Campbell Scott on Roberts, Rossellini, and How to Stay Fresh


Rob Feld’s directorial debut, Love, Lots of It, which premiered Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival, has a remarkably assured visual style and a cool, slightly ominous edge. Campbell Scott brings a sexy world-weariness to the enigmatic devil’s minion to whom a vulnerable, looking-for-love Kathleen McElfresh (Scott’s real-life wife) presents her soul in a battered cardboard box, which emits a supernatural glow. This arresting, intriguing short film left us wanting to see more from Feld, who teaches screenwriting at SVA.

Scott, who currently portrays a German aristocrat on the USA Network series Royal Pains, is the son of acting royalty George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst. His first major role was the romantic lead opposite Julia Roberts in Dying Young, her first film after Pretty Woman. We recently chatted with Scott about The Twilight Zone, acting with Roberts, and working in the Hamptons—sort of.

LORRAINE CWELICH: What interested you about this project?

CAMPBELL SCOTT: It reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode, where you didn’t really know exactly what was happening; there was always a twist. Those were great shows when I was a kid and Rod Serling, everybody who wrote for them, they were great kind of existential writers, so they always had this crazy theme involved. You rarely see that kind of good writing involved in a short form anymore, sort of like little short stories. That’s what this reminded me of; that’s why I was attracted to it.

CWELICH: The story of how this screenplay found its way into your hands should be very encouraging to aspiring screenwriters.

SCOTT: Kathleen was doing a play, and Rob [Feld] was a friend of the stage manager, up in Vermont, and he passed it along to me and said, “I have a young friend who wants to make a short film.” I always like to look at those things, because you never know. That’s the way Roger Dodger [for which Scott won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor in 2002] started. People come up to you, and 99% of the time it doesn’t pan out, but also, Kathleen and I are always looking for ways to work together. Even with a short film, you wonder: will this really happen, will they get the money? But Rob is also an effective producer.

CWELICH: How did you and Kathleen meet?

SCOTT: We were doing two different plays at the Huntington Theater in Boston in 2007 by the same playwright. I was in a one-man play called The Atheist, which ultimately went to New York for awhile, and she was in a very good play called Brendan, also by Ronan Noone, the Irish writer.

CWELICH: Is this your first time acting together?

SCOTT: No, we did another short together and lots of readings, too. So far, it hasn’t destroyed us!

CWELICH: Now, touching on a few highlights throughout your career, had the whole media fallout from Pretty Woman hit yet when you were shooting Dying Young?

SCOTT: It was about a year after that, so Julia was just beginning to deal with being followed around and all that. It was new to her.

CWELICH: What was it like to work with Julia?

SCOTT: She was a real pro; I thought she was great to work with. She was young but very serious, especially about that role. She was very comfortable and kind of brave, and got on great with the director, Joel Schumacher, too. Vincent D’Onofrio, as well, the three of us. He’s a really kind and smart guy.

CWELICH:  How was it to act with your mom on that film?

SCOTT: I had done a play with her before that. I was 27 or so, and when you’re younger, you don’t really want to work with your parents. But she died a year and a half later, so I was very, very happy afterwards to have had that opportunity.

CWELICH: What did both your parents teach you about acting?

SCOTT: We never talked about it, really; I went to school to be a teacher and started acting in college. Neither of them talked about craft; they were pretty instinctual. I learned, especially from my mother, to respect the profession and take it seriously, but not take yourself too seriously. They were both lovers of great writing and playwrights.

CWELICH: In 2006, on ABC’s Six Degrees, you played the photographer with the same sort of kicked-around-by-life thing that you bring to Love, Lots of It.

SCOTT: It was an interesting idea and a great cast. Independent films, which are what I learned on, are so much harder now to make and distribute. Television and cable have become the new independent films, in a sense, for writers and actors to gravitate towards. That’s why I like short films, too; I love doing readings, audio books, working with young filmmakers; anything that keeps you from getting blasé about yourself or in a rut. It challenges you and hopefully that makes you a little more interesting to watch.

CWELICH: I spoke to Isabella Rossellini recently about her cable documentary, Animals Distract Me, which, of course, you also act in, and she basically said the same thing—some actors won’t do short films for the internet, for example, but she loves it because anything experimental is interesting to her.

SCOTT:  She’s a genius. She’s the smartest, funniest person I’ve ever met. Ever, because she is so unique.

CWELICH: She has a great avant-garde European sensibility. And speaking of cable, how much fun is it playing Boris, the German nobleman on Royal Pains?

SCOTT: Nobody knows exactly what he is. Jace Alexander, who directed the pilot, is a guy I’ve known for years. He’s the one who called me and asked if I wanted to do the part. I said, “You know, I did Six Degrees and I’m not sure I want to play another role on television.” He said, “Just do the pilot. Boris is a crazy character, and you’ll enjoy yourself.” And he was right.

CWELICH: When do you start shooting the third season? When does it return?

SCOTT: We just started last week. It probably returns in June. There will be about 16 or 18 episodes again this year.

CWELICH:  How great is it to get paid to hang out in the Hamptons all summer?

SCOTT: I don’t mean to burst the glamour bubble, but most of it is shot in Brooklyn and mid-Island. It costs a lot of money to shoot in the Hamptons, so we usually go there just once or twice a year.

CWELICH: Upcoming, you play Spider-Man’s father in The Amazing Spider-Man.

SCOTT: I have the pleasure of acting with Marty Sheen, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz and with the boy who plays the young Andrew Garfield. But if you blink, you’ll miss me. I’m in one scene. As I told my wife, if the popcorn woman is late with your change, it’s all over.