We caught up with openly straight actor-director Stanley Tucci to discuss his role as Nigel, the gay right-hand man to infamous fashionista boss Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, in theaters June 30.
I was nervous that your character, Nigel, would be a caricature, but I found him dimensional and genuine. How did you develop him? I read that Nigel is based on Vogues editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley.
I dont know how true that is. Ive never met Andre Leon TalleyI didnt even know who he was. When I was cast they were already shooting. It really was a matter of culling from my memory and experience different people whom Ive met over the years and turning them into one person. Its not based on one particular person. My goal was not to make this a caricature. We dont need it. Its insulting, enough is enough. This had to be a real person to work. I love fashion, and I like to dress people, so that part of it was easy.
You have some crazy getups in the film. How do you think the costumes helped you get into character?
It made the character. The one thing I wanted was those glasses Nigel wears. When I got the part, I went to my office, put on a video camera, and just did the lines a bunch of different ways to modulate the performance. But all I could think about were those glasses. So I asked for them, and they got them. And the costume fittings were incrediblebecause Patricia Field [the costume designer] is a fucking genius. She just sort of sits there with her cigarette and her hair, and she would pull stuffthese very disparate elementsand put them together into this ensemble, and youd go, Come on, Pat, you cant wear that with that. Shed say, Eh, just try it on. So youd put it on, and not only did it work, but it works on so many different levelsand it allows you to figure out who the guy is. Those outfits achieve exactly what I was trying to achieve. Theres flamboyance, theres real risk-taking, but when I walk into the room, its not flashy. Its actually very subtle. You look at it and you go, That shirt, that tie, that jacket, that vest? What? But it works.
Yes, it struck me as businesslike, but there was something that brought it to the next level. We see fashion as a business, but its also art.
Right, its fashion, so it has to be about art. Its the art that you wear.
Nigels demeanor implies hes gay, but he never really discusses it. He glances at an attractive man in the film, and he discusses how in his youth he would hide under the covers reading the latest issue of Runway instead of going to soccer practice. Was it your choice to not focus on Nigels sexuality?
Thats the way it was written. To me there was no other way to play it. Hes gay. No need to spell it out.
How would you describe Nigels relationship with Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streeps character?
Its very complicated. He loves her, he hates her, he respects herand doesnt respect her at all because she hurts a lot of people. I have a feeling he compensates for her a lot. He picks up the emotional slack.
Have you ever had a tyrannical boss?
No, I never was an assistant, and I never want to be an assistantparticularly after doing this movie. Ive had bad directors, who were rude and offensive, but I dont sit there and take itand usually those people are not talented. The thing about Miranda is she is talentedshes the best. Its harder to argue with somebody whos vicious when theyre so good at what they do. Picasso was a genius, but according to a lot of people, he was also a prick. But I dont think you have to be a prick to be true to your talent.
Who are your favorite designers?
I wear a lot of Hugo Boss. I think Dries Van Noten is really interesting. One of the pieces I took from the movie is a Dries Van Noten tie that is so cool. And my wife bought this pair of Dries Van Noten shoes that are just the greatest pair of shoes. Shes not a shopper, but she loves these shoes.
Barneys creative director, Simon Doonan, and E!s Robert Verdi also auditioned for the part of Nigel. In his column Doonan claimed the casting was nothing more than a carefully orchestrated piece of unpaid research. We gays had been dragged in to swish it upon film, no lessfor the delectation of some pre-cast, overpaid straight actor. Why do you think youthe straight actorgot the part?
I dont know why someone would write such a piece. They really did not know what they wanted to do with this part. I think hes imagining a much more Machiavellian scenario than actually exists. All I know is somebody called me, and I realized this was a great part.
I read the film has been blackballed from coverage from Cond Nast publications. Does this surprise you?
If its the Anna Wintour thing, she saw the movie and attended our charity event. She loved it. People really shouldnt make such a big deal out of it.
So you just see the film as a piece of fiction?
A script is a very different thing than a book. A book is a very different thing than somebodys real life. Meryl created this incredibly complex personbut, again, not unlike what I did or what a lot of us do. Its an amalgam of a whole bunch of different people. I think people should just get over it.