Issue June 4, 2008

FILM Issue: On Location with William Mapother

William Mapother

Actor

William Mapother, Actor: Submitted photo
William Mapother, Actor: Submitted photo

Otherwise known as Tom Cruise’s cousin, William Mapother continues his credible rise in Hollywood both as an actor and an advocate. Anyone who saw “In The Bedroom” took notice of Mapother’s bone-chilling performance. He’s active off-camera, too: He was recently elected to serve a term on the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors and stays plugged in back home — he and film producer Gill Holland are working feverishly to bring a year-round farmer’s market to East Market Street. As is the case with most actors, the work always comes first.

LEO: Last September, you were elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild. What were your impressions of the writers’ strike, and will there be any lasting effects on the film industry? If so, what will those be?

William Mapother: The writers were forced into a strike, given what the film studios and TV networks demanded, e.g., ending writers’ residuals (the equivalent of royalties), and wanting to reuse material on the Internet for free. By striking, the writers made important gains they would never have otherwise received. 

It’s too early to determine the lasting effects of the writers’ strike. One immediate result is that under their new contracts, writers and directors will have access to certain financial records of the studios and networks. That might produce a change in how Hollywood conducts its famously creative accounting, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Next up: the actors. The Screen Actors Guild contract expires on June 30 and is being negotiated now. Although they don’t share all the same issues, actors and writers do both believe that their work should be protected and compensated, whether it’s playing on NBC, nbc.com, your iPhone or some website run by a guy in Dubuque. This is the first contract in Hollywood covering new media (Internet, mobile phones, etc.), and both sides are keenly aware of its importance.

Overall, what this year’s contract difficulties confirm is that it’s become irrelevant to distinguish between TVs, computers, mobile phones, etc. They’ve become one interchangeable outlet: screens. The merger of all media is proving to be a tough transition for the film and TV businesses. They’ll recover, but only after the whole entertainment business tightens its belt for a while.

LEO: Your heroes growing up?

WM: Over the years, in no particular order: Mark Twain, the entire Mad magazine staff, (Minnesota Vikings quarterback) Fran Tarkenton, Abbott and Costello, Samuel Johnson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Monty Python, Mel Brooks and (“Bloom County” cartoonist) Berke Breathed.

 

LEO: Do you miss teaching?

WM: The good days, yes. Even the OK days, yes. The days in which they rode over me like the Four Horsemen, not so much.

LEO: In what ways has your acting style changed over the years?

WM: I hope I’ve become more relaxed and intuitive.  

LEO: Are you still learning new skills and new approaches, or are you honing skills you’ve already developed?

WM: Both. Acting skills can rust quickly, especially when there’s a long wait between jobs. As for new skills, I’m always looking for ideas or techniques to try. And if it works for me, I use it. A new approach can also arise from a discovery about myself. Therefore, like many actors, I tend to watch myself and my behavior (yes, it can become exhausting), because the more I know about how I think, feel and react, the more tools I have. This is why actors can seem self-involved. Well, one of the reasons … 

LEO: What prompted you to come up with the idea of a year-round public market near Liberty Green (in East Downtown), and in what stage is it?

WM: We had already decided to buy the Disney Tire property when one of my partners suggested creating a public market. We’re early in the planning stage. We want the market to integrate smoothly into its surroundings, e.g., Liberty Green, the East Market area and U of L’s expansion of its health sciences facilities. 

LEO: You’ve played dynamite supporting roles in the past. Are lead roles in feature films still something that you covet as an actor?

WM: It’s a path to madness — madness, I tell you! — for an actor in Hollywood to covet almost any type of role. Far too much is out of the actor’s control. Have I and would I pursue a leading role? If it were good, absolutely. In fact, I play the lead or co-lead in two indies recently out on video, “Moola” and “The Lather Effect.” Like most actors, I’ll consider almost any role — if it’s good.

 

LEO: Some of your projects, including the upcoming film “The Burrowers,” deal with extraterrestrial life. Do you think aliens exist?

WM: I think that I don’t know. Except for my L.A. neighbor two doors down. He’s not from anywhere humans call home.

 

LEO: Are screenwriting and producing two aspects of filmmaking you want to eventually transition into?

WM: I’ve been writing longer than I’ve been acting, so I’m already active in that area. Producing interests me at this point primarily as a means to an end, e.g., helping a film on which I’m an actor, writer, etc.

  

LEO: Former Kentucky Gov. Happy Chandler once said that he never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t coming home, alluding to a sort of tractor beam. Have you ever felt compelled to return?

WM: When have I not? I’ve been spending a lot more time in Louisville the past couple years, and I hope to spend even more in the future. I have lots of family and friends here. I also have some business interests. Louisville isn’t getting rid of me that easily! —Interview by Mat Herron