'BLOW OUT'/'BLOW-UP' - "BRIAN DOESN'T DO ADAPTATIONS-- HE SORT OF DOES RIFFS"
John Lithgow was interviewed by A.V. Club's Will Harris for the site's "Random Roles" series, in which actors discuss various roles without knowing in advance which roles they will be asked about. There is a nice segment about Lithgow's work with Brian De Palma:
Obsession (1976)—“Robert LaSalle”
AVC: How did you and Brian De Palma first cross paths?
JL: I was in a little summer theater workshop in Princeton, New Jersey. I was at Harvard at the time, and I was working with a bunch of Brian’s Columbia pals. It was sort of a college summer workshop. And we did a Molière farce, and they invited this friend of theirs, Brian De Palma, down to see it. And the first I ever knew of Brian was hearing him roar with laughter out in the audience. Brian has a huge cackling laugh that you don’t hear very often. And then backstage I met him for the first time. We were all about 20 years old back then. That’s how far back we go. In fact, Dealing—the movie that you mentioned—it was Brian’s idea! He suggested me to the director. So he’s part of my origin story as a movie actor! And then two years later, he cast me in my first major film role: Obsession. I’ve worked with him three times now.
Blow Out (1981)—“Burke”
AVC: Of the three, Blow Out is probably the most critically acclaimed.
JL: Yes! Yeah, it really is a terrific film. It really holds up. And it’s one of [John] Travolta’s really good performances.
AVC: It was also sort of an adaptation of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up.
JL: Well, Brian doesn’t do adaptations. He sort of does riffs. Or homages, if you want to be pretentious. [Laughs.] You know, you could say that Obsession was his Vertigo film, and I can’t remember what the very, very precise references are in his movies, but those were his Hitchcock tributes. But they’re very distinctly De Palma’s.
AVC: Blow Out certainly has an ending that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a bit dark.
JL: Oh, yeah! [Laughs.] He kills the people you’re really interested in!
Raising Cain (1992)—“Carter”/”Cain”/”Dr. Nix”/”Josh”/”Margo”
AVC: Raising Cain, meanwhile, has gotten a reappraisal recently as a result of a new director’s cut of the film that, oddly enough, wasn’t actually done by De Palma.
JL: Now you’re actually telling me news I didn’t know. I don’t keep up on these things! Who did the cut?
AVC: His name is Peet Gelderblom, and he took the film and created a new cut based on the original script, and De Palma thought it was great.
JL: Oh, Brian liked it? Wow! No, I haven’t heard anything about it. I’ll have to see it! Maybe he’s made a little bit more sense of it. [Laughs.] Brian’s movies are like Chinese puzzles. They’re incredibly intricate, and sometimes they’re so intricate that he has to edit them differently when it comes times to finish them. I remember a couple of my scenes being cut in two and separated by about 20 minutes.
AVC: That’s almost certainly the film where you play the most roles.
JL: Yeah. I think there’s five. It was kind of my Faces Of Eve. I loved it. It was really fun.