The latest role of Oliver Platt -- The ''Ice Harvest'' star talks about playing a sidekick in the dark comedy

By Michelle Kung
Updated November 25, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Here’s a bold declaration: Oliver Platt is a national treasure. And if you don’t know that already, his guest spots on NBC’s The West Wing, two new movies (The Ice Harvest and December’s Casanova), a TV series (season 2 of Showtime’s Huff debuts in April), and a Broadway play (the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Shining City also begins next April) will give you ample opportunity to figure it out.

Is it hard playing a character who’s perpetually drunk, as you do in The Ice Harvest? It depends on who you’re with. Johnny [Cusack] and I have a really good time together. Usually with drunk scenes, you have the first drink, then the second. [My character] goes from hammered to plastered to pie-eyed. I made a deal with myself that the only way I could screw up was if I worried about screwing up, because anyone who’s that inebriated has lost all sense of inhibition.

You’ve got a scene in Casanova that presented its own special challenges. Your character, Paprizzio, is covered by a ”rejuvenating cream” that is — actually, what was that stuff? Nivea, mint jelly, coffee grounds, and something I’ve blocked out.

And is that all, well, you? Oh no, madam. When I had my costume on I was wearing sort of a space- age fat suit. But you can’t fake naked, so for that scene [the makeup crew] designed this really elaborate and disgusting latex lard vest. I had to wake up at 3 a.m. to put it on, so when cameras finally rolled at eight, you really wanted to make it count.

You can’t go wrong with shooting in Venice, though. It’s one of the only films ever completely shot in Venice. And shooting there was a huge factor in doing the movie — though, frankly, Lasse Hallström could have been directing on a farm and I would have gone. [Because it was Venice] we weren’t [allowed] trailers, so we hung out between takes playing Perudo, a South American dice game. It’s about bluffing and lying?perfect for the movie.

You lived in some pretty exotic locations as a kid. My mom and dad did language training for the foreign service. I lived in Tai Jung [Taiwan] when I was a kid, and then we went to Hong Kong for five years. I went to nursery school in Tai Jung. There was this school bus — it was a giant bicycle with a huge tin box on the back. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world!