Catch the Entertaining Conversation!
An Evening with Joel Grey, Feb. 19, 8 p.m.; ridgefieldplayhouse.org
When referring to eighty-three-year-old JOEL GREY, most people preface his name with “Broadway legend,” like an official title. That’s to be expected—after all, his role in Cabaret earned him an Oscar (1967) and a Tony (1972), and left an indelible impression of how to perform it. He is one of only eight actors to have won both a Tony and an Oscar for the same role. Now Grey adds another skill to his repertoire: writer. The Broadway legend is publishing his memoir, Master of Ceremonies, for the role he originated and that defined him. In our interview, his answers, peppered with laughter, reveal a true charmer.
With major musicals like Cabaret, Chicago and Wicked under his belt, actor Joel Grey pursues truth in his life beyond the spotlight.
THERE’S A THEATER POSTER AT WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE FOR “JOEL GREY—STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF…”
That was me! I remember it very well. I do because I think that was where Hal Prince got the idea, somewhere in the back of his mind, after he saw that, for me to play the character in Cabaret.
IS YOUR MEMOIR TITLED MASTER OF CEREMONIES?
Oh, yeah, it’s on Amazon already. Have you seen the cover? Master of Ceremonies is that character in Cabaret, but for me it’s about telling my life story. It meant mastering a lot of life, a lot of difficulties and challenges and so that’s where “mastering” has a double meaning.
WERE YOU HESITANT TO REVEAL PARTS OF YOUR LIFE?
Of course! Who wouldn’t? I knew I was going to do this many years ago. I didn’t know when or how or what, or if I had the goods, but it had always been in my mind.
DID YOU DO RESEARCH?
No. Actually, my cousin, who is the same age as me, remembers every. single. thing. It’s just amazing! So I would call him and ask, “Where was it? And what street was that? And who got mad?” [laughs]
DOES A MEMOIR INCLUDE AN ELEMENT OF VULNERABILITY?
Of course! And concern about the difficult times that have to be included. [pause] There’s nothing for it but to tell the truth.
YOU SHARE THAT YOU ARE GAY. THAT MADE ME THINK ABOUT THE SHIFT IN THE COUNTRY…
Oh, there is! No question about that, and that’s a great, great thing, and not to acknowledge that shift and support it publicly seemed wrong to me. I always supported it with my friends and family, but it was time to use my experiences and my life and my career….It felt like the right time to tell the truth about that.
YOU’RE A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER AND HAVE PUBLISHED FOUR BOOKS…
Thank you! I’m working on my fifth. I’ve been taking pictures all my life. It’s just something I’ve always done.… A friend of mine asked me to do a photograph for his book that he was publishing…and the gentleman, an art director, liked it. He asked, “Do you have any others?” I said, “Ewww boy, I have thousands of them.”…I gave him a lot of negs and photographs and he said, “I think this is a book.” He asked, “What are these?” And I said, “Well, they’re pictures I had to take.” That became the name of the book.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS ON STAGE OR SCREEN IS…telling the truth.
Note: Interview edited for fit.