There are certain actors who jump off the stage or screen and rip out our hearts, hold them in their hand for a few moments, then gently pass them back, leaving us changed. Mandy Patinkin is one of those actors. As “Homeland’s” Saul Berenson, he plays the one good guy we couldn’t stand turning out to be bad, and so it goes with Patinkin. When we’ve read about some of his reported terrible behavior in the past (he quit “Chicago Hope” and “Criminal Minds,” and was fired from Heartburn by Mike Nichols), we wiped that slate clean as quickly as possible, that we might love him with our properly blinded eyes again. But in a new interview with The New York Times Patinkin himself rips away the veneer and flat out admits he “behaved abominably.” At 60, having lived with depression and prostate cancer, he has learned to be vulnerable and follow his inner voice—which often spoke to a different direction than what he chose (professionally) to do. Patinkin worried about being the bigger star his friends and family thought he should be, and more than once he took on particular roles for “fame or security.”
“…and when you don’t listen to yourself, you get in trouble. I wasn’t listening to myself in ‘Heartburn,’ I listened to the parental figure of Sam [his agent] and the culture at large saying, ‘You’ve got to be in a movie, this is going to make you,’ and it wasn’t who I was. Yes, I did ‘Yentl’ and ‘Dick Tracy,’ but I felt, and I still feel a little bit today that I’m really not successful, because I didn’t become a movie star. The irony is half of those movie stars are all trying to be in television shows like this (‘Homeland’).”
The NYT piece is both fascinating and a little heartbreaking. Patinkin’s life has been greatly informed by an all-too-short relationship with his father Lester, who at 20 suffered a broken neck from a diving accident; after which he had surgery that left him paralyzed for 3 years, and physically challenged the rest of his life. Lester’s fiancé abandoned him and later, Lester married Patinkin’s mother, only to be diagnosed with cancer and die when Mandy was only 19 (the backstory on how the family handled that is even more affecting).
Whichever demons haunt him; whatever mistakes he’s made, Patinkin (publicly) faces and admits. He’s come out as an actor, a singer—a man—we can respect. Now do yourself a favor and go read the whole piece. Mandy Patinkin: ‘I Behaved Abominably’
“If you ask me, ‘You’re 60, what’s one of the best things you’ve picked up?’ Two things I would say. One is stop trying to be Superman. Allow yourself to make mistakes and serve the team. I spent so many of my younger days thinking it had to be about me, you had to hear me, you had to see me. The other thing is, and it’s a double-edged sword because I live to work, I love it, is that all my life, no matter what happened, I wanted to capitalize on it, turn it into something to move me forward, make my career better. Where do I need to go? As opposed to ‘Are you even for one second where you are? Are you seeing anything you’re doing?’