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Newport Independent - Newport, AR
  • Denis Leary takes on the role of Capt. Stacy in 'Spider-Man'

  • You might know Denis Leary from his days as one of the hottest standup comics. Or from his seven-year run as star, writer and producer of the TV show "Rescue Me." Or for his tireless charity work with the Leary Firefighters Foundation.
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  • You might know Denis Leary from his days as one of the hottest standup comics. Or from his seven-year run as star, writer and producer of the TV show "Rescue Me." Or for his tireless charity work with the Leary Firefighters Foundation.
    You probably don't know the Denis Leary who was such a poor student at St. Peter's in Worcester, Mass., that he flunked off the hockey team. The same Denis Leary who, against his will, landed a part in the musical "Mame" when one of the nuns at the school made him do it.
    That first brush with acting led to many more musicals, four years studying acting and writing at Emerson College, a few more years teaching and writing for an actors' class at the school, that legendary standup career, and now a strong, multilayered performance as Capt. Stacy in "The Amazing Spider-Man," which opens Tuesday.
    The "Spider-Man" offer came to him just as he had finished shooting the final season of "Rescue Me." There was a phone call from the film's director, Marc Webb.
    "We were still cutting and mixing music for the show when Marc called," said Leary, relaxing in his New York hotel room. "After he described the film to me, I thought, 'I'll just jump in; I'm not writing or producing it, so how hard will it be?' My job was going to be just the acting. I didn't have to do anything else."
    But it wasn't just the lack of responsibility that attracted him to it. It was the acting. And he was a fan of Webb's first film, "(500) Days of Summer."
    "Marc is an actor's director," said Leary. " '(500) Days of Summer' is a terrific little movie with lots of heart. And it's an actor's movie. That's what he described 'The Amazing Spider-Man' as when I first got on the phone with him, and he stayed true to that description - that he was making a character movie that happened to cost a good jillion dollars and have a big blockbuster name."
    Leary gets to play Capt. Stacy, a by-the-book cop and loving father to Gwen (Emma Stone), who is Peter Parker/Spider-man's (Andrew Garfield) romantic interest. Leary's Capt. Stacy gets to be both really angry and pretty funny.
    "It's all different acting muscles," he said of portraying so many sides of his character. "But this film is also a different animal. When I'm not in control, of 'Rescue Me' or whatever it might be, it's a different animal. When you make a film, it belongs to the director. Generally speaking, I'm old enough to know about two weeks into the process if the director is losing it or has control of their vision. This guy told me he was making a certain kind of a movie, and every day we went to work, he had the same positive approach, and he had all the answers whenever you had a question about your character. It was hard work, but it was really easy because Marc knew what he wanted."
    Page 2 of 2 - It took a while for Leary to know what he wanted to do. When he finished at Emerson, there weren't a lot of acting opportunities around town. He formed a theater group with some friends, but still found it hard to get stage time. Then budding comic - and Emerson pal - Steven Wright, who lived around the corner from him in Boston, mentioned that he had gone to a place in Cambridge called the Ding Ho, where they had a talent show.
    "I was dating Lauren Dombrowski at that time, and she was developing an act with Mario Cantone," said Leary, of two more Emerson folks. "They went over to the Ding Ho to go onstage, and I went along. Lenny Clarke, who was just a street guy, was the host. You could do anything, you could sing or do magic, and they would have 15 acts a night. I was looking at Lenny, and I thought, 'Well, if he can get up there and talk, I can give it a try.'
    "You know," he added, "the best thing you can do early is bomb, and I did. But Lenny kept saying, just come back next week. So I would come back and do it again, and I just kept doing it and doing it until eventually I found my voice."
    By the time Leary had developed his renowned one-man show "No Cure for Cancer," a convergence of many people he knew - from school, from comedy stages - was forming. His Emerson classmate Doug Herzog landed a job at the fledgling MTV. Years later, Herzog hired comics Ken Ober and Colin Quinn to do the hit game show "Remote Control."
    Ober and Quinn brought in Emersonian Mike Armstrong and the Comedy Workshop's John Ten Eyck as writers who, in turn, hired comic actors including Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Leary.
    Soon after, Herzog brought director Ted Demme onboard at MTV to develop what would become the network's biggest show, "Yo! MTV Raps."
    Herzog and Demme went to see Leary's "No Cure for Cancer," which led to Demme saying to Leary, "I want to take a camera, go to a location, and just shoot some subject matter with you talking about it." That was the beginning of a series of memorable rants Leary did for MTV that gave him great exposure.
    "My son just graduated from Emerson," said Leary. "And now his best friend, also from Emerson, is Daniel Herzog, Doug's son. Everything's come around full circle."
    The Amazing Spider-ManWith Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field. Directed by Marc Webb. In theaters on Tuesday.
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