since the release of The Producers, an American musical-comedy film directed by Susan Stroman. The film starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and was an adaptation of the 2001 Broadway musical, which in turn was based on the 1968 film of the same name starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. OutUK's Ron Dicker talked to Nathan Lane about his relationship with Broderick and the film of their Broadway smash.

In 2005, they were mostly just boldfaced names in the trade publications to each other. Lane, was 49, and had already been a hot commodity in theatre with a Tony Award as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He did a mainstream movie star-turn as the hysterical half of a gay couple with Robin Williams in The Birdcage, but his success in movies has been mostly in voiceovers (Timon in The Lion King and Snowbell in the Stuart Little series.) He says young Hollywood directors do not bother with theatre, so fat chance he would land a prime screen role soon. And TV after his last endeavour, the 2003 sitcom Charlie Lawrence, seems out of the question. The show featured Lane, also the writer and producer, as a gay congressman. CBS President Les Moonves pulled the plug on it after two episodes.

Broderick, meanwhile, has been better able to juggle stage and screen in such smaller-profile gems as Election and You Can Count on Me but after the disappointing Inspector Gadget and The Stepford Wives he gets no major-studio bounce.

On the occasion of our 2005 chat, Lane and Broderick's compatibility gets a severe test. From 9 to 5 they do interviews in a Park Avenue hotel, then have to report to makeup for The Odd Couple's 7:30 p.m. curtain. Familiarity seems to never breed contempt. They summer in the Hamptons near each other, Broderick with his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker and toddler son, and Lane with a steady boyfriend. And they have dinner together with friends a few nights a week. But given the enforced proximity at an all-day press junket, Broderick suggests, "Maybe we shouldn't eat together tonight."


Lane points to Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon (who starred in the 1968 film version of The Odd Couple) as team-mates who also thrived separately. As to whether he and Broderick will be remembered most for their collaborations, Lane says, "I don't think about posterity a lot. I'll leave that to some other people to think about. It's certainly a surprising turn and a really fun, wonderful thing."

The Producers film granted the duo a larger audience than ever before. Creator Mel Brooks (also the father of the original 1968 Producers movie) said he wanted the play preserved for the ages. Broderick said he hoped the celluloid incarnation will stand on its own.

The camera tends to make actors emote less, but the outsized material of The Producers demands the grand gestures, the actors said. Lane found himself asking director Susan Stroman, "You want the St . James theatre version or the indie film version or something in between?"

Stroman has called Lane a glorious diva, a label that made Lane wonder if she was being serious. "I say, fuck her. She should actually have a diva on the set to find out what that's like. I would say I come very prepared and ready to work. I'm not a diva at all."


It would be difficult to tinker with a musical that won a record 12 Tony Awards (including best actor Lane over Broderick). The mechanism jaunts along at the same madcap pace onscreen. A beleaguered Broadway mover and shaker (Lane) recruits a nebbishy accountant (Broderick) to help him raise money for a sure-fire flop called Springtime for Hitler and abscond with the leftover funds. The two soft-shoe through numbers such as We Can Do It and You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night.

Bialystock, who shags rich old widows so they'll open their checkbooks, slowly grows a soul in the company of his charge. But it is NOT a love story, Lane says, even if one of the show's most memorable numbers is Keep It Gay.

"It's more of a father-son story," Lane says. "I remember Anne Bancroft (Brooks' late wife) saying all of Mel's stories are father-son stories. His father died when he was 2 or something."

The relationship between the oafish Oscar (Lane) and fastidious Felix (Broderick) in The Odd Couple is more ambiguous, the two actors agree. But fan interest is clear. The Neil Simon classic boasted a massive pre-sale of $21 million in tickets. Lane says he went "blindly nauseous" at the thought, fearing the venture would be perceived as "a get-rich-quick scheme, not unlike Max and Leo's." Lane believes the tepid reviews reflected the critics feeling powerless.

"I did feel they were gunning for us a little bit because of the success of The Producers and the success of this happening without their say-so," he says.


Lane has overcome greater obstacles than a fat profit. He had the kind of childhood that could have begun a Dickens novel. His father, Daniel, was a truck driver who went blind and drank himself to death. His mother, Nora, was incapacitated by depression, leaving a teenage Lane to cook, clean and do the household errands.

Lane had a chance to escape when he earned a drama scholarship to St. Joseph's in Philadelphia. But upon arrival, he discovered that not all of his expenses were covered, so he turned back the same day.

He took a series of odd jobs, including a bail interviewer, singing messenger and telemarketer, while making the acting rounds in New York City. Born Joseph Lane, he registered as Nathan Lane in Actors' Equity after the Guys and Dolls character Nathan Detroit, a part that later earned him a 1992 Tony nomination for best actor in a musical.

His name stuck and he has thrived. Sure, he can win win audiences with a high-wire solo act but in this film he found, to quote the old show tune, friendship to be the perfect blendship. Like the bombshell secretary Ulla from The Producers declares, "If you've got it, flaunt it."



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