What’s harder to do—a death scene or a sex scene?
Love scenes, just because they’re embarrassing. I did a love scene in The American, which was challenging, especially when you’re 50. I died in The American, though you don’t really see it. And I was blown to bits in Syriana.
Did you cry when you saw yourself die?
No. The last time I really cried at one of my movies was at the premiere of Batman & Robin. I thought that might be the end of my career and I might have brought down a franchise, and I wept.
You cry over your soon-to-be-dead wife in The Descendants, and it’s very touching.
You know what? I covered that poor woman in onions, and when I went down to kiss her, massive tears. That’s how I roll [laughs].
Did you cry when you were on The Facts of Life?
Let me tell you—I was on the show a year and a half, and there was one scene where Tootie and Jo were having an argument with Natalie, and I had to break it up. That’s easily some of the best work I’ve ever done [laughs]. I was fired from The Facts of Life. They did a reunion show and asked if I wanted to come do it, and I said, ‘You know, you did fire me.’
You did a lot of TV before starring in ER.
On ER I had, by far, the smallest part. But I knew that if you play a pediatrician, it automatically makes you likable. In the first scene, I’m drunk. In the second scene, I’m hitting on the nurses. But at the end, I’m like, “Don’t touch that kid—not tonight, not ever,” and everybody says, “Ohhh, he’s a good guy.” You can do anything you want as long as you’re nice to kids.
In The Ides of March, you play a candidate for president, which raises the inevitable question: Will you run for elected office?
No. The truth is, I really enjoy my life. And it doesn’t look fun to be in politics right now. I couldn’t imagine living under that kind of microscope, where not just things you do but things you don’t do are held against you. So, no.
Grooming by Jean Black.