Kevin Kline is every inch the professional. Unlike many other Hollywood notables he arrived on the dot for the press conference to promote “De-Lovely.” He answered each question with succinct sincerity and was dressed in an immaculate suit very much like the ones he wore as Cole Porter (designed by Giorgio Armani).
His opening remarks were to offer condolences to the victims of the Niigata earthquake but after that, he was adept at making his audience laugh.
He certainly knew what sort of sound bites pleased the Japanese media. When asked how he liked this first visit to Tokyo: “I’ve always wanted to come. My wife Phoebe Cates used to work here as a model when she was very young and I had heard some wonderful stories from her. In fact, I think she worked quite near here (Roppongi Hills). She’ll be so thrilled to hear about this.”
How did you prepare for the role of Cole Porter?
Unlike many of my other films, this one required very special preparation. Namely, practicing the piano for seven or eight months so that my fingers on the keyboard looked natural and organic. Music was my first love, actually. I studied it for two years during university before I became an actor.
Was it tough for you to sing?
I’m an actor who sings when he has to. But I don’t think of myself as a singer and I don’t think Cole Porter thought of himself that way either. I refused to lip-sync because, to me, it was more important to act the songs, rather than sing them well. Besides, I couldn’t bear to do lip-syncing, and then finger-sync as well. I wanted to get as close to Cole Porter as I could.
Did the fact that people who knew Cole Porter personally are still alive put pressure on you?
Well, Cary Grant had played him in a movie when Cole himself was still around, and Cary Grant looked even less like Cole than I do. And I didn’t want to imitate or impersonate Cole. And there was no footage of him to go by, apart from 20 seconds on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” I just wanted to re-enact the spirit and essence of Cole Porter.
Was it necessary to portray his homosexuality to that extent?
(Laughing) No, there was no necessity and I don’t think it was that important. But this was a very special love story in which we needed to see aspects of his sexuality. Cole Porter just lived life very fully and he never apologized or explained the reasons for his sexual preference. I don’t think the question was very important to him.
Can you describe the on-screen relationship you had with Ashley Judd, who played Cole’s wife?
Sex between men and women is usually such a major component in cinema, but here it’s taken out. I think it was a good experience for both of us to try and tell a love story where sexual heat didn’t come into it. Love was a meditative process. But I think it was hard for Ashley because she was sexually attracted to me in a very powerful way. (After no one laughs) — Uh, maybe I’m losing my touch here (the room erupts in chuckles) . . . OK, for a moment it was touch and go!
What was the most challenging scene in the movie?
It was when Cole tried to make love to his wife in order to have a baby. It was a very delicate and tense scene, and required a lot of improvisation. But ultimately, it was quite enjoyable.
Are you going to go in for serious acting now, more than comedy?
I’ve found that growing older requires more sense of humor than I needed in my youth. . . . It just happens that I’ve just finished filming “The Pink Panther” with Steve Martin.