Profiles: Baby's Got Blue Eyes - Empire Magazine, November 1995

by Mark Salisbury

Aidan Quinn Aidan Quinn has a fine anecdote to tell.  It's his Crying Game moment, and it goes something like this.

"There was this great dance club in Chicago, in the 1980s, it was a gay club, but the audience was mixed.  And there was this incredibly beautiful black woman sitting at the bar lookinng at me oddly.  It was midnight and you could get a shot for a dollar and I went over and talked to her, bought her a couple of drinks.   To cut a long story short, we went into a bathroom and I started kissing her."

It was only then that he noticed...

"That her hands were huge and her shoulders were huge, and I thought, 'Oh, my God, you're a man...'  The bartender and the owner both knew."

In an image-based profession this is a very un-Hollywood confession.  For one, it reveals a chink in the armour, an essence of humanity, the ability to make a mistake.  In many ways it's also symptomatic of Quinn the actor.  He doesn't live in Los Angeles and takes his wife and family onto film sets to be with him.  He doesn't court fame, but his face is one you tend to remember.  And his sparkling blue mince pies, which are worthy of comparison with Newman's.  He was Despearetely Seeking Susan.  He was Benny to Mary Stuart Masterson's Joon.  More recently, he was a detective in Blink falling for Madeleine Stowe, the Arctic explorer in Branagh's Frankenstein and Brad Pitt's older brother in Legends Of The Fall.

He was born in Chicago of Irish parents and spent time in the Emerald Isle as a youngster, discovering his taste for all things thespian there.  "We lived in Ireland off and on for about four years when I was a kid, but I never went to drama school there. I trained by working."   Back in Chicago he acted on stage, before trying his luck in New York.  He made his Hollywood debut in 1984 as the bad boy biker copping off with good girl Daryl Hannah in Reckless.  He appeared briefly in The Mission but it was playing against type as a psychopath in 1988's Stakeout that sold Hollywood on him. ("I got offered a slew of psycho-killers after that," he grins).  His performance was singled out by legendary film critic Pauline Kael in The New Yorker as "spectacular".

"She's one of my  favourite critics.  I love reading her even when I disagree with her violently.  But she did write this love song to me in one review where she reviewed every film I was ever in.  I don't know whether that necessarily helps your career or not.  The Hollywood executives live in such a world of their own.  They have an idea of who is hot and it doesn't correspond with reality whatsoever."

Reality today is a cold November afternoon in Sussex where Quinn is filming Haunted - based on the novel of the same name by James Herbert - in which he plays a cynical psychic researcher called in to investigate a supposed haunting.   "When I first read the screenplay it was a complete page-turner, I was just whipping through it.  The plot had all these twists.  It's a very good part."

The film's spiritual aspects also appealed.

"I've had some pretty strange occurrences.  There is an old woman who has visited me twice and she just wasn't there physically but I know she was there right in front of me in this house we used to live in.  In any old house I feel there are ghosts.  They're not necessarily scary, they're just trapped on this plane and somehow they're connected to a physical plane.  I believe in all of that."

Quinn has, more often than not, gone for the good parts rather than those likely to enhance his star status.

"I like the level of fame that I have,", he confesses.   "You get nice tables in restaurants sometimes, but fame isn't something that I find comfortable."

So if someone offered you a part opposite, say, Tom Cruise in a film guaranteed to be a summer blockbuster, would you not take it?"

Of course I would.  What happens is that providence sometimes has a way of sorting those things out for you.  If it was a huge-budget movie like Interview With The Vampire, more than likely the studio wouldn't hire me opposite Tom Cruise.  I was hired (for Legends of the Fall) because Brad Pitt insisted, which was really sweet of him.  I had never met the man but he just thought I was perfect."

But you seem to have been consciously avoiding leading roles.

"I've done 15, 16 movies and I've never been in a film where I am the lead. It wasn't conscious. But in Haunted I'm in every single scene.  I won't say that it didn't play on my mind that this is really the lead role."

He admits he isn't too keen on the interview process either.

"We don't live in a time when it's possible to avoid interviews. When I was a young actor, it was not only possible, it was admired if you didn't do it.  We live in such a corporate world now, everybody's doing it, even De Niro."

After Haunted we will next see Quinn in the Clint Eastwood-produced The Stars Fell On Henrietta and Neil Jordan's biopic of Irish hero Michael Collins.  There's no danger, however, of him following the vogue of actors forming their own production company.

"If I was ambitious, I would.  I love my family so much that when I'm home, I really want to be home instead of just on the phone all the time, you know, hustling for me..."