Stewart says being in a movie with an all-star cast doesn't
scare him -- well, maybe, he says; they thought he was a caterer
-- You can take Jon Stewart out of the stand-up realm, but you
can't take stand-up out of Jon Stewart.
promoting his latest films (Playing by Heart -- which
doesn't yet have a date set for its opening in Winston-Salem,
and The Faculty, which is playing now) and television
show (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central),
Stewart can be counted on to deliver a few comedic observations,
often in the midst of making a serious point.
by Heart, Stewart plays Trent, a single architect who embarks
on a tumultuous romantic relationship with Meredith (Gillian
Anderson), a woman whose checkered romantic past has left her
gun-shy about new relationships. Stewart stated plainly that
he didn't identify with his character, "except, of course,
that I am an architect."
originally titled (ironically enough) Dancing About Architecture
-- until the producers of Dancing at Lughnasa protested
-- centers on a series of romantic entanglements in Los Angeles.
to Stewart and Anderson, the onscreen couples include Sean Connery
and Gena Rowlands, Madeleine Stowe and Anthony Edwards, and
Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillippe. "I just thought that
the script was a really interesting exploration of relationships
[in] different generations," Stewart said. "It wasn't
trite. It wasn't 'Listen, we've seen that on Love Boat every
busy days for Stewart. In addition to two new movies, he recently
began a stint on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, replacing
Craig Kilborn, who left to replace Tom Snyder on CBS-TV's The
Late Late Show. There was also the recent publication of
Stewart's book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, which
pokes fun at society's fascination with celebrity.
Show is Stewart's second foray into talk-show hosting. During
the 1995-96 season he presided over The Jon Stewart Show
on MTV. He acknowledged that he was disappointed by its
cancellation, but never considered not getting back into the
he have any trepidation about making the move into feature films
as well. "None of it is mutually exclusive," he said.
"The real focus at first is to just become a good stand-up
[comedian], and then when you get to a certain level, then they
allow you to do other things. You feel if you're overwhelmed
by something or if you're not."
Playing by Heart's all-star ensemble had been assembled
by the time Stewart signed on. "I was literally the caboose
-- last man on," he said with a smile. The prospect of
co-starring with the star-studded cast didn't overwhelm him.
Not in the least. Not for one millisecond. "No!" he
said in mock outrage. "Connery, Anderson -- bring 'em on!
course I was intimidated," he said. "They thought
I was the caterer." All joking aside, Stewart said: "I
trusted these people. I was hoping that they knew what I could
do, and that was okay with them. I don't go from being a talk-show
host to being Sean Penn. I just went to being in a movie. Mr.
T's been in movies! How much of a transition could it be?"
he said that it was "really hard to judge" his own
performance. "I really felt like I didn't mess up,"
he said. "I think I was looking at it too defensively,
and hopefully one day I can be really proud of it . . . but
I am really proud of it because I feel that I didn't mess up.
I wasn't the burnt kernel in the popcorn. In that sense, I felt
really proud of it that I held my own in this situation.
you're accustomed to doing stand-up, so often you're the only
person onstage and it's all your thing," he said. "It's
very gladiatorial. Obviously, when you're in a scene with somebody,
you're supposed to listen and react -- and that's a bit of a
a talk show is very similar to that . . . and learning that
pacing is helpful to acting." In the recently released
The Faculty, Stewart plays Mr. Furlong, an easy-going
high-school biology teacher (a member of the faculty, of course)
who undergoes a bizarre metamorphosis into a malevolent alien
about the film, which hadn't opened at the time of this interview,
he was shushed by a Miramax representative not to give away
the plot -- or his character's fate. Stewart acquiesed, but
gave a hint: "Let's just say this: full-frontal nudity."
to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he also has two movies
in the works. One is Big Daddy, a comedy in which he
co-stars with fellow comedian and longtime friend Adam Sandler.
The other is Committed with Heather Graham, in which
he plays a lounge lizard.
went into production before the release of The Waterboy,
Sandler's biggest hit to date (and one of the biggest box-office
hits of 1998). Stewart said that success hadn't gone to Sandler's
head. "We haven't told him yet," he deadpanned. "He
still believes the movie hasn't opened yet.
think he's taking it very well," he said. "I haven't
asked him yet because the guys that carry him on the litter
don't slow down. They run right by."
As an actor,
Stewart makes no claim to greatness. "If I could be really
competent, that goes such a long way toward things, because
the majority of things are not [competent]," he said. "If
I can be competent, and have moments of originality, that's
all I would ask for."