Billy Crudup has a knack for playing people living in the 1970s. Look no further than his work in films like Waking the Dead, Without Limits, and, of course, his work as Russell Hammond in Almost Famous. Crudup realizes this is a trend and half-jokingly hopes this doesn’t preclude him from movies set in the 1980s. (The good news is Crudup is in the upcoming Alien: Covenant, which is set in the future, so he’s bucking this time period trend.)
But, for now, Crudup is back in 1979 playing William in Mike Mills’ wonderful 20th Century Women. William is an all-around handyman (sporting a very Russell Hammond-esque mustache that Crudup really should trademark) who lives with Dorothea (Annette Bening), her son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), and another tenant named Abbie (Greta Gerwig). There’s no traditional plot structure, we just share some time with all of these interesting people as they go through this phase of their life – and we are all better for it by the time the film ends.
Crudup is having quite the year, just based on 20th Century Women and Jackie alone. (Not to mention he was in last year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight.) Ahead, Crudup discusses why he doesn’t take professionally rewarding years like this for granted, he look ahead to what we will see in Alien Covenant, and looks back on the ups and downs of starring in “box office disappointment/now one of the most beloved films of the last two decades,” Almost Famous.
I was told you’re on set. Are you still filming Alien: Covenant?
Oh, that was an awesome experience. But, no, I’m doing a Netflix show, which is also an incredible experience. I’m feeling enormously grateful at this point in my career to be able to do so much incredible shit.
You’re having a good year.
I know, man.
Just 20th Century Women and Jackie alone…
I know. Sometimes, through a lot of my earlier career, I was trying to muscle certain projects. And we get in the habit of, if you’re given some opportunities early on, to really take care of the choices that you make and shepherd certain projects through production into distribution. Then sometimes in your career people just call you to do stuff and you kind of back into great opportunities. And these were two films that I got really lucky. And it’s kind of continued with Alien and Gypsy, the show I’m doing right now. I probably shouldn’t talk about it because I’m going to jinx it! To be working with directors that have the kind of vision and ambition that Pablo Larraín and Mike Mills have is one thing, but to get to work with the level of actors I’ve worked with over the last year, giving the kind of performances that they were giving, that’s unique. Luckily, I’m old enough to recognize it.
And Pablo and Mike are very different directors.