You play iconic Dodgers commentator Red Barber in 42. As someone who originally wanted to be a sports broadcaster, how did it feel to play such a legend?
It felt like a big responsibility, to tell you the truth, because the Brooklyn Dodger faithful - which obviously is an aging demographic - they hold this guy’s sound so dear to their heart, it’s not even funny. It’s a fanatic fan base that consumed Dodger games one way; listening to him. Because remember, Ebbets Field was only about 35,000 people, so not that many people were actually going to the game, but thousands and thousands were listening to Red deliver the broadcast. Most Dodger fans got their games from Red.
How did you go about capturing the man?
For me, it was all just about that crazy syncopation, that rhythm Red had, and obsessing on the World Series broadcasts that [42 writer/director] Brian Helgeland provided me with. Just going over them obsessively, compulsively, day in and day out. It took me about six weeks before I had his sound. Luckily, I had that time. It wasn’t one of those things where you get cast in the role and you start shooting tomorrow afternoon - they shot the film and I came in at the end after the company was wrapped and I shot for three or four days down in Atlanta. There’s a good and bad part about it - the bad part is that I didn’t get to be there with that ensemble of actors that was so terrific. The good part was it was completely self-indulgent - to be on the Red Barber show for four days, and not come up for air and not even blink. Just stay right in the Red Barber groove.
Do you still find yourself talking in the voice?
No, it’s too hard. You’ve got to put that one on. It’s not something to slip into.
Red had a lot of catchphrases. Do you have a favorite?
I like “can of corn.” I like his sign in when he would say, “Hello again everybody, it’s the old redhead coming to you from high in the catboid seat.” The way he said “catbird,” it almost sounded like he was from New Orleans, but he wasn’t. He was from Mississippi and then he was from Sanford, Florida, then Cincinnati, and then Brooklyn. Then all of a sudden he had “catboid.” And you’re like, “Did he just say catboid?”
Was it ever tempting to invent one of your own catchphrases and see if anyone noticed?
No, no, no! I was pretty pragmatic on this. I didn’t want anything to come out of my mouth that Red hadn’t either voiced in his autobiography, or hadn’t said in the script that Bryan had written, or that I hadn’t cherry picked from the World Series broadcast right out of his mouth. So I don’t say anything in that film that Red didn’t say. Zero.
You’re a huge baseball fan, who’s your team?
I’m a Yankee fanatic.
Do you make it out to games much now you live in L.A.?
Yeah, I’m going to go to the All-Star game on Tuesday night. That’s going to be out at Citi Field, the old Shea Stadium. If I’m in New York, I’m going up to 161st Street, I can tell you that.
Do you have any predictions for this year?
Sure. I’ll say the Dodgers are going to continue to rally here and come out of the west. I’ll be a hardcore Yankee fan and say we rally and get the wildcard in the east. Detroit comes out of the central. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Detroit playing the Dodgers. I’ll say Detroit/Dodgers in the World Series.
Of all the characters you’ve played over the years, which movies do fans most like quoting at you?
Oh, that’s easy. I can do a top 5. So it goes: Office Space, Platoon, Wall Street, and then people always want me to say girls’ names from Scrubs. So there’s those four. Yeah, those four.
Are there any lines in particular?
In Wall Street, “Knicks and chicks,” in Platoon, “I got a bad feeling.” Office Space they always want me to do – I don’t know, everything from Office Space. Anything that has to do with Michael Bolton… It’s better when people want you to say lines than when there’s complete apathy about your career. People are always like, “Don’t you hate when people quote your lines?” and I’m like, no, that means they like the movie!
42 writer/director Brian Helgeland, and stars Chadwick Boseman and John C. McGinley at Dodger Stadium
AND NOW, JOHN C. McGINLEY ANSWERS THE SAME 10 QUESTIONS WE ALWAYS ASK EVERYONE!
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
Being late picking up my son Max at the Boys and Girls Club.
What’s your favorite curse word?
That’s fairly PG.
I’m fairly PG!
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
After my 50th birthday party. Somebody brought a funnelator. You know what a funnelator is?
Yeah, well somebody brought that to my 50th birthday. Just the biggest jackass move of all time! And of course then you’ve got to you use it, otherwise you’ll get called out. So we used a funnelator on my 50th birthday. It was a hammering.
So never again?
No, we checked that one off the list. That cost me about two and a half days.
What was your first car?
A chick car. A BMW 3.18i. Hunter green convertible. Total chick car.
When did you get that?
I got it when I made some money doing a film up in Portland, Oregon. I bought it brand new. I thought it was so badass, and then it turns out it had like, four cylinders and chipmunks under the hood.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
Yeah, I had a total right hip replacement two years ago, and so my right side looks like a battlefield. So, that was pretty intense. There’s a big old scar there.
Do you have a party trick?
Yeah, I taught Kevin Dillon how to bite a Budweiser can in half. I know how to find the seam on a can of beer and bite it in half, so I taught Kev that. Then you take the piece of aluminum that you’ve bit out and spit it at your friend.
Was that part of the Platoon script, or did you come up with that one?
In the script, Kev’s hanging out in the barracks. I had done it for him a couple of times, and he had the spine to try it, and he did. He’s the best.
Can you still do it?
I haven’t done it in 20 years. Now, cut to McGinley doing it, and all my teeth come out. That would be great…
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
It’s noticeably bigger than a beer can?
What is the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
Oh, get the first shot off. Definitely.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
Finish this sentence: “If I ruled the world for a day, I would…”
I would outlaw the use of the word “retard” and “retarded” and make it punishable with a $2,000 fine.
42 is out now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital Download.