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Jason Patric on 'That Champion Season' and why he initially passed on 'The Lost Boys' (twice!)

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Jason Patric
RICHARD PHIBBS FOR EW

Jason Patric, 44, is known for his raw performances in indie films like Rush, After Dark, My Sweet, Narc, and Your Friends and Neighbors — not to mention his early vampy role in The Lost Boys. He’s currently starring in That Championship Season on Broadway, along with Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth and Kiefer Sutherland. The Pulitzer-winning play, about members of a winning basketball team reuniting after 20 years, was written by Patric’s late father, Jason Miller, and won a 1973 Pulitzer Prize.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was it a hard decision to be in a play that has such a personal connection for you?

JASON PATRICK: I guess there was some hesitancy, only because there were a lot of negative associations with it and my whole thing was, would I be able to see it clearly as a piece of material. When I first met [director] Gregory Mosher, it was just about whether I was going to give him the rights to the play — it wasn’t even about me being in it. But I liked what he had to say. I couldn’t ask for better hands for the play to be in — not only dramatically but as far as respect and legacy. I want this to be relaunched as the great American classic that it is. 

The play was written and set in 1972, and yet if doesn’t feel dated at all

Isn’t it amazing? It’s as if someone said, I’m going to write about the country today and put it in 1972 so we can have more perspective. It’s insane — it just shows how far ahead of [Miller’s] time he was.

Did you change anything from the original at all?

No. Greg said, I want it dead letter perfect. The truth is, you never find great writing so people try to make it more comfortable in their mouths. If you have great writing, there’s a big difference between “anyone” and “anybody,” between a period and ellipse. We get notes if we get something wrong. One day I said, “We won’t have James to kick around anymore,” and I got a note: “It’s ‘Now we won’t have James to kick around anymore.'” It’s very respectful [to the original].

You and your castmates really seem to share a special bond

I’m glad, we’ve worked very hard on that. Because besides serving the text, you need to be able to believe in that…those little ways, those utterances. I can’t imagine doing a play again for a while — I’m not going to have an experience like this, with these guys, this material. The material is so good, these guys are so dedicated, we go out three or four nights a week together. All of us. We’re like the team.

You were instrumental in getting some of the cast together, right?

I’ve known Kiefer for 25 years, and and I knew [Chris] Noth a little bit from over the years and I brought him to Greg’s attention and he loved him. It’s a perfect mix. The reality is you need people with a little bit of cache these days [on Broadway], but the truth is you couldn’t hire guys that would be better for these parts. It’s just perfect.

You and Kiefer met on the 1987 film The Lost Boys. Do you find it funny that it’s a movie that’s become such a lasting pop culture hit?

I had no money or job at the time, and [director] Joel Schumacher will tell you, I turned that role down twice. I didn’t want to wear teeth and makeup — that’s just not what I wanted to do as an actor. He convinced me. The truth is, if it came out today, it would have made half a billion dollars. It would be Twilight. I went on to do so many other things, that for the first ten years after it [was released], it annoyed me, this Lost Boys stuff, when I felt like I had made some really good, interesting movies. But it’s a part of what I’ve done now, I’m happy with it. I’m glad it’s a touchstone for people.

For more on Jason Patric, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.

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