Rising Star [Evening Standard UK]
by James Mottram. January 1999.
Actor Sean Gullette reveals that his worst memory of making his new film
Pi (the mathematical number, pronounced 'pie') was when he had to smash
up a cow brain at three in the morning - and it turned out to be putrid.
'I just stood there, 15 feet away, in abject terror, shouting, "You guys
are all amateurs! Why didn't you keep it in the icebox!" '
In the ultra-low-budget black-and-white Pi, which was the US arthouse
hit of the year, he plays a paranoid mathematician who thinks he's
discovered a code that will crack open Wall Street. Gullette - who
resembles Richard E. Grant at his most crazed - calls it 'a digital
Faust story'. He found filming it an intense experience. 'My girlfriend
was shooting a film at the time as well,' he laughs sardonically. 'It
was a terrible time in our relationship.' He committed nine months to
developing the project with the director, his long-time friend Darren
Aronofsky. 'One of the things about the director being a friend is that
he knows what buttons to press.'
Raised in Boston (and named after Sean O'Casey by his college-professor
father), 29-year-old Gullette met Aronofsky while studying literature at
Harvard - and instantly recognised a kindred spirit. 'I was surrounded
by all these lock-jaws. Prince Charles types. Darren was walking round
with a shaved head and leather jacket, carrying William Burroughs books.
I was like, "Yeah, we could be friends." '
After appearing in Aronofsky's graduation film, Supermarket Sweep, and
doing a stint as a cab driver, Gullette launched a magazine, KGB
('critical theory meets pop culture'), which lasted nine issues. Then he
returned to acting, despite a complete lack of formal training, when
Aronofsky flew in from LA to recruit him for ?.
Gullette calls himself 'a regular working New York-based actor', which
means he's still supplementing his income with his other long-standing
day job as a graphic designer (he did Pi's web page). And, much to his
agent's horror, he deliberately took another backwards career step by
filming a short with Deborah Harry called Joe's Day. 'I'm a little bit
of a wild card from a casting point of view,' he laughs.
Further parts await in Aronofsky's two forthcoming films, a Second World
War submarine horror drama called Proteus and an adaptation of Hubert
Selby Jr's novel, Requiem For A Dream. But Gullette may have to write
his next role himself: 'What I'm looking for in my heart of hearts is
the next Pi, the next immersive experience, where I can take two years
and forget about my life.'