Chances are you won’t recognize Michael Wincott, who played the blissed-out metalhead in Oliver Stone’s movie Talk Radio – based on the play by Eric Bogosian. If Bogosian, in his role as a radio talk-show host, was the film’s moral center, Wincott, with his blond tresses and dark eye liner, was its black hole. “These people just live in us, ya know?” says Wincott. “And you just find the door, open it up” – he clicks his tongue – “and out they come.”
One of the high points in his performance – which he perfected during the play’s six-month run at New York’s Public Theater – comes when, high on Pepsi, he slaps out the rhythm track from a Megadeth tune with his hands. It turns out Wincott, who grew up in a Toronto suburb, is no stranger to a drum kit. “I played drums in jazz bands as a kid,” he says. “I was much too much of an elitist to play rock & roll.”
“I USUALLY GET CALLED IN ON THINGS THAT HAVE A CERTAIN DEGREE OF INTENSITY TO THEM.” —MICHAEL WINCOTT
Offstage, the thirty-year-old Wincott sometimes seems to be reading for the role of Serious Actor. Indeed, he prides himself on an approach to acting that’s the theatrical equivalent of reckless endangerment. “My worst work happens when I get obedient,” he says. “the moment I start saying, ‘Oh, yes, you’re right, I’m wrong.’ … I usually get called in on things that have a certain degree of intensity to them. You know, ‘Will the guy run through panes of glass?'”
In the upcoming Oliver Stone film Born on the 4th of July, based on Ron Kovic’s autobiographical account of the Vietnam War, Wincott plays a bedridden vet who’s dying of heartache and other assorted psychological afflictions. He’ll also appear this fall in Bloodhounds of Broadway, starring Madonna.
Although he “loves to play characters,” Wincott says he’d like to move on to “something older, a little more like me.” What would be his dream role? “Has it been written?” he retorts. “A new David Mamet play … some thing that would have a moon in it, a skyline behind it, a lone figure sitting in the middle of the stage, long dark overcoat, hear a voice in the dark, and then a single spotlight comes up …”