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If William Shatner can, he can, too

Interview with the multi-talented Jeff Daniels

Jeff Daniels will entertain Tacoma next Wednesday. Press photo

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If you've seen a movie this week, there's a good chance you've enjoyed the work of reliable talent Jeff Daniels. He plays a NASA chief in The Martian and Apple CEO John Sculley in Steve Jobs, written by multiple-award winner Aaron Sorkin. We spoke to Daniels in advance of his Broadway Center appearance as singer, songwriter, guitarist and raconteur. He was amiable but groggy, understandable given his movie career, concert tour and his Emmy-winning lead performance on HBO's The Newsroom.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Is there a song that moves you when you perform it?

JEFF DANIELS: "Back When You Were Into Me." ... It was (based on) a (Newsroom) crew member. ... You spend seven months with people, 16 hours a day. It's kind of forced friendships, and you tell each other things you wouldn't ordinarily ... She started talking about her marriage ... She said, "Y'know, he used to do this for me, he used to do that, but that was back when he was into me." And she said it so plainly, it just hung in the air. I grabbed it.

WV: Jack Lemmon once told you to "be a little strange" in auditions.

DANIELS: He said, "You gotta be a little bit different, kid. Go in with a corncob pipe ... Don't be like the five guys in front of you and the10 guys after you ..." I know one actor who, during an audition, punched a hole through the wall, 'cause the guy gets angry in the scene. ... He ended up getting the part.

WV: Sorkin wrote you a terrific argument scene in Steve Jobs. How close were you to punching Michael Fassbender?

DANIELS: Not at all. ... You try to get (the dialogue) so ingrained in you that it feels like the hundredth performance of a Sorkin play. You aren't even thinking about it. The curtain goes up and it's like dominoes. It just falls, one at a time. ... That's what's so great about working with people at this level, in Jobs and other movies. We use and abuse each other, then help each other up when they say cut. That's the joy of it, you know, in taking your emotions and twisting 'em like a pretzel in front of the camera ... When they say action, it's like the start of the Kentucky Derby.

WV: Is there a movie of yours that, if you pass it on cable, you must watch to the end?

DANIELS: No. There are movies of other people. I tend not to look at my stuff, to be honest. I can't remember the last time I said, let's watch Dumb and Dumber, y'know?

WV: Any chance of a Dumb and Dumberest in our future?

DANIELS: The second one did pretty well ... It comes down to Jim and the Farrellys, and I have a feeling it'd be like Lemmon and Matthau. Maybe when we're almost 70, Jim'll go, "Hey! One more time!" And you go, "Okay, here we go!"  They're always fun to do. It's so inappropriate, so outlandish, and the second one - to be middle-aged and still that stupid was very refreshing, I must say. It's like a cleanse.

Military servicemembers receive a 15 percent discount on A, B and C-tier tickets for Veterans Day.

Jeff Daniels & The Ben Daniels Band, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, $19-$69, 253.591.5894

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