No one in the Northeast or Midwest will cry for William H. Macy by complaining about how coldly he shot the Gary Ross-directed favorite 1998 film Pleasantville… in Malibu.
But listen to him. He shot the memorable scene in which his character George Parker comes home confused one evening to find that his wife is not home – and there is no dinner waiting for him.
“It was two nights of filming in Malibu in January. It was cold,” Macy told us during a meeting in 2018 Role recall Interview about the filming of the fantasy comedy, which was released 25 years ago, on October 23, 1998. “And I had never seen so many rain trees. They had these huge construction cranes, I think there were three, holding pipes the size of this room and pumping thousands of gallons of water through these things. And they had built a road so I could walk almost a block. So I went out of the house and within two seconds my underwear was soaked, I was completely soaked it was raining so hard. I froze and we took take after take and I screamed at the top of my voice, “Where’s my dinner?!” It got [King] Lear at one point. I’m on my knees screaming.”
But when he went to the premiere of the film, he played the lead role and Reese Witherspoon as siblings drawn into a black-and-white 1950s sitcom, Macy (who played her new all-American father) was in for a surprise.
“Gary was behind me. And he puts my coat on and says, “Oh, I had to edit that scene.” Then I saw the movie. I walk out of the house, look up and ask, “Where’s my dinner?” Cut! That was it. The rest never made it into the film.”
However, Macy’s soaking wasn’t his toughest moment on set.
“The script said that I look at my wife and a tear rolls down and you can see color,” says the now 73-year-old actor, recalling the sequence in which he and Joan Allen’s Betty experience an awakening. “This is when my character starts to develop life within him. It was a big scene and a big moment and it was a huge setup. Gary had every toy known to man to shoot this thing. … I went to Gary and said, ‘I can do this.’ But I can’t do it all day. You have to let me know when it comes to money. I can make myself cry, but that’s not my strength. So tell me when we get to it.’ Gary said, “Okay, let’s just hear what it sounds like. Let’s just read the lines.”
“And I burst into tears and cried for 12 hours. I just couldn’t stop crying all day.”
Macy pauses, then adds, “I think I’ve had some problems.”