Vincent D’Onofrio gets back on the New York stage

Thanks to pal Ethan Hawke, the TV gumshoe appears Off Broadway in Clive.

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Photograph: Serge Nivelle


An unhinged soldier who kills his sergeant and himself in Full Metal Jacket. The human host for an alien bug in Men in Black. A modern-day Sherlock Holmes in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. With such diverse film and TV roles on his résumé, it’s no wonder Vincent D’Onofrio is known as an actor’s actor, a compliment he said “doesn’t mean anything” in the 2012 viral video “Hollywood D’os and D’on’ts.” But whether he accepts it or not, the chameleon-like performer is highly regarded by his peers. In fact, it was friend and frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke who brought D’Onofrio back to the NYC stage, after a 17-year hiatus, for Jonathan Marc Sherman’s Clive at the New Group. Inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s first full-length play, Baal, the expressionistic drama chronicles the drug-, sex- and alcohol-fueled demise of a licentious songwriter and his loyal pal. Hawke directs and plays the titular libertine, while D’Onofrio, ever the character actor, is his big, bald BFF. We spoke with the star about why he rarely does theater, whether he’ll reprise his signature L&O role and building sand castles.

Unlike most Hollywood actors, you live here, in your hometown. And yet you haven’t been on stage since the ’90s. Why?

Vincent D'Onofrio: I just love films so much. Other than that, I have no idea why. I love going to the theater. But I wouldn’t be doing Clive right now if Ethan hadn’t asked me. He had tried to get me involved in stuff before, like I was supposed to do A Lie of the Mind [at the New Group in 2010], but then I couldn’t. I’ve just been blown away by everybody’s work on Clive and I’m having an absolute blast.

Does that mean we’ll be seeing more of you on stage?
Vincent D'Onofrio: I don’t know. I’m not going to do Tennessee Williams or Chekhov or some normal classic. That’s not me. There are so many great theater actors, and I don’t pretend to be one. Maybe you’ll see me do Lear one day when I get older. That would be nice. But theater is hard work! The movie business is a vacation compared to this. And nobody ever asks me to do theater except for Ethan. Maybe if they start asking I’d consider it more.

While there are darkly funny moments, Clive is super emotional and quite violent.
Vincent D'Onofrio: It’s intense. Clive and my character, Doc, go on this kind of narcissistic trip together. All of the violence in the play is driven by emotion. Some of it seems very American theater, like Sam Shepard or even Odets. But other parts seem like a song, even though they’re not being sung.

Although you rarely play romantic leads, you have quite the female fan following. How do you feel about that?
Vincent D'Onofrio: Gregory Hines was a very good friend of mine. Years ago, we were walking down Madison Avenue and he had to stop a million times to sign autographs, and I said, “Wow, man, how do you deal with all that?” And he said, “If you do a lot of film and TV work, people don’t get a chance to applaud, and that’s all they’re really doing.” If you think of it in those terms, you feel much more gracious. I’m just happy that people like what I do.

Indeed! There are some very interesting tribute videos on YouTube.
Vincent D'Onofrio: [Laughs] I’m sure there are. I stay away from them.

A lot of audiences know you best as Detective Goren on L&O: CI. Do you think you’ll ever reprise the role?
Vincent D'Onofrio: I’d play him again in a second, but I doubt that will ever happen. If Wolf Films thought that it could make a buck, then I would probably get a call, but I don’t think there’s any 
way of doing that unless it came back as a series. And I don’t see that happening.

You often work with the same people over and over, like Hawke and director Jennifer Chambers Lynch. Is that by design?

Vincent D'Onofrio: Yes. I need real relationships in my life. I don’t do very well with businessy relationships. I’m not a good networker and I don’t get out much. I’m a real homebody. I’ve got three kids now, a wife of 16 years. I’m very lucky to be working at all. This is how complicated my life is not: My wife got a DVD on building sand castles so our family could compete in the Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest. We won first place last year. I’m very proud of that.

Click here for tickets to Clive.

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15 comments
linda a. bowman
linda a. bowman

I have watched every episode of all the law and orders and different departments presented. I do adore Elliott stabler and I will miss him; however, Vincent d. is really the best actor and I watch him every episode I can over and over again. however, I think his partner should have gotten some character into her from the writers. and a little romance. I wouldn't mind a little romance with Vincent myself. ha. I want to know where I can find all his films and I would love to see him on stage. I miss him on law and order too.

Ellen
Ellen

I love Vincent D'onfrio; I do not understand why he does not have his very own TV crime show series; he is exceptional; I watch Law and Order shows over and over and still love him, even more.

Frankie G.
Frankie G.

Vincent is mesmerizing, no matter what he does. It's cool that he stays in New York and goes to Coney Island, though I'd be happy enough to see him out in Long Beach. LOL. It used to be the norm to see well-known performers all over the city. Glad also that he's worked things out at home & sounds healthy.

Catie
Catie

Watching Law and Order CI rerun right now---- love Mr. D'. !!!!! ♥

Jean
Jean

I will be the first to admit that I discovered Vincent on Law and Order. The first Film I ” noticed " him in was Mystic Pizza. I said “Oh, there’s Bobby!” (Before I remembered his name). He is definitely one of the most versatile( and beautiful ) actors I have ever seen. It has been a real treasure hunt to find some of the films he has been in. Some are extremely difficult to find. Movies in which his character actually “lives” through the film are even more rare. I have to say that I think his comedic timing is excellent and I wish that he would think about doing a comedy once in a while. Hey Vincent, How about a romantic comedy? It has been a LONG time!!! I loved Good Luck and House Hold Saints. Ok, I’ll admit to owning a copy of Guy, Claire Dolan, Desire, Fires Within and Naked Tango…I’m still searching for Hotel Paradise ( Region one) . Vince, you should really check out your tributes on You Tube you would really have a lot of laughs!

Jose
Jose

Mr. D'nofrio , I'm an avid fan who has enjoyed Law and order CI since it began until its last season in 2011. I thought if your character as Colombo in steroids. If there were a chance to have you paired with Katherine again I would be extreamly interested in watching the reprisal of the most interesting tv detective since Jeremy Brett portrayed Sherlock Holmes on PBS. Hope your gig on broadway goes a long way. Kiko pantojasj .

Jean Mc.
Jean Mc.

OOPS! What I meant to say was: he was able to lose the weight in about -according to him- 'six months'. sorry for the typo

Jean Mc.
Jean Mc.

He's an amazingly talented actor who completely becomes the characters he plays. Remember he gained something like 60 to 70 pounds to play the young Marine in 'Full Metal Jacket' and when that was over with he was able to lose the weight in about -according to him- but you can definately see the change in 'Adventures In Babysitting' where he 'Thor' the garage owner! Personally, I'm not too crazy with the shaved head look, but he's done this before in 'The Cell' he had so many different and elaborate make-ups in that film it was just easier to shave his head than wear a fake plastic bald cap. He's also in his fifties, so he's changed like any normal human being. Sadly being a 'movie star' does not halt the aging process. He's still worth watching in practically every project he's done and I for one will continue to enjoy his work, hopefully for a long time to come.

Elissa
Elissa

I fell "in love with Vincent D'Onofrio on L& O." He's "so tremendously talented and raw." I don't fawn over actors but he's "so amazingly natural that you're drawn to him." I had heard that he divorced his wife and I felt badly because I thought it was true and he had put on so much weight, I really felt that he was having "personal problems." I'm happy and relieved that this isn't the case. There's not a role he couldn't play nor inject himself into, that's how versatile of an actor he is, truly. Whatever he does, he does "so much better than most." I think he is "a real homebody but I also think he is very intense", a more complicated man than he admits. I would watch him "in almost anything."

Mary
Mary

I think he is the greatest actor in the planet!! I agree with Mike, Andrea and especially what Jean said about he being such a great father and husband, his family should be very proud of him and I'm sure they are. I also watch the reruns over and over again. My dream is to see him walking in NYC when I'm there in April. The only other actor that I think was in the same catagory was Montgomery Clift, he was also Awsome!

Mike Grandinetti
Mike Grandinetti

Best actor on Law and Order and every other medium. Can't take your eyes off him when he is acting. Miss him on L & O.

Craig
Craig

What happened to him? He turned into Marlon Brando. Next he'll be doing dancing with the stars.

Jean
Jean

I have been watching Vincent's films, TV programs and have seen some of his broadway or off broadway for years. He is the most intriguing actor that I have seen, he is a great character actor, can take any part and make it his own. I love him as an actor and also as a father and husband, he is a good one and that is rare in his chosen work field.`

Andrea jones
Andrea jones

Very nice seeing Vincent again......--I wish he would do some appearences on Law and Orde. I watch the reruns every chance I get

Regina Caschetto
Regina Caschetto

Great to read any interview with Vincent. Heis such a great talent but under used & under appreciated.