Reed Birney is one of the nicest guys in theater, but in certain dystopian circumstances, he can frighten the bejesus out of you. This season, Mr. Birney plays O’Brien in the timeliest and most talked-about play of the summer – 1984 at the Hudson Theatre. And while he’s a natural next to a watchful big brother, he’s also one for the family drama, winning a Tony Award last year for Stephen Karam’s Tony Award-winning The Humans.
Reed Birney’s other credits include Bug by Tracy Letts and Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker. This week, because summer and nostalgia go hand-in-hand, we are throwing back to some months ago, when this brilliant performer was On the Couch!
What do you consider to be your best asset?
I really like laughing.
What was your proudest moment?
When my kids were born.
What is your favorite drink?
What is your favorite food?
Too many to choose one… Häagen Dazs, mashed potatoes, steak, roast beef. Oy.
What is your favorite condiment?
What is your current obsession?
Building my film library. I have over 8000 titles.
If you could give up one of your vices, what would it be?
What is the one professional accomplishment you long for most?
I would love to have a fantastic role in a Major Motion Picture.
What is the one thing you waste too much money on?
Building my film library.
What is the one activity you waste too much time doing?
Surfing the internet.
What do you consider to be the single greatest threat to your health?
Not eating well enough.
What is the single best trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
What is the single worst trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
My appalling lack of financial sense.
What in the world most thrills you?
What current trend in popular culture most irritates you?
When you say, “Thank you,” to someone, they respond with “No worries.”
What was the single most embarrassing moment you’ve ever experienced on the job?
I was living in Paris in 1986 and was at a premiere party at Maxim’s for Hugh Hudson’s film, Revolution. Irwin Winkler and his wife told me that Hugh Hudson was a big fan of the first film I ever made, Arthur Penn’s Four Friends which hadn’t done very well at the box office. They had just been
speaking to him about , they said, just yesterday and he went on and on about how much he loved it. They encouraged me to go up to him and introduce myself. I hemmed and hawed then went up to Hudson who was sitting next to Donald Sutherland, the star of Revolution. Their movie was a bit of a dog so they seemed pretty depressed but I leaned down and stuck out my hand and said, “Mr. Hudson, I understand you’re a fan of a film I made that has very few fans, so I wanted to introduce myself…”
“Oh, really?” Mr. Hudson asked, “What film?’ “Four Friends .” Hudson sat for a minute with a blank look. “ Four Friends?” he asked quietly. “It was directed by Arthur Penn,” I piped up hopefully. “No….. ” Hudson sighed. “Donald, do you know a film called Four Friends? It was directed by Arthur Penn….”
“I know his brother, Irving Penn,” Sutherland gazed off elsewhere, “But I don’t know Arthur….” “Congrats on your movie, it’s amazing,” I mumbled as I dashed away. Horrible.
What is your favorite place in the world?
Our house in the Catskills.
What is the most important trait you seek in a romantic partner?
Do you prefer the company of dogs or cats?
What would have to happen to make today the best day of your life?
To get to see my parents again.
What is your personal motto?
I’m a lucky duck.