Most actors would be delighted to star in one wildly successful film franchise. Steve Guttenberg has starred in three. The actor garnered acclaim early in his career for films like Diner before going on to headline ’80s megahits Three Men and a Baby, Police Academy and Cocoon. His many other screen credits include Short Circuit and Home For the Holidays, along with stints in TV’s Veronica Mars and Party Down. He made his Broadway debut in Prelude to a Kiss in 1991, and now he’s back playing a starry-eyed romantic in Honeymoon Motel, a one-act play by Woody Allen that caps off the Broadway comedy Relatively Speaking. Broadway.com recently caught up with the actor to chat about working with a comedy legend, the film stars who inspired him to be an actor and his newly minted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
What sold you on Relatively Speaking?
Well, there wasn’t anything to sell; I was ready to buy right away [laughs]. When you have [director] John Turturro and [writers] Ethan Coen and Elaine May and Woody Allen and [producer] Julian Schlossberg on one project, it’s probably going to be a pretty good project.
Had you been on the lookout for a stage project?
I’m a carpenter, you know, so when somebody wants to build something, you’re excited about building something. I’m always looking for projects that have really smart, talented people involved. This fit the bill!
What do you like about this character you’re playing?
I like all of his intentions, which in his mind are very true and make a lot of sense. It’s exciting to play a character who has a real strong direction and personality, and then get the chance to mold it into your own form. It’s so much fun. It’s a great part and I’m thrilled to have it.
You were lucky enough to have an incredible writer in the room with you. What was it like working on a comedy with Woody Allen?
It was just wonderful. He’s the top guy walking the planet, for sure, in both film and stage. The guy is just such a master at what he does and also a very, very pleasant and collaborative fellow. Working for him is exciting because he knows the answer to pretty much every question, and he does it with great charm and delight.
You mentioned at an early press event for Relatively Speaking that this was a passion project for you.
I haven’t had a job that I’ve learned so much from in a long time, that’s for sure! You’re always learning, of course, but I've learned a hell of a lot on this project and I’m grateful for it.
You began your career on the stage. When you were studying at Juilliard, did you always plan on a film career?
I think I always did, yeah. I’ve always been a cinephile, so naturally I wanted to do film. I like the excitement that film can bring, and the exposure. Not in the sense of your career, but the exposure a film can give so many different types of people in different places. The scope, the production value that you can get in a movie is different than you can get in a play.
Did you have any film idols growing up?
Oh yeah. I was a big Warren Beatty fan. I thought he was just a really smart actor. He did Splendor in the Grass; he wrote and starred in Reds. He’s a really bright guy and I love his movies, so he was one of my favorites.
Have you ever met him?
Yes, in passing, I just met him really quickly.
Were you starstruck?
Oh yeah. There are about 10 guys in Hollywood that make me starstruck. It would be Woody, Warren, Clint Eastwood, all those kind of guys.
The film path was evidently a good one because you just got your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! What was that day like?
It was a fairy-tale. My whole family flew out [to Los Angeles] and everything was just perfect. We stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel, got the car, went downtown and arrived at the star in a police car. Tom Sherak, the President of the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] spoke, my friend Jon Lovitz spoke and then they unveiled the star. It was just so exciting.
Do you have a role you’re most proud of from your amazing film resume?
The next one! [Laughs.]
Cagey! I like that. What role do you get recognized most for?
I’m lucky, I probably have five or six movies people know and they all shout those big ones. It’s kind of fun.
You’re a Brooklyn boy. Does being back in New York feel like home?
You know, it’s funny, I’ve lived sort of a gypsy life. Home? I don’t know if I really feel at home yet, but a little bit.
What do you mean a gypsy life?
Well, I’m always traveling and working. I have a beautiful place in L.A., I have a beautiful place here, so I guess I feel at home everywhere. I’m all over the place.
What’s next for you? Are you hoping to stick around the stage? What do you have your eye on?
I have a really wonderful book coming out in May of next year. It’s called The Guttenberg Bible and it’s a bit of a memoir about 10 years of my career. I think it will make people laugh.
Are you going to include any Hollywood gossip?
I don’t know about that. Maybe. There’s plenty.
Which ten years are we talking?
’76 to ’86.
Is that right when you got to Los Angeles?
You’ve gotta call St. Martin’s Press for this part; we’re treading into their area [laughs].
What advice would you give people who are graduating from Juilliard now?
I would tell them that you’ve already got a great education, so keep reading; become familiar with as much literature as you can. And work really hard at getting noticed!
See Steve Guttenberg in Relatively Speaking at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.