being funny, you know honestly I love being loathed. I really thought George from Desperate Housewives was hilarious. It’s dark funny. It’s all stuff that any clown loves, you just love to be able to make them laugh, laugh, laugh and eventually cry.
“Last Vegas” is now on DVD and Blu-ray