I’ve had two lovely treats this sunny Friday: a chicken-salad sandwich on a croissant that was so insanely good it deserves its own movie (seriously, I’m practically ready to address a sonnet sequence to it), and a brief but very pleasant conversation on the phone with Kevin Kline. If you saw him in “The Extra Man,” which opened the Seattle International Film Festival last May, you know why I was looking forward to talking to him: It’s a wonderfully loopy performance from an actor who’s notched up many unforgettable characterizations in his long career. Henry Harrison, the character he plays in the movie (based on a very fine novel by Jonathan Ames), is a true New York eccentric: a cheerfully impoverished gentleman who keeps busy escorting elderly society ladies to functions, and who is given to such pronouncements as “My great opus was stolen by a Swiss hunchback.”
I’ll write up the interview next week (“The Extra Man” opens in Seattle August 13), so will save his bon mots until then. But he was, as I expected, charming and literate and funny, and his voice (very up-and-down; he likes to drop to a dramatic whisper, which is a little tricky when somebody here at the office is yelling “HEY, DID YOU GET THAT FILE I SENT?” right behind me) brought back so many Kline memories. Here are two of my favorites. Probably a lot of us can recite along with this brief scene, from his Oscar-winning comic tour de force as the armpit-sniffing ignoramus Otto in “A Fish Called Wanda”:
And here’s where I think I first saw Kline (though I can’t remember whether this movie or “Big Chill” was in theaters first), as the swashbuckling, ridiculously handsome and yet goofy Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance,” in which he pulls off the trifecta of singing, dancing, and looking swell in over-the-knee boots. You can see a bit of the Pirate King in Henry Harrison in “The Extra Man,” if you look hard. Got a favorite Kevin Kline role? Share it here, and may you all have a weekend as lovely as my sandwich.