John Corbett: The Lookalike | Sex and the City wasn't just fluff! | VIDEOS, PHOTOS

JUST A PARROT | John Corbett

JUST A PARROT | John Corbett

ANYONE could see why Carrie fell head over Manolos for Aidan. Laidback, good-looking, self-deprecating.

What more could a girl want?

Well, a bit of feet-on-the-ground self-honesty perhaps – he was competing with the rest of New York, fer goodness' sake.

And he had that too. Tick all four boxes for John Corbett.

Now in his 50s he's quick to jump on anyone who suggests Sex and the City was mere fluff – he found the whole Carrie-Samantha-Charlotte-Miranda thing sweet, especially the bit about close friends having each other's backs. More on that in a bit.

John Corbett and Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex and the City . . .

He's just started work on a new show in New York (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll), he has a new crime movie just out on DVD (The Lookalike) and any number of reasons to have tickets on himself, also including United States of TaraMy Big Fat Greek Wedding, Northern Exposure.

Sex&Drugsetc is in its early stages. He's shot two episodes, including the pilot. It's about four men, all musicians, who are good mates (Corbett, Denis Leary, Robert Kelly and John Ales) and is more like Sex and the City than you'd expect. More in a bit.

But let's get one thing clear:

"Actors are just parrots,'' he said. "We memorise other people's lines and say them back. Look, there's a little technique involved. It’s like playing the guitar and singing. I have an aptitude for that and I’m pretty good at it. I’m probably as good at that as I am acting.

John Corbett sings Good to Go . . .

"But I can’t change a tyre. If my car breaks down I lift the hood and stare. I don't have any mechanical aptitude but I can respect myself for acting. If they wanted me to be in a movie with Robert de Niro this afternoon I could drive somewhere, get handed the pages and start doing the scene.

"I've never been nervous about it. It's not for everybody and the funny thing is not everybody can do it but to me it’s not brain surgery, there's not a whole lot to it.

"And there's no point trying to make acting more than that. Now listen, I've got my own little niche goin'. I'm never going to be up for playing Abe Lincoln like Daniel Day-Lewis. I'm never gonna be in a period piece with British accents. It's not something I'm good at. I wouldn't attempt it. I'm good at playin' goons, galoots, goofs. That's what I'm good at. [Laughs]"

So, Sex and the City?

"I don't agree with those who say it was just fluff. Living in New York for the first time for the first three months on the first season when I'd go out to bars or restaurants I'd see groups of four women dressed really nicely and drinking Cosmopolitans and I felt they were trying to recreate something they were seeing on television. Four chicks who had each other's backs. It was nice.

SEX AND THE CITY | With Sarah Jessica Parker

SEX AND THE CITY | With Sarah Jessica Parker

"A lot of times I wish I had friends like that."

"A lot of times I wish I had friends like that. Being an actor you're a bit of a gypsy. It's tough to get people to connect with and stay friends with over the years. For instance I have two friends in my life now. I mean out of 53 years of being on this planet I have two friends. They have been my friends most of my life. Transience in this job makes it tough to lay down friendships. I like the idea of the four women always having each others' backs."

The women certainly had an honesty in their conversation, usually missing when you get a bunch of guys together. Beyond talk of conquests there's little vulnerability between blokes.

"That's so right. My new TV show we're shooting in New York, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, has that in it. More importantly, it's also in our off-screen time together.

"The show is about four dudes all in the same age range trying to get their band back together.

"Well, I kinda found with these three other actors we spend a lot of time around each other and the conversation goes much deeper than just guys down at the local pub.

"Finally, I'm actually getting to do that talking thing right now. And I gotta say I'm enjoying the experience."

The Lookalike has 28 producers in the credits. What's going on with that?

"Wow! That's news to me. I didn't know we had so many producers! Now a lot of times when you’re making a movie you can get people to help you and if you can’t give them money they'll want something in exchange.

'Maybe they want a credit, maybe they're trying to break into the business. Maybe it's one of those situations. I'm not speaking to it because no one hit me to it until you did just this moment."

The Lookalike trailer . . .

It'd be hell to have to get a decision through 28 people.

"This little film was low-budget but listen I've worked on some big-budget movies before with quite a few producers but you usually have one or two guys who are really callin' all the shots. Otherwise, yeah, nothing would ever get resolved."

How did the New Orleans shoot go for The Lookalike?

"We were there for the whole shoot. I worked there a couple times before. It's a great town. Mardi Gras is only a small aspect of it. My favourite part is four or five miles outside of Bourbon Street even though that's where we did a lot of shooting.

"After work Jerry O'Connell and I would go have cocktails on Bourbon Street. It was nothing like what being on location is usually like.

"I've made movies where one city's supposed to be another but you're really in Toronto. New Orleans also has pretty good tax-break incentives for movies to shoot there so people can work and stay in hotels and spread some money around after Katrina. Really cool thing to do. But New Orleans is one of a kind. You can’t shoot New Orleans anywhere else but New Orleans."

Before Sex&Drugsetc you also played guitar and sang with Toni Collette on United States of Tara.

"The great Toni Collette. That's the other thing about acting. I can sit in a room and play guitar by myself and entertain myself, I can sing an Eagles song. But can I sit in a room alone and act? I can probably do a monologue and entertain myself for all of 30 seconds.

TARA | With Toni Collette

TARA | With Toni Collette

"You do it with someone like Toni and that ups your game. A lot."

"You do it with someone like Toni and that ups your game. A lot. She's just ready to show up and come to work every day and you better not be walking around in that first rehearsal trying to memorise your lines because you’re acting with one of the greats.

"I think Toni's just gettin' started, even though she's been around a while. She's still young in my eyes and she's got a looong way to go."

You played her husband on Tara. She, on the other hand, played five characters, as well as a host of others who'd arrive and leave with varying fanfare. Tara had multiple personality disorder – from your observation did Toni find it easy slipping in and out of characters, or did she have to spend a lot of time by herself?

"Toni’s not that kind of an actor. She's very good at slipping right in and right out. And also to slip off-stage and go be a mom and feed her newborn. Her daughter was a couple months old when we started and it's a demanding task to go to work and play all those characters and check on your young one every hour. I think it was harder on us than on her because we were so worried she wasn't gonna be able to do it.

Toni Collette and John Corbett on United States of Tara . . .

"But she did, with grace and ease. And when she had to become a man, Buck, she'd go to the hair and makeup trailer and they'd pull her hair back and she'd put on a baseball cap, some glasses and come straight back in.

"She's not one of those actors who'd stay as Buck when we weren't shooting. She's really confident in what she does. I wouldn't paint Toni as a method actor, although maybe she'd disagree with me. We've had zero conversations about acting actually."

TARA | With Collette and Spielberg

TARA | With Collette and Spielberg

"You wouldn't see Steven Spielberg arrive and you wouldn't see him leave. Like a magician."

It was a surprise to see Steven Spielberg's name attached to the show. Not the sort of product you associate with him. Did he have much input?

"He had a lot. He worked closely with Diablo Cody, who created it, and he'd show up about once every two weeks. He'd just sport of magically appear. You'd be shooting in a mall or you could be on the soundstage over at Paramount and you’d turn around and there's Steven Spielberg, just standing there by the monitors.

"He'd be by himself, very affable, easy to approach and talk to. He always had something nice to say about what he was watching you do. It was bizarre the first couple of times. Then it was just, oh, there's Steven. And then he would disappear. You wouldn't see him arrive and you wouldn't see him leave. Like a magician."  ❏

WIN The Lookalike on Blu-ray or DVD, personally signed by John Corbett here

■ John Corbett on IMDb | WikipediaAllMusicFacebook | website

The Lookalike on IMDb | Facebook | YouTube | website

■ Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll on IMDb | Wikipedia

■ Sex and the City on IMDb | WikipediaFacebook | YouTube | website

■ Read Ian's other interviews and reviews:

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