Jeff Daniels is making the rounds promoting his new Showtime series American Rust premiering this Sunday. The two-time Emmy winner, when asked how it all began, broke down his most iconic roles that catapulted his career. I fell in love with him just as Mia Farrow’s Cecilia did, as Tom Baxter in The Purple Rose of Cairo. When Tom spies Cecilia watching him on the silver screen every afternoon, and decides to walk out of the moving picture and into the real world, it was magical. And I can’t help but think of Pleasantville as a companion piece when I see it.
Jeff Daniels has had a turn in most people’s top ten lists of favorite movies. From action to drama to comedy, he has excelled in all. Listening to him recall the highlights is like time-traveling. He made his first Hollywood blockbuster in 1983 with Terms of Endearment as Flap. The film took home the Oscar for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress (Shirley MacLaine), and Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson).
It was 11 years later before he got a chance at another blockbuster with his character Harry in Speed. He spoke of the lull saying, “Speed was, ‘Get me a job.’ That’s what Speed was. [My agent] said, ‘Well, we’ve got this script Speed, we’ll send it to you, but you’re dead on page 22. You and Keanu go into this 50-story building and you get in the elevator shaft and fall and die.’ I said, ‘Well, the career’s in trouble but it’s not in that much trouble, so I’m going to pass.’ And then they said, ‘Hang on, there’s a new draft coming, you die later.’ I said, ‘How much later?’ He goes, ‘About page 88.’ ‘I’m in.’ I did it and lasted all the way until I crawled in through that window into that house and the house blew up. I was lucky they did another draft.”
It’s hard to believe, but that same year he played a completely different Harry in Dumb and Dumber. “I really wanted to do Dumb and Dumber. The career was at a point where I had to get on a plane at my own expense and fly to L.A. and audition for two weeks, and I was going up for about five movies at the time. I needed a job. But when I auditioned for Dumb and Dumber, I said, ‘I can do this. I know how to do this.’ There was hesitancy from the agents about working with Jim because he’s such a solo performer. As one agent said, ‘He’s going to wipe you off the screen.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but I got the toilet scene, I got the tongue on the pole scene, I got the snowball in the head scene. Unless they cut those scenes that Jim’s not in, I’m going to score.'”
More recently Daniels is known for his turns in series’ for HBO, Showtime, Netflix, and Hulu. Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom is where he picked up his first Emmy. He would have a matching set for his performance as the outlaw Frank Griffin in the western series Godless. Speaking of his horse riding, “Eventually, you’re going to get thrown off, and if you’re like me, you’re going to break your wrist, which I did on the second to last day of shooting. I got thrown off, broke my wrist, and it’s still broken. That’s the wrist I used to hold up the Emmy. That made it okay.”
You can follow his next journey starring alongside Maura Tierney, Bill Camp, David Alvarez, Alex Neustaedter and Rob Yang in American Rust. The series follows a complicated and compromised chief of police Del Harris (Daniels) in a Rust Belt town in southwest Pennsylvania. Catch the premiere Sunday on Showtime. This news comes from Entertainment Weekly.