Campbell Scott is a South Salem native who attended John Jay High School in Cross River. Although his parents were both actors, he didn’t begin his acting career until after college. Several years later, he started directing.
On Sunday, December 11, The Bedford Playhouse the 2003 movie “Off the Map,” which he produced and directed. It’s set in 1974 and features the Grodens, a family who lives off-the-grid in rural New Mexico. After the movie, Scott will stick around for a Q&A.
We caught up with Scott yesterday to learn a bit about his career and what he hopes to do next.
Katonah Connect: Your parents were both actors. Did you always know you’d be an actor as well?
Campbell Scott: I’ve always loved movies, plays and books – they’re wonderful venues of escape. To this day, I still consider myself an audience member first. During high school, I realized that the theater was a rather comfortable place to disappear. So once I figured that out, and because I did have some good friends in high school who were acting, like Stanley Tucci, I started to think that maybe it was something I could do. So I did a few plays in high school, but when I went to Wisconsin for college, I was a little too scared of the theatre department, so I became an English major. I wanted to teach history. However, there was a wonderful teacher, a playwright, who ran the theatre department, who opened it up. And once I got over my fear, I realized that these are these are my people.
KC: Did you begin teaching after college?
CS: No. I came back to New York and started auditioning all over the place.
KC: When did you begin directing?
CS: That probably happened a few years later. I went back to my alma mater and directed a play and thought, ‘I love this.’
KC: What did you love about it?
CS: Being an actor on a movie set can be kind of tedious because you’re waiting around a lot. It’s not like the theater where you go in, do your job and go home. When I was acting, I’d look around and ask myself, ‘Who’s the one who’s most engaged here?’ And I realized it was the director, so I wanted to try it.
KC: Were you an instant success?
CS: I directed some plays, and I did a movie called “Big Night” with Stanley Tucci, who had written the screenplay with his cousin. And everything started to fall into place. I also enjoy producing, but not necessarily raising the money – I’m not great at that. But I found that putting all the pieces together is greatly rewarding.
KC: So what do you prefer – acting, directing or producing?
CS: I don’t know. I used to say that acting in plays and directing movies was the ideal combination, and I still think that is right. But I do enjoy acting on film, as long as I’m not gone for too long because I’m also a family man. But then again directing plays is great and producing is marvelous.
But hopefully, the next the next phase for me will be writing – the writing is where it all starts. It’s really difficult and rewarding.
KC: On Sunday, The Bedford Playhouse is screening “Off the Map,” which you directed. What drew you to that movie?
CS: I went to see my friend in the play, and I just fell in love with it. It was a very small production in Great Barrington, MA, which is where the playwright Joan Ackerman is from. I had been to New Mexico a couple of times, and I wanted to be a movie director. After I saw the play, I realized the only thing missing from it was New Mexico. When I saw Joan afterwards, I said, ‘Can I buy this from you and try to make it into movie?’ And she said yes. But it took a couple of years to make it because we had to raise the money. She wrote a great script, and we worked on it together. I eventually hooked up with a great company, Holedigger Films, and made several other movies with them, like “Rodger Dodger” and “The Secret Lives of Dentists.”
KC: Why did you decide to screen this film at The Bedford Playhouse?
CS: That is a good question. They had originally wanted “The Spanish Prisoner,” which I really like, but I didn’t produce or direct it – I was only an actor. I think it’s much more fun to talk about how something materialized from the beginning. Also, frankly, because we’re in December, I thought, ‘You know what’s great when it’s freezing? To watch what I call an environment movie, or an outdoor movie.’ And this movie is probably more outdoors than it is indoors, and it’s in a beautiful, warm place.
KC: So the goal is to make the audience members jealous?
CS: No….well, maybe you’re right….I don’t know.
KC: What do you plan to talk about on Sunday?
CS: I have no idea! But I love when the lights go down and the audience suddenly takes over the movie – it becomes theirs. I love to listen to the reaction, even if it’s not good. I like to be there and feel it out.
KC: So, should we tell every to bring some tomatoes?
CS: Well, let them decide what they want to do.
KC: So, what are you up to these days?
CS: I would love to direct more, but those jobs – the ones you originate and really want to do – are few and far between. So mostly acting. But what do I really want to do? I’d love to write more. I’d love to originate something and write it and direct it, even for television.
KC: What inspires you?
CS: Words, it all starts with the words – and books and characters. I’m sure it’s why I loved history. I wasn’t great with the dates, but I love kings and queens and the crazy stories about what people went through. The best writers are the ones that, within a large story or a large canvas, write these kinds of intimate, accurate, psychologically interesting, people. So that’s what I’m chasing right now.
KC: Do you any comedy writing?
CS: That’s always a part of it. I’m not a great cynic, but I like a bit of wit and a bit of humor. I think we all need it; we need it badly.
KC: Let’s end with your best dad joke.
CS: I went to the doctor, and I said, ‘Doctor, my leg hurts.’ He said, ‘limp.’
That’s it. That’s all I got.
Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor in chief/co-publisher of Katonah Connect. She says she’s living the dream she never knew she had. Gia enjoys telling people’s stories, laughing at her crazy dog and a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.