SU alums Ted Koppel (Class of ’60) and Frank Langella (Class of ’59) take part in an public interview session at Syracuse Stage.Photo: Mitchell Franz
Oscar-nominated actor Frank Langella (Syracuse University class of '59) and award-winning journalist Ted Koppel (class of '60) weren't best friends during their undergraduate years, but you wouldn't be able to tell from the conversation they had during "One on One: Frank Langella and Ted Koppel," one of the highlight events in this year's Orange Central weekend.
The two bantered back and forth as if they'd been doing it for years, sparring with feisty comments (a highlight moment featured Koppel calling Langella a "smart ass") while still throwing in their signature wisdoms and insights. It was enough to keep an audience of alumni, current students and locals laughing through most of the event, which was held at Syracuse Stage.
The evening, however, focused primarily on Langella, the distinguished actor who once again graced a stage in Syracuse like he had 50 years ago. Koppel was there to moderate the conversation and probe Langella for his thoughts, like those on...
...why he doesn't watch his own films
"When I was a young actor, of course I did. You're so arrogant and narcissistic then, thinking 'Oh man, this is going to get me laid,'" Langella said. "In all seriousness, now I've come to the point where I love the process more than the product."
...taking on the role of Richard Nixon
"Initially, I wasn't interested; I didn't do voices or imitations. I went to the Museum of Radio and Television and asked if they had anything on Nixon. She wheeled back carts full. I wanted to be there for an hour and ended up staying all night. I thought I should call them back and tell them to seek out someone else. But for success, the thing is to do what you fear.
Langella also ribbed Koppel regarding his own Nixon impersonation, but Koppel refused to indulge him -- though he did mimic Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant throughout the evening.
...maintaining his private life as a celebrity
"I'm totally opposed to celebrity life becoming invasive, and we're getting worse. It's absolute bull. Pain and joy are private and when your intimate moments are offered publicly, it takes away what I respect most - that inner, quiet dignity."
...his SU experience
"I got to share an infirmary room with Jim Brown," Langella said. "I was in this bed, he was in that bed...with two blondes who had crawled through the window."
"I'm surprised it wasn't three blondes," said Koppel.
...Roman Polanski and his recent imprisonment
In his signature straightforward approach, Koppel asked the toughest question of the evening when he said to Langella,"To some of Hollywood, it seems if you direct a movie, trivialities like raping a 13-year-old are OK. How do you feel about that?"
"I love Roman," Langella replied. "I'd work with him again. But you have to pay for your crimes, no matter how brilliant or charming you may be."
...advice for young actors
"The stage is not a place to hide from yourself. It's a place to discover yourself."
Langella's second piece of advice, however, was one even the non-thespians in the audience could make use of: "Celebrate that about you which is different, unique and original," he said.
"Don't run with the pack. Everything people said would hold me back, that is what will bring your success and longevity."