Eric Bogosian returns to his roots in show, book

2013-10-04T00:00:00Z Eric Bogosian returns to his roots in show, bookThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Eric Bogosian has been looking back on his old angry work lately and laughing.

The former monologist who used to speak about substance abuse and dangerous sex has been sifting through two decades of work for an upcoming book — "100 Monologues" — and a new one-man show, "100 (Monologues)," at the Labyrinth Theater Company.

"Man, I talk about drugs, A LOT. I talk about sex, A LOT. That was what my life was about, which it isn't now," he says. "I don't think a monologue show about being a dad is as interesting as being a guy being on the edge of some sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll kind of lifestyle."

Both the book and the show, which runs through Oct. 19, pull pieces from Bogosian's six solo shows between 1980 and 2000 — including "Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead" and "Wake up and Smell the Coffee" — for which he received three Obie Awards.

"I didn't know what I was doing. And there was something good about that," he says of the monologue style that he now calls a "shoot-from-the-hip, intuitive, crazy thing."

The new show and collection of his monologues correspond with a special project involving many of his actor-friends, including Liev Schreiber, Bobby Cannavale, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jessica Hecht and Jeremy Sisto. All will help record 100 of Bogosian's monologues for online posting starting this winter.

Bogosian is perhaps best known for his 1987 play, "Talk Radio," in which he starred as a shock jock both onstage and in a film version directed by Oliver Stone. TV fans likely know him as a police captain on NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

He's written a number of full-length plays — his "subUrbia" was made into a film — and appeared in several movies, including Robert Altman's "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" and "Under Siege 2" opposite Steven Seagal. Bogosian also has written several books, as well as the upcoming "Nemesis," about a group of Armenian assassins who went after Turkish leaders after World War I.

Bogosian, 60, took a break from rehearsal to talk about the show, the fate of the monologue, how an angry young man became a cop on TV, and an odd fantasy that involves a vampire.

AP: Why 100 monologues?

Bogosian: One day I was just curious as to how many monologues there were. I counted them up and it was like 99. If I threw in the guy from 'Talk Radio,' then I had 100 monologues. So I called up my publishers and I said, 'You know, there are a hundred of 'em. Why don't we put out a book?'

AP: You left the monologue around 2000. Why?

Bogosian: It's all about real shotgun attitude stuff. Monologues put out one idea really hard and fast. I sort of moved into other realms where I could explore something different, like a novel or a history book.

AP: Is it weird seeing others perform your work?

Bogosian: They bring something else. In fact, they do things and I'm like, 'Oh, I didn't know you could do that with that line.' Or they find a beat somewhere I didn't know about. I wrote it and I didn't realize you could do it.

AP: What happened to the monologue as an art form?

Bogosian: It was at its best when all the monologues worked in one big theme. But eventually that started to fall by the wayside. Monologue shows started to become a showcase for talent, or because of Spalding Gray's influence, people thought that the minutia of their personal lives was fascinating, not being the artist that Spalding was.

AP: Will it ever disappear?

Bogosian: I don't think it's something that will ever die because it's very cheap to produce. When you're a starving artist, it's a great way to get started. But I think when it's used as a stepping stone to other things, then it does have a capacity to get lost.

AP: How did a counterculture icon end up a police captain on a "Law & Order" franchise?

Bogosian: I totally accept the idea that a person's ideas can change over their life. But I never said anything against cops, I never said anything against soldiers, in my work. I come from a blue-collar town and grew up with guys who were cops and carpenters and soldiers. So I have a great deal of respect for those guys.

AP: What appealed to you about doing the show?

Bogosian: I wanted to do that kind of show because I felt that those shows are very similar to the style of the old Elia Kazan dramas, where nobody ever smiles and everything's very intense. I wanted to be able to do something where I never smiled and was grumpy all the time.

AP: Where do you want your career to go?

Bogosian: Who knows where my little journey's going to go as an actor because I'm not out there all the time. Honestly, I've got one thing left to do: I want to play a vampire in something and then my entire card will have been filled. I got to play an intense drama. I got to be the villain in an action movie. I got to be on 'Law & Order.'

AP: A vampire, really?

Bogosian: Yes. I want to be an old vampire. I want to be the leader of all the other vampires.

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