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Paul Sorvino becomes Henry Kissinger

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First comes makeup. In Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Paul Sorvino donned a silicon prosthetic nose, a mouth plate that pushed out his lower lip, bushy stick-on eyebrows, blue contacts, Coke-bottle glasses, and a wiry wig to play Henry Kissinger. But looks alone do not a statesman make. For more than 200 hours, he says, Sorvino studied tapes of the presidential adviser and former secretary of state, imitating his gestures and his walk, and reciting each line into a tape recorder until he captured the crackly Teutonic accent.

”You do lots of hard work and practice and then all of a sudden one day the character enters you like a possession — it’s as if you put on a coat and it fits perfectly,” says Sorvino, with unabashed pride. ”If a community-theater actor goes through the same exact steps that I do, has the same research attitude and the same interest in the subject, when we both finish, mine will be a person, and his will be something nice for community theater.”

Of course, meeting Dr. Kissinger while the film was still shooting didn’t hurt. ”A voice is a voice, but when I met him it acquired something completely different — the connection of the voice with the inner life, emotion, and behavioral richness of the man. When I gave him a taste of what I was going to do, he simply said” — here Sorvino turns on the gravel — ”’You’re good.”’

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