He's played presidents in the popcorn flick "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and the Broadway rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, but Benjamin Walker now faces one of his greatest challenges in leading a classic Tennessee Williams family drama. Walker, whose previous Broadway credits include revivals of Inherit the Wind and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, stars as tormented alcoholic Brick Pollitt opposite Tony winner Scarlett Johansson's Maggie in the latest revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which officially opens Jan. 17, 2013, at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. The 30-year-old actor-comedian discusses the perils of onstage drinking and how he's found the funny in the dysfunction.
You became an action star in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and you'll next appear onscreen in the HBO film "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight." As you branch out into TV and film, how important is it for you to stay connected to the theatre?
Benjamin Walker: I started out in the theatre, and I'm never going to not be doing theatre. I love that the best literature is in the theatre, and I love the people in the theatre. I love that the theatre community is a real community, whereas the movie business is a business. I like working in that business too, and I'm inspired by people in that field, but it's the legacy of the theatre that keeps drawing me to it.
You showed tremendous loyalty to the theatre when you turned down the role of the Beast in the film "X-Men: First Class" in order to transfer with Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson from the Public Theater to Broadway.
BW: That was a complicated decision, but it boiled down to the fact that I was going to regret not being a part of that show on Broadway. When you're lying there dying, those are the things you think about, and I didn't want that particular regret. I try to keep my regrets counted on one hand.
Realistically, that production may not have moved to Broadway without your involvement.
BW: And those are my friends, man. We'd all grown with the show for so long. I was broke anyway, so I figured I could be broke a while longer. No big deal.
Unfortunately, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson closed on Broadway after only 120 performances. Any regrets there?
BW: Absolutely not. We took that show as far as it could possibly go. For that, I could not be more proud of the cast and everyone involved. I had dinner with [composer-lyricist] Michael Friedman a few weeks ago, and he was saying that Andrew Jackson is one of the top 10 most produced shows across the country. There are, like, four productions in Texas alone. That's remarkable. That's where the show should live and probably will for a long time.
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