"Do I look like an asshole?"
That's our introduction to disk jockey Frank "Buck" Rogers as he's holding court in a dodgy lounge surrounded by half naked women, wearing a barely buttoned silk shirt with a nose powdered with cocaine. He's digging into record executive Richie Finestra, played by Bobby Cannavale, with a Goodfellas-esque tangent on betrayal and respect.
You may have recognized the boisterous actor behind the gold-banded aviators. But it's more likely that it took you a visit to IMDB to verify he is none other than stand-up legend and once professional asshole Andrew Dice Clay. Consider this a taste of the casting brilliance that's behind HBO's new series Vinyl.
Clay is currently in the midst of a career renaissance that few would have predicted. He first made his mark on the comedy scene in the 1990s with his infamous brand of controversial material; it was boundary-pushing back then, and seems unimaginable now. It was the kind of act that got him boycotted on Saturday Night Live and MTV, but delivered with his personal brand of swagger, he gained a huge following, and became the first comic entertainer to sell out Madison Square Garden.
Then something happened: The gigs dried up, people got more sensitive, and problems in his personal life interfered with the work. He stepped off the stage and essentially fell off the map for nearly a decade. That all changed when Doug Ellin got wind that he was looking for gigs, and immediately jumped at the chance to have Dice act as himself in the final season of Entourage. He was an immediate hit and got a serious arc over six episodes, which led to another walk-on role on Raising Hope. But the comeback hit a whole new level when Woody Allen cast him in Blue Valentine, alongside Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins, where he turned in a devastatingly honest performance for the Oscar-winning picture. Between that, this stint on Vinyl, and his upcoming Showtime series Dice, it seems fair to say that he has gone from stunt casting to leading man. We asked the Dice Man four questions about his process in becoming the late Frank "Buck" Rogers.
What's the story behind those crazy facial hair choices?
Having the long hair was all Marty's [i.e. Martin Scorsese's] idea. He really loves that authentic look, and he went into the filming knowing exactly what he wanted. The facial hair was my idea. I liked the big muttonchops on him, and Scorsese, being the great guy that he is, allowed me to add that idea. That wasn't my real hair though. I wish I had hair like that instead of what I have now.
How did Scorsese find you for this role?
Believe it or not, Scorsese had been aware of me since I first made it big. His casting director Ellen Lewis approached my manager Bruce Rubenstein and asked if I was interested in it. I was pretty lucky. I never had to read a single line, and the part was mine.
Was there anyone in particular on who you based him?
I was looking for some truth in the character, and I can say that there is definitely a little of me in there. I was drawing on some of my own life experiences, if you know what I mean. Not one particular person, but trust me, I met dozens of guys like him back in the day. If you look around today, you might even find a few guys like him still lying around.
What was it like to fight Bobby Cannavale?
First of all, we're friends, so it was a lot fun! I had forgotten how tall Cannavale is. He did not go down right away. But I got him in a chokehold with my hands; all bets were off, my friend.