Judd Hirsch interview: ‘The Fabelmans’

Judd Hirsch never had much contact with Steven Spielberg or even knew anyone who had been in his movies before he got cast in the scene-stealing role of Uncle Boris in Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical feature “The Fabelmans.” “I had no idea why the hell he wanted me to do this part.” the 87-year-old Hirsch professes, “or what he might have seen me in. And to this day, I keep getting conflicting stories.” He said Spielberg told him that “this will be the movie that he would make without either aliens or dinosaurs. But by the time it was finished, I said, ‘I’m the alien dinosaur’.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Regardless of what inspired the filmmaker to settle on Hirsch, it worked out remarkably well. The role of the curmudgeonly family member earned him his second-ever Academy Award nomination for supporting actor, eclipsing by one year the Oscar record for longest gap between noms set by Henry Fonda. It’s been 42 years since Hirsch was nominated for his role as the empathetic psychiatrist Dr. Berger in Robert Redford’s Best Picture winner “Ordinary People” (1981). Hirsch pointed out that in that film, he played opposite 19-year-old Timothy Hutton. This time, he co-starred with then-19-year-old Gabriel LaBelle. “So I guess,” he added, “if you want to get an Academy Award, you’ve got to think of another picture with me and a 19-year-old kid.”

What was it like for Hirsch to work with LaBelle? He offers that the two had never said so much as a word to one another before shooting their pivotal scene together. “I think Steven did it on purpose because he didn’t want anything to get in the way of my character,” he believes. Because of the nature of the dialogue and the attitude, he said, “(It was) almost like accosting somebody who doesn’t know you’re going to do that to them.”

While Hirsch lost on his first Oscar bid in ’81, should he win this time, he’d be the oldest-ever acting category victor. Anthony Hopkins was 83 when he took home the lead actor trophy for “The Father” in 2021. The nomination alone, however, has served to transform Hirsch into possibly the hottest 87-year-old actor on the planet. He’s suddenly everywhere. He stars with Carol Kane and Sean Astin in a new feature, “iMordecai,” that gets a limited theatrical release this coming Friday. In it, he plays a Holocaust survivor struggling to keep up with a world he doesn’t understand.  In April, he has a supporting role in another theatrical feature starring Michelle Williams, “Showing Up.” That’s not to mention a forthcoming baseball film, “Rally Caps,” in which he has a healthy role, as well as an episode of the forthcoming Apple TV+ series “Extrapolations.”

Hirsch is suddenly so popular, in fact, that a thriller he toplined a decade ago, “Altered Minds,” has been re-released onto streaming platforms. Yet when he hears the word “resurgence,” the two-time Emmy winner (for “Taxi”) and two-time Tony Award winner dismisses it as “a little bit much…I’m living in an age of exaggeration, and I don’t come from there. As an actor, you just want to be believed, play the truth, know the truth.” So scripts aren’t flooding his mailbox? “It’s a little soon. If I don’t win it, it’s, ‘OK – next?'”

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UPLOADED Feb 23, 2023 5:41 pm