ST. LOUIS — It’s hard to overlook John Goodman, a big man with a booming voice who has been a movie and television star for three decades. Yet he’s been quietly having a great year.
Last winter, Goodman co-starred in two films that were nominated for the Academy Award as best picture: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and the eventual winner, “The Artist.” This year he is in another potential award contender, Ben Affleck’s hostage thriller “Argo,” which opens Friday. His “Trouble with the Curve” and “ParaNorman” are still in theaters. And in November, Goodman co-stars with Denzel Washington in “Flight,” a plane-crash drama from director Robert Zemeckis that is already generating buzz.
In a recent phone interview, the St. Louis native said he takes the ups and downs of the business in stride. “It’s flattering when people like what you do,” he said, “but I don’t like talking about the Oscars. I’m a member of the Academy and I vote, but now the red-carpet stuff is like the tail wagging the dog. It’s all about who’s wearing what.”
Goodman, 60, has made at least four films about the movie industry itself, including the silent “The Artist,” the horror spoof “Matinee” and the studio-era psychodrama “Barton Fink.” In “Argo,” based on a true story, he heads the crew of a make-believe movie project that the CIA uses as a ruse to free hostages from Iran.
Goodman, who has made about 70 movies, said he was impressed with Affleck’s growth as a filmmaker. “Movies are in his blood,” Goodman said. “Apparently, when he was a kid, his family would take him to a theater to see the latest film, and he’d come out saying what he would have done different.”
The young Goodman was also an avid moviegoer. “For special movies, we’d dress up and take the bus downtown.”
After graduating from Affton High School, Goodman attended Meramec Community College, where he appeared in several plays, and then Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University), where he hoped to play on the football team.
“But I was slow and my grades were bad,” he said. “I was better suited for the theater department.” His peers in the department included actresses Kathleen Turner and Tess Harper, both of whom have successful careers in Hollywood.
Goodman moved to New York City and continued to do theater, including the Huckleberry Finn musical “Big River.” In an off-Broadway play he caught the eye of a casting agent and was signed for his first film, a Kirk Douglas escaped-convict movie called “Eddie Macon’s Run,” in 1983.
Goodman himself played an escaped convict in his breakthrough film, the Coen brothers’ “Raising Arizona.” It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship, as he has been in four other Coen releases: “Barton Fink,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and the much-beloved “The Big Lebowski.” (He also just finished the Coens’ “Inside Llewelyn Davis,” about the Greenwich Village folk-music scene of the beatnik era.)
Notwithstanding his movie success, Goodman is best known for his role as Dan Conner in the working-class sitcom “Roseanne,” which ran from 1988-1997. He has returned to TV periodically, including recurring roles in “The West Wing” and “Treme.” The latter series was shot in Goodman’s adopted home of New Orleans, where he has lived for about 15 years, and he welcomed the opportunity to sleep in his own bed every night.
Goodman said he’d love to make a movie in St. Louis or perform a play at the Rep, in part to keep a closer eye on his beloved Cardinals.
“Watching last year’s World Series on television in New Orleans made me a nervous wreck,” he said. “But everything turned out great.”
©2012 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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