Lukas Haas talks about Leo, ''Lathe,'' and R.E.M. The former child star tells EW.com about his new TV movie and his musical ambitions
Don’t expect to see Lukas Haas on an episode of ”Celebrity Boxing” anytime soon. He’s one child star (”Witness”) who’s parlayed his acting talent into a longterm career, both in edgy indies (”Rambling Rose,” ”johns”) and more mainstream fare (”Mars Attacks!,” ”Zoolander”). Haas, 26, next stars in A&E’s adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin’s sci-fi thriller ”Lathe of Heaven” (airing Sept. 8 at 8 p.m.). EW.com talked to Haas about his greatest passion (it’s not acting), being pals with Tobey and Leo, and why he doesn’t get the ending of his new movie, either.
In ”Lathe of Heaven,” your character, George, believes his dreams actually change the world around him. Are your dreams as earth-shattering?
I have these recurrent flying dreams, and the feeling I get is almost as if there’s a guardian angel present, which is great. But I’ve had some scary dreams, too. When I was nine, I dreamt a wolf was chasing me, and the director I was working with asked my mom what I was frightened of to get me into a scene. So she told him about the dream, and in the middle of a take he just screamed out ”WOLF!” I cracked up, because I had no idea what he was talking about. Like the word ”wolf” alone is going to scare me, c’mon.
Because George can never quite remember what the world was like before he went to sleep, the ending of the movie is unclear: Does he know what’s going on around him or not?
He’s figured it out, but when I read [the script], it was a little confusing. It was an interesting role to play because he’s confused for most of the film, but that made it tough to add any energy to it. I don’t want to put anybody down, but I felt a little disappointed that the movie didn’t have more of a climax so it’s easier to understand.
What attracted you to playing a guy who can change the world by taking a nap?
I thought the role had a lot of potential, and I was excited to work with James Caan. I did it for so many reasons, one of them being money. I’m being very candid here, but hey, it’s the truth.
What passions do you have besides acting?
I’ve been into music for a long time. I started playing drums when I was 8 and piano when I was 10, then bass and guitar when I was 18. I’ve built an 8-track studio in my house that’s virtually identical to what they used at Abbey Road, and I also own the 16-track set-up that Led Zeppelin used to record [their 1973 album] ”Houses of the Holy.” I’m interested in producing, but I’m mostly recording my own stuff. I’m opening for Macy Gray [later this month] for some weekend club dates in San Francisco.
How did that come about?
I was in a hotel room with some friends of mine in Berlin, and Macy overheard me singing and playing and said, ”You’ve got a great voice — play with me.” So when I was in London last year, she was there at the same time and had me perform. I’ve also performed in Los Angeles. My friends Leo [DiCaprio] and Tobey [Maguire] had a function as part of their efforts to get President Bush to attend an environmental summit, and I played ”Mother Nature’s Son” by the Beatles.
Are we going to be seeing you on MTV soon, or is this more of a sideline to your acting?
I’ve had offers to sign a record deal, but the people I’ve talked to have wanted to package me and have me meet with songwriters who’ve written stuff for Whitney Houston, that sort of thing. That’s not at all my style. So I’m finishing a couple more songs in the studio before I pursue that. I’m doing everything myself, from the instruments on down. I’m a control freak. I’ll spend a day moving a microphone around until I find the right spot.
Have you tried producing any singles for your famous friends?
I’m remixing an R.E.M. track called ”I’ve Been High” from their last album, ”Reveal.” It’s a beautiful song, but record execs didn’t put it out as a single because it didn’t sound like the R.E.M. we’re used to. So I asked Michael Stipe if I could have the tapes to do a remix, and he agreed. He’s been a big influence on me. He gives me workshops sometimes, which is amazing.
Having pals like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire has made you a frequent presence in the tabloids. Have you guys really been as wild as we’ve read?
All that P—y Posse stuff is really ridiculous, and it’s awful to be associated with that. But I guess because I have so many friends who go through this with the tabloids, I’ve come to accept it’s just part of our lives. Some things they print are true, some aren’t, and the rest is just meaningless. I mean, there was a picture of me and Tobey on a Jet Ski in Miami in a magazine a couple of weeks ago, and it’s like, is anyone really thinking, ”Wow, they’re on a Jet Ski!”? It’s more laughable than anything else.
Any other acting jobs in the future?
Right now I’m doing an episode of ”The Twilight Zone.” It’s cool, because I play a guy who wants to be a rock star, so I get to sing the songs on the show, and I even brought some of my own wardrobe and mixed the tracks. For me, it’s really the best of both worlds.