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Light & Dark

November 11, 2009|Mark Olsen

Stanley Tucci has moved easily between the worlds of mainstream Hollywood movies -- "The Devil Wears Prada," "Swing Vote" -- and independent filmmaking -- directing "Big Night," "The Imposters" and the recent "Blind Date." He's played his share of nice guys getting the short end of the stick as well as weasly lawyers, bureaucrats and bad husbands. But this year he's taken both ends of the character spectrum to new extremes in the summer's "Julie & Julia" and next month's "The Lovely Bones."

In "Julie & Julia," he shows such a tender side as Paul Child, husband to Meryl Streep's Julia Child, that the two seem like a genuine couple, full of romance, affection and the occasional spark of domestic aggravation.

"It's weird, isn't it? Even I saw that," he said of the undeniable sparks between himself and Streep. "We're great friends and we're comfortable with each other. She makes you feel so comfortable, that's what's great about working with her. But we had become closer and closer friends since 'The Devil Wears Prada.' And then it was just fun. And those two people had an interesting relationship."

Though Tucci was already familiar with Julia Child, her husband, Paul, wasn't known to him, so, in preparation for the part, he did a lot of research.

"Paul was a renaissance man of sorts," Tucci said. "Black belt in judo, he worked in the OSS, he was a teacher, he was a painter, he was a photographer, he spoke French. The guy was amazing, a brilliant mind. So to be able to learn all that, you don't necessarily see that on the screen, but the knowledge of it is very helpful for me -- and just to know that they had a really loving relationship and that they loved to laugh and eat and have sex, which are all the things I love to do."

Tucci went to much darker places to play the part of a child rapist-serial killer in Peter Jackson's upcoming adaptation of "The Lovely Bones."

"My wife had read the book," Tucci said. "I can't read anything that's about a kid that gets raped or whatever. I can't deal with that. And I had difficulty accepting the role. I really did. I told Peter I may not see this movie. I can't handle stuff like this.

"It was such a challenge. It was like the ultimate challenge for me. My wife and I talked about it at length, talked about it with my agents, and I was this close to saying no, and then I was like, 'I think I'm willing to try it.' "

After the light romance of "Julie & Julia," how was he able to go so dark with the adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestselling book?

"I think there are all these different people inside of us," Tucci said. "Every person is a multiple personality, and people role-play when they go to work, in their relationships. I think of the classic example of the librarian who lets her hair down. There are personalities that everyone has, and actors just have decided we're going to explore as many as possible before we die -- in front of people."

Despite all of the success and growing award buzz for Tucci, who has never been nominated for an Academy Award, things have been placed into bittersweet relief by the recent passing of his wife, Kate, who died of cancer earlier this year.

"It does make it a little easier," Tucci said of how the impending award hullaballo provides a necessary distraction, but "I'm really sad because I would not be here without my wife. She was so supportive, such a smart person, and the fact I can't share this with her really breaks my heart. I wish she were here."

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