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People In Film | John Goodman

John Goodman | Resident Eccentric

Meet Mr. Prenderghast. He’s your textbook small-town crazy, the guy that lives in that spooky house on the hill. People say this bearded oddball can speak with the dead, which is why the family have tried to keep him well clear of his 11-year-old nephew Norman. But too late. Norman already enjoys the company of his ghostly friends. And one day, while sitting in a public toilet cubicle, Norman is paid a visit by his kooky uncle. “Do I look crazy to you?” bellows Prenderghast, after flooring Norman with the news that a 300-year-old witch’s curse will soon unleash zombie havoc on their New England town. Really, there’s no need for an answer. John Goodman (who plays Mr. Prenderghast) has been playing, or in this case voicing, such outsized characters throughout his four decades on stage, TV and film. With more than one hundred screen credits to his name, Goodman has portrayed everyone from Babe Ruth to Fred Flintstone to the Hollywood producer who barks out the most words in the otherwise-silent The Artist. Those rubbery and highly expressive facial features have been put to good use. So too has the deep, rumbling baritone that has helped to animate characters in The Emperor’s New Groove, The Princess And The Frog, and of course, Sulley, the blue-furred behemoth in Monsters, Inc. Goodman has a natural affinity for animation, which he expresses with his usual knack for self-disparagement. “You don't have to shave. You just read into a microphone. Usually at the end of a four-hour session I'm wiped out. It takes a lot of physicality... I mean, I get pretty tired just sitting up,” he once told the BBC. “When I was a kid, I loved Popeye, but the old ones, the real old ones. I hated Woody Woodpecker and Scooby-Doo, but I was a cartoon freak. So when my daughter was born I went out and got all this stuff, so we could have something in common. TV is the best babysitter.”

John Goodman | Life Beyond Roseanne

As with so many actors of his bearish physique, Goodman has often played the comic foil. His most famous role remains that of Dan Conner, the henpecked husband in Roseanne. The blue-collar sitcom ran for nine seasons from 1988 and became the top-rated show on American television midway through that run. Even though Roseanne won Goodman a Best Actor Golden Globe and an amazing seven Emmy Awards, the jolly, salt-of-the-earth persona he created for Dan Conner is just one facet of his acting range and depth. While a natural-born comedian, John Goodman is also a serious actor – one whose talent has matured under the direction of David Mamet, David Byrne, Harold Becker, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Stephen Daldry, Mike Nichols and, most memorably, the Coen brothers, for whom he has played some seriously demented souls. At some point he will get that overdue Oscar nomination. In a long profile of the actor, The New York Times alluded frequently to those traces of melancholy that can be detected beneath the affable Goodman façade. As a person, he is as at home discussing the acting methods of Stanislavsky as he is extolling the plain virtues of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. “You could say the same about the intriguing texture of Goodman's acting, the way it can be at once natural and self-consciously sophisticated, goofy and droll, highbrow and lowbrow, mainstream and eccentric,” the profile observed. “[Goodman] has sent a remarkable collection of big guys out into the world. Like the actor himself, they tend to be smarter, wittier, weirder and sadder than you'd think they'd be, and they're almost always better dancers.” Goodman certainly has his A-list fans. In that same New York Times article, Byrne said Goodman's performance in his directorial debut, True Stories, "carried the movie." Spielberg, who directed him in Always, called Goodman "every bit as serious an actor as Robert De Niro and Montgomery Clift," while Al Pacino, his co-star in Sea Of Love and subsequently You Don’t Know Jack, said, "John is an important actor, period." Not that Goodman ever turned his back on television. Beyond the cable biopics, he has featured in several prominent guest-starring arcs on series such as Community, Damages and Treme. In The West Wing, Goodman played the conservative Speaker of the House who briefly becomes the acting President of the United States. And now, nearly 15 years after Roseanne, Goodman has been agreed to co-star again alongside his former on-screen wife in Downwardly Mobile, an upcoming multi-camera NBC comedy pilot set at a mobile home park that Roseanne Barr has been writing and executive producing. "I wouldn't mind being on a series again,” he explained to the Huffington Post. ”You get tired living out of a suitcase."

John Goodman | "I don’t roll on Shabbos!"

Interviewed in 2003 for Inside The Actors Studio, Goodman revealed that of all the projects he had worked on up to that point, his favorite was The Big Lebowski. This was the 1998 bowling comedy in which he achieved indie cult status as the borderline psychotic war veteran Walter Sobchak. His dialogue, including an exchange with Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi explaining why he can’t bowl on Saturday, is still quoted with cult-like devotion. How often do people come up to him and repeat "I don't roll on Shabbos"?  “A lot. Once a week someone will bring up a DVD or something to sign or come out of the blue, blindside me.” The Big Lebowski was the fourth film by the filmmaking brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, in which Goodman had appeared. It followed on the heels of Raising Arizona, Barton Fink (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination) and The Hudsucker Proxy. To that list can also be added both O Brother, Where Art Thou? and soon too Inside Llewyn Davis, in which Goodman will play a jazz musician who takes a road trip with the Greenwich Village 60s folk musician who is the film's title character. With six Coen roles under his belt, Goodman now joins both Buscemi and Frances McDormand as the Coen brothers’ most recurring actor. As he told the Huffington Post, Goodman leaps at the chance to work with them: “Yeah, it doesn't matter. ‘We've got you drinking out of a dog bowl.’ OK!” Such is his blind enthusiasm, that he didn’t even know his co-stars would be Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan. As for how this relationship all began, there’s a Goodman quote that frequently appears on showbiz sites, like IMDb, without attribution: “I flew into New York for the Raising Arizona audition, and we just started joking around. I started going through their résumé pile, looking at actors, and just kinda made myself at home in my obnoxious way. I think they cast me because I had a baby face and that was a motif of the film.”

John Goodman | Showbiz Impresario

Last year, John Goodman found himself in two Hollywood films that ended up challenging each other for the Best Picture Academy Award: Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist. As the film world knows, it was the silent, black-and-white love letter to one of cinema’s golden eras that took home that and four other golden statuettes. As Al Zimmer, the cigar-chewing studio boss in his three-piece pinstripes, Goodman was the definition of the hard-assed Hollywood mogul. When the film’s silence is finally broken by the director’s fabled word "Cut!", it is Zimmer, ever the tough executive, who can be heard adding: "Perfect. Beautiful. Could you give me one more?" This is not the first time that Goodman has portrayed figments of his own industry. In Kevin Spacey’s Beyond The Sea, he showed up as Steve Blauner, the outspoken talent manager who played Colonel Parker to Bobby Darin’s Elvis. And in Joe Dante’s Matinee, in which he headlines a cast that includes actual filmmaker John Sayles and a then unknown Naomi Watts, Goodman was at his gleeful best as a schlock movie promoter named Woolsey (a character based on William Castle). It’s the eve of the Cuban Missile crisis and he wants to premiere his latest flick, Mant! ("Half man, half ant, all terror!”), to the already frightened residents of Key West, Florida. What better atmosphere to showcase a film in Atomo-Vision and Rumble-Rama! When asked by Huffington Post if Woolsey and Zimmer still exist in Hollywood, Goodman admits, “You know what, I don't have much access to the executives, the big shots….I kind of try to avoid them.”

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