Kline finds 'de-lovely' role as composer Cole Porter
July 05, 2004
CANNES, France — Generally bemused over the conventions of celebrity journalism,
Kevin Kline groans when he reads about himself in print with one of
his best-known films inserted as his middle name:
Kevin The Big Chill Kline or Kevin Sophie's Choice Kline.
Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd
Just now, though, Kline's doing his own alteration on his middle
"My middle name's Delaney, but this week, it's De-Lovely.
Kevin De-Lovely Kline, at least for a week. It's better than
Kevin A Fish Called Wanda Kline, the actor said in an interview
with The Associated Press at May's Cannes Film Festival, where film
biography De-Lovely was the closing movie.
Kline, 56, who studied piano and music before switching to drama
in college, plays Cole Porter in a fanciful portrait of the
composer whose tunes include Anything Goes, You're the Top,
Love for Sale, Night and Day and the title song It's
Unlike the sanitized 1946 Porter biopic Night and Day,
starring Cary Grant, De-Lovely pulls no punches in depicting the
composer's double life as a spouse in a largely platonic marriage
with Linda Porter (Ashley Judd) and a gay man with a fondness for
picking up pretty young things at boy brothels.
Cole and Linda were best friends and soul mates, and she
remained his muse, even though he found sexual pleasure elsewhere,
"There are lots of great juicy stories of nefarious, prodigious
sexual encounters," Kline said of Porter. "He never was apologetic.
He may have been tormented by it. Certainly, he wrote a lot of
songs, What Is This Thing Called Love? I think he was constantly
investigating, exploring what love was. ...
"What I love is, here's a movie, a Hollywood love story, that
doesn't use sexual passion as the foundation, where there's got to
be the great love scene, where they make love. So here's a really
different kind of love story."
The film's structure is equally unconventional, with a
theatricality suitable to Porter's grand and showy personality. The
movie opens on Porter as an old, lonely man nearing death (in 1964)
when a mysterious stranger who turns out to be the archangel
Gabriel (Jonathan Pryce) materializes in the composer's home.
Gabriel whisks Porter off to a theater where long-gone loved
ones are in rehearsal mode for a performance of his life story.
De-Lovely then flits back and forth between a more standard
film-biography structure and the Gabriel fantasy, eventually
building to Pryce and Kline performing Porter's spirited tune
Blow, Gabriel, Blow.
That approach, crafted by screenwriter Jay Cocks (Gangs of New
York), nicely fit the self-mythologizing image that raconteur
Porter sought to create, Kline said.
"Cole Porter was not ever keen on hanging out his dirty laundry
or telling his real story to anyone. He was creating a myth, a good
story, which I think Jay Cocks captured," Kline said.
"It's like, come on, this is theater, it's got to be
entertaining. And he lived a life which was a kind of theater. So I
think it's the perfect sort of conceit for the movie, in that blip,
that split second before you die, when your life flashes before
your eyes. For Cole Porter, it would be a musical."
Kline is a Hollywood rarity equally at home in broad comedy (A
Fish Called Wanda, which earned him an Academy Award) and heavy
drama (Sophie's Choice, The Ice Storm).
A two-time Tony winner, Kline had another Tony nomination this
year for his performance as Falstaff in Henry IV.
Kline now is filming The Pink Panther with old pal Steve
Martin, with whom he co-starred in 1991's Grand Canyon. Martin
fills the bumbling Inspector Clouseau role created by Peter
Sellers, while Kline takes on the part originated by Herbert Lom as
the detective's long-suffering boss.
His versatility served him well in De-Lovely, which required
Kline to play an effervescent wag in Porter's early days and a
tragic cripple in the later years, after a horseback-riding
accident that crushed the composer's legs.
"Kevin's so abundantly talented and can play the grace and
elegance of Porter and be the clown with equal flair," co-star Judd
Kline was especially adept at capturing Porter's neuroses, Judd
De-Lovely was a reunion for Kline and director Irwin Winkler,
who previously collaborated on 2001's Life As a House. Winkler
had been developing De-Lovely for years and mentioned it to Kline
while they were making that earlier film.
The director joked that Kline usually spends three years mulling
whether he's interested in a role, then says no.
"But this time, it was three minutes, and he said yes," Winkler
They had a warm working relationship on Life As a House but
had an early disagreement on De-Lovely. Winkler intended to put
modern pop and rock singers into the film as 1920s and '30s
crooners of Porter tunes.
Kline felt it was a terrible idea, worried that the singers'
styles would undermine a period film.
"He thought I was making a big mistake and told me so. And I
said, `No, I think I'm on the right path.' And he said, `You sure?'
and kind of wandered away," Winkler said. "But I'm the director,
he's the actor, and we have a very, very good relationship, and he
basically trusts me."
Kline concedes he was wrong and Winkler was right. The musical
numbers – including Elvis Costello singing Let's Misbehave, Alanis
Morissette performing Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love) and Sheryl
Crow doing Begin the Beguine – are highlights in De-Lovely.
For his own musical performances, Kline concentrated less on his
voice and more on sharpening his rusty piano skills. A talented
vocalist whose credits include the musical The Pirates of
Penzance, Kline found it comparatively easy to croon as Porter,
who had a passable voice but was not known as a singer.
"It's that thing of being able to play without looking at the
piano keys. You're playing something for the first time for
someone, and you own this song," Kline said. "So I was more
concerned by the harmonic structure of the song, having my fingers
find the right place to bend, than singing. I think we have enough
great singing in the movie, so that part wasn't a burden." – Sapa-AP
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