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Love, Loss In 'Supernova' Hits Home For Stanley Tucci

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I probably don't need to remind you that this has been a year of losses - losses of life, of employment, of certainty - that's been shocking for many people. But what would you do if what you were losing is yourself, and you could see it coming - or you could see it in someone you love, the center of your life?

In the new movie "Supernova," Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth play Tusker and Sam, a longtime couple crisscrossing the English countryside, visiting family and friends and spots they've come to know over the years. At first, it seems like another relaxing road trip until it quickly becomes clear that Tusker has early onset dementia, and the changes are becoming impossible for either man to ignore.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SUPERNOVA")

STANLEY TUCCI: (As Tusker) I'm becoming a passenger. And I'm not a passenger. This thing is taking me to a place where I don't want to go. And no one is going to be able to bring me back. No. I can't. No, I can't do that.

COLIN FIRTH: (As Sam) And I knew something was going up on it. If I'm honest, I knew. I just - you don't spend all those years with someone without noticing the...

TUCCI: (As Tusker) Yeah. I know.

MARTIN: It is a lovely and intimate and in many ways heartbreaking film that asks powerful questions about life and love and loss. And Stanley Tucci is with us now from London to tell us more about it.

Stanley Tucci, so glad to have you with us. Thank you so much for joining us.

TUCCI: Well, thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

MARTIN: There's so much to this particular role. And you've done so many things. I mean, people will have seen you in - you know, depending on what you like, people will have seen you in something - like "The Devil Wears Prada" or...

TUCCI: Right.

MARTIN: ..."The Hunger Games" - I mean, just so many different kinds of projects over the years. So what is it about this particular role that appealed to you?

TUCCI: Well, it was just so beautifully written. The script as a whole was gorgeous, and either role was wonderful. You don't often get a script that is so restrained and poetic. And you don't often get a script that's really about something. And this was, as you said earlier, a beautiful look into the love and loss and from a very particular - in a very particular set of circumstances, meaning we have a same-sex couple. And that is never even brought up.

And that was another reason why I love the script - because it didn't focus on their sexual preference or orientation. It was just two people who love each other. And in that way, I think the movie breaks a lot of ground, but also the way it deals with the illness of early onset dementia. And it's never histrionic. It's never melodramatic. It's at times fairly dramatic. It just sort of is. And Harry's the kind of director - Harry McQueen, director-writer, who, you know, knows - who's - he's an actor as well, so he knows very well that silences are equally as important as words.

MARTIN: How did you prepare for this?

TUCCI: Well, Harry had given us, Colin and I, a lot of research. And so I was able to go through that, cull through that and just sort of pick what I thought was appropriate. So - but really, for me, mostly, it was the documentaries, the footage of people dealing with the disease. And as soon as you see that - it's very hard to watch because it's heartbreaking.

And I don't have a history of it in my family. I've never encountered anyone who has it, so it was quite new to me. But it's very, very difficult to watch. And you can just see how hard it is for the people who are suffering from it, but also from the people who are - who love them and are trying to help them through it.

MARTIN: It's true. That's so - you know, what's sort of remarkable about the film, if you're going into it not knowing anything about it, I mean, at first, you just think they're kind of having a fun road trip. And then the scene at the beginning, very early on, where they're at a diner, and Sam, played by Colin Firth, is just looking at you so hard, you know, while you're - you're just kind of going about your business, you know, looking at the map and so forth. And he's looking at you so hard, it just makes you feel, like, what is happening here?

And just the quietness between the two of you - it just speaks to people who have been together for so long. And I understand that you and Colin Firth are actually friends. Like, you've been friends for quite some time. I wonder - that had to have played a role in - I mean, I'm not an actor, so how would I know? - but it just - in how comfortable you are with each other.

TUCCI: Oh, yeah, without question. I mean, we've known each other for 20 years. And, you know, we've been together in the greatest of times and some of the most difficult times that both of us have had. You know, our kids are friendly. We've seen them grow up. We've seen them go through difficult times. And so all of that, of course, informs your friendship, deepens your friendship. But it can't help but inform if you - whatever you happen to do together creatively.

MARTIN: I just want to play this short clip of this scene between you and Colin Firth. I don't know. I just like it just because it's...

TUCCI: OK (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...So, like, coupley (ph). I mean, I just like it because...

TUCCI: (Laughter).

MARTIN: You know, I've been married for a long time too, and...

TUCCI: Yeah.

MARTIN: It just made me laugh. So I'll just play that.

TUCCI: All right. OK.

MARTIN: There's no other reason than that. Here it is. How about that?

TUCCI: Yeah.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SUPERNOVA")

FIRTH: (As Sam) You always seem somehow to get your own way, don't you?

TUCCI: (As Tusker) Oh, come on. It's Kosner (ph).

FIRTH: (As Sam) It's ridiculous.

TUCCI: (As Tusker) No, it's not.

FIRTH: (As Sam) Yes.

TUCCI: (As Tusker) He's...

FIRTH: (As Sam) Hang on. You're in the middle of the [expletive] bed. I'm on the edge. Now I'm more on the edge.

TUCCI: (As Tusker) All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUD)

TUCCI: (As Tusker) (Laughter) Are you OK?

FIRTH: (As Sam) That's it. I'm sleeping in [expletive].

TUCCI: (As Tusker) No, no, no, no, no. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come over here. Come here. Come here.

FIRTH: (As Sam) Yeah. Well, move over a bit.

TUCCI: (As Tusker) All right. All right (laughter). Come here. Come here. Come here. I'll keep you - I'll be like a little...

FIRTH: (Laughter) Could - you could have improv'd (ph) that scene, I bet, right? So...

MARTIN: Well, there was a fair amount of improv in that one, I must admit. Yeah, there was. Yeah. I mean, I love that.

TUCCI: I love that scene because I really do think that only if people (laughter) - Colin has said often that the hardest things to do sometimes on screen are the lighter moments, like the moments of levity between people, because actors - you know, as actors, we don't - you know, you might have worked with somebody a long time ago, or you might have - you know, but for the most part, you walk in. You go, hi, I'm Stan (ph). Hi, I'm so-and-so. OK, now you're lovers. Now you're this. Now you're there. And you have to kind of, you know, make it all believable.

But I think that the drama, in a way, the more dramatic stuff is in a way sort of easier. It's that - it's the levity and the sort of the lightness that people who have known each other for a long time have with each other. That's difficult to achieve with someone you don't know. But with - but we have it because that's who we are.

MARTIN: Kind of going in a different, completely different direction now, I wonder if filming this role made you think about your own mortality.

TUCCI: Yeah, it definitely did. It's very frightening, as I said, watching those documentaries. And it's a great - yeah. I mean, death has always been something that I'm - you know, I come from a Southern Italian - my heritage is Southern Italian, and death is something that's talked about - was always talked about, always - and joked about. You talked about food, and you talked about death. And you made - you talked about them seriously, and you made jokes about them. So, yeah, without question. It - yeah, it couldn't get the wheels turning even faster.

MARTIN: Did it make you think differently in any way?

TUCCI: Well, it just makes you want to savor the time that you have here, you know? And I just turned 60. I'm - luckily, there's longevity in my family on both sides, so I'm hoping that - my dad is 90. You know, I have uncles and aunts who are in their 90s. And I'm hoping I got those genes (laughter).

MARTIN: Well, you have littles - you have little kids. So they will keep you (laughter) alive and awake. They...

TUCCI: They will. They keep you...

MARTIN: They will keep you going (laughter).

TUCCI: Yeah. They keep you young and make you feel really old at the same time, you know?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

TUCCI: Yeah. And also, you know, I lost my wife 11 years ago to breast cancer. And there's no question that, you know, that also - you know, that's a scary thing to watch, and it's, you know, a sad thing for all of us - devastating.

MARTIN: Well, also the pandemic, though. I mean, the fact is that, you know, it's - if you are at all a sensitive person, you're seeing the hospitals full. You're seeing, you know, health workers just stretched to the limit. And you're...

TUCCI: Yeah.

MARTIN: You know, it - I think that even if you were not a sensitive person, it would give you thoughts. And it does make me wonder, as an artist, has this made you think about anything differently of - you've had the opportunity to work, but a lot of people are saying that they have found their inner introvert in a way that they had not expected to. And I just wondered, does - has this whole period made you think differently about your work or about your life? Has it kind of shifted anything for you?

TUCCI: Yeah, it's made me want to be a bit choosier. It's made me want to be more efficient and just get things done and not procrastinate and to try to make as much money as I can as soon as I can so I can retire...

(LAUGHTER)

TUCCI: And I don't have to keep going away from my family.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Oh, boy. Well, good luck. If you figure that out, let us know.

TUCCI: Yeah, I know. I don't know how that's going to happen, but we'll figure it out.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That was the actor Stanley Tucci. His new film, "Supernova," where he co-stars with Colin Firth, is out now.

Stanley Tucci, thank you so much for talking with us today.

TUCCI: Thank you so much. It's really nice to talk to you. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF RACHEL FULLER'S "LAMENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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