The Hot Seat: Keith David
He's got a voice that could melt diamonds.
Thu Feb 5 2009
Illustration: Rob Kelly
Despite his part in the infamous "ass-to-ass" scene in Requiem for a Dream, actor Keith David, 62, is a man who appreciates romance. And felines. We spoke to David recently about his role as the heroic cat in Coraline, the creepy new film directed by Henry Selick, based on the even creepier book by Neil Gaiman. It's the 3-D animated story of an unhappy girl who discovers a portal to a lush parallel world. But this place isn't all it seems, and David, a veteran of the dystopian alien flick They Live, is well qualified to see beneath the surface.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
Time Out New York: I feel like I'm inside a Ken Burns film right now.
Keith David: [Laughs] Thank you.
So you've never had to use that magical larynx of yours to soothe any angry bears or anything, have you?
Oh, well, not so far.
But you sing.
Yes, I'm a singer.
Bon Jovi karaoke?
Well, I'm a jazz singer mostly. I'm partial to romantic melodies. Songs about love and romance. Part of my raison d'tre, as far as my singing is concerned, is to bring a little romance back into the world. To me, Nat Cole is the shining knight of romance. There's a song called "A Handful of Stars," and when the man says, "Our hearts were madly beating/And soon two lips were meeting/And Venus seemed to melt right into Mars"—I don't know about you, but I don't need it any more graphic than that.
I'm still trying to digest all of that. What was that bit about Mars again?
You know what I'm saying? How much more graphic do you get? I like a little class, myself. Leave a little bit to the imagination.
Coraline is pretty impressive on the IMAX. Did you know that the John Wayne classic Hondo was filmed in 3-D?
I didn't know that.
Yeah, imagine the sensation of having the Duke punch you square in the face!
I remember years ago, I saw Frankenstein in 3-D. All I can remember is that there was a guy in the background throwing a spear through Frankenstein in the foreground. His heart was beating and dangling in your face on the edge of the spear. It was gross!
Almost as brutal as your famous rumble with Roddy Piper in They Live. Did you know at the time that you were filming the greatest fight scene ever?
As a matter of fact, I just ran into Roddy around this time last year. I hadn't seen him in about 20 years, and we did a sci-fi convention together. I also saw him again very recently at a premiere for The Wrestler. I think he was probably one of the consultants on it. There I got a chance to see the fight again, and also the fight that they had fashioned from it in South Park. I had a blast. It's so funny.
Why didn't you just try on the glasses already?
Yeah, you know. [Laughs] It was actually very exciting to revisit that movie, because at the time, as I remember it—and I could be wrong, but I doubt it—the movie was, like, No. 1 in the country for about two weeks. And then all of a sudden it was suspiciously snatched.
Just like how you snatched Charlie Sheen from the jaws of certain death on the set of Platoon.
Well, it was a situation in which he was about to flip out of the plane. And I saw that about to happen, so rather than dreaming about that for the rest of my life, I grabbed onto him.
Would it be accurate to say that, without Keith David, Hot Shots! Part Deux would never have existed?
Coraline opens Fri 6.