Now that Sundance 2010 is over, David Hyde Pierce has the chance to rest—if only momentarily–before he embarks on his next acting job. Hyde Pierce was at Sundance this year in dual roles—he was starring in “The Perfect Host,” which premiered at the festival, and closed out the event as host of the awards show on Sunday night.
“The Perfect Host,” written and directed by Australian filmmaker Nick Tomnay, is an expansion of his short “The Host,” which he released in 2001. It tells the story of what happens when a bank robber, played by Clayne Crawford, passes himself off as a friend of a friend to Warwick Wilson (Hyde Pierce), who’s hosting a dinner party in his upscale Los Angeles home.
Hyde Pierce, best known for playing the uptight Niles Crane on the long running NBC sitcom “Frasier,” has the show (and its perpetual reruns airing in syndication) to thank for getting this part.
“Nick had the script and they were thinking of me and some other actors and one of the producers happened to be watching a rerun of ‘Frasier,’ and I don’t know what it was, but there were some moment where she said, ‘Oh my God he has to do it.’ So she called them and they contacted my manager and she sent a script of a movie, and also a short that Nick had done and I loved the script and the part is amazing. And also, I really liked Nick’s style from the short so that led me to have a meeting with Nick,” he said.
One of the things that pulled him into the script was the constant misdirection, the turns and twists of the plot to where the audience will be kept off balance, particularly by the characters. His character is sort of the Anti-Niles Crane. Warwick certainly has the well heeled façade, but there is something lurking underneath.
“What’s interesting about the movie is that all the characters– all of the major characters– you think you know who they are and then that keeps changing throughout the movie; and it keeps changing for the characters themselves–they think they’ve got each other figured out, and they’re keeping these twists right up until the last moments.”
His part in “The Perfect Host” is just the latest chapter in an increasingly varied and interesting resume, something that he can trace back to “Frasier.” The success of that show has allowed Hyde Pierce to not only continue going back to the stage (his first love), but being able to pick and choose projects based on their artistic merit, not necessarily the size of the paycheck they can bring.
“It’s the thing that the television show gave. Because you attain a certain level of fame or whatever it is, that’s allowed me to go back into starring roles on Broadway; that’s allowed me just the financial comfort to be able to pick and choose projects for who I want to work with and material I want to work on and so that’s been a great gift.”
He was also quick to point out that being on a long running sitcom which took place in front of a live studio audience had other benefits as well.
“I think that the eleven year process of just being used to having a camera in your face, once I got out and doing bigger parts in movies I noticed it really made a difference, it really made me less self-conscious in front of the lens.”
Working in the intimate setting of a low budget film, shot largely in one place and carried very much by the small cast was an experience that Hyde Pierce enjoyed as an actor. He, Crawford and Tomnay had the chance to develop chemistry, and with plenty of preparation time, they found that they didn’t always have to go for the safe choices.
“We really got to work together and sort of meld our styles of acting and learn to trust each other, all three of us. And also between us we sort of figured out what the emotional, structural arc of the movie was, so when we went onto the set, we could let go, and be free to let stuff happen spontaneously.”
If there was something that from the low budget production that he preferred over big budget was that there was very little downtime during filming. The cast and crew, working on such a tight timeframe and with little money to spare came in ready to go.
“With less money and less time there is less sitting around and one of the things I’ve always disliked about film is the sitting around. It seemed like we had no rehearsal time and we got rehearsal time (for this film). And then I went in and worked basically solid for two weeks and I love that because you don’t lose your focus or your energy, and everybody has got to be really on board. There’s no lounging around and not much goofing off and I like that.”
“The Perfect Host” more than likely won’t be Hyde Pierce’s last independent feature, but for him, there’s no quota, no set system.
“It’s all about the writing and the directors and actors for me because I fully think that’s the only thing you can really control as an actor. You never know with an independent film or a big budget film, you never know if it’s going to work, you never know if it’s going to be successful. But you know if you’ve been working with good people and good material you know you’ve not wasted your time on that gig and that’s my only criteria.”