The Old Vic

I can remember the exact night I decided to become the artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre in London. It was November 1999 and AMERICAN BEAUTY had premiered the day before at the London Film Festival. The following evening, I was chairing an industry pow-wow in a rehearsal room above the Old Vic, discussing the future of the venerable theater on whose board I sat.

Some philosophical questions I wanted to address that evening included: What is the Old Vic? Why is it held in such affection? Why has it gone into the period of darkness it's gone into? Later that same evening, I found myself unable to sleep, still thinking about these questions, so headed downstairs at 2:30 AM to get some fresh air. I hailed a cab in the rain and asked the driver to take me to the National Theatre on London’s South Bank.

I walked along the river and just sat and looked at the building, thinking about Laurence Olivier and where he was in his career when he started the National Theatre. Then I walked down the four or five blocks to the Old Vic and sat in the cement park across the street, looked up it and thought: “What am I doing? I’m on this committee making all these lists when, in my heart of hearts, what I have wanted to do since I was 13 is to run a theater myself.” Having been asked to assist in finding an artistic director, I suddenly realized I was picturing myself in the position. In that moment it clicked, and even though we had to kept it a secret for three years, the process had begun.

I've always been a self-proclaimed “theater rat,” so the film career I ended up having has surprised me. I realized that I didn't want to spend the next ten years making movie after movie after movie and occasionally trying to fit a play in, as I’d much rather organize my career the other way around. For the next few years I was going to focus on doing play after play after play, occasionally fitting in a movie.

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