From the loveblind "Grease" monkey to the speed-freak "Records" store employee to fans the world over, Maxwell Caulfield has spent 30 years playing the object of everyone's affection. So it's no surprise that his latest role involves courting two women in Westside Theater's revival of "Cactus Flower," the classic French farce that turned Goldie Hawn into an Oscar winner and was recently revamped as Adam Sandler's "Just Go With It."
But this isn't the Brit's first brush with polyamorous predicaments, having just come off a year-long stint as a man with two wives on the British soap "Emmerdale Farm." Yea, it's good to be the king, as I found out when I met up with Maxwell to talk about his 30 year career, attraction to this 60's-set production and favorite career memories.
PopWrap: Were you actively looking for a stage role this year?
Maxwell Caulfield: It's funny, I had just toured England for six months with another show and had pretty much ruled doing another one out. But no sooner did the words leave my mouth, then I get a call to be a part of this splendid revival of a show that ran for 1,234 performances, so you know it’s got legs.
PW: I have to imagine there is also something incredibly addictive about a live audience's laughter.
Maxwell: You’re absolutely right, it can’t be beat. Especially if you’ve learned how to just drop it right in there. You can’t force a laugh, part of it is on the audience to do the math. What’s funny is that once you’ve gotten that laugh, you know how a line can land, so you are kind of chasing it. Plus, we want the audience to have fun and forget some of the scary details about life. So for two hours people get to come back to the 60’s and have a great time.
PW: In the end, what sold you on the show?
Maxwell: I was struck by the writing, the word-play and the structure of the show – there’s a charm and an innocence to the humor that I think is perfect for spring. It’s very 60’s and very American – the show has a lot of that style in it. Plus, it’s always flattering as an actor to be seen in a romantic light or attractive enough to be credible as a ladies man [laughs]. It never hurts to be the ham in a sandwich between two gorgeous women.
PW: A recipe you had lots of experience with.
Maxwell: Yes, funnily enough I did a year on a nighttime soap in England called “Emmerdale Farm" playing a guy with two women in his life. That time I was bigamist, so I was a full-blown Mormon with my two wives, my two sets of children -- it was a rich role in every sense of the word. But my character was doomed – morality dictated that he get busted and when the curtain was brought down it came down hard … on my head [laughs]! I got shot between the shoulder blades by my legal wife – a woman scorned. Playing Richie Rich with the wives and servants and car and house on the hill was amazing.
PW: You've worked in film, television and stage -- do you have a preference?
Maxwell: There’s nothing like a live audience – there’s nothing like eight o’clock on the Great White Way, so I'd have to say that I most prefer playing on stage. All of my richest parts have been on the stage, but if you’re lucky enough to work in all three mediums, then you’re styling.
PW: Speaking of, I am a huge "Grease 2" fan, which obviously has its detractors. Do you remember it fondly?
Maxwell: I haven’t hit enough home runs in the film world to say, “oh yea, ‘Grease 2,’ isn’t that a cute movie?” For me, it is a very major part of my filmography. I still have my great friends from the experience and when it pops up on TV, I stick with it – it brings back so many happy memories.
PW: It was filmed almost 30 years ago and some actors can't remember projects they made 3 years ago -- do you recall shooting it?
Maxwell: Oh yes! You’re never going to forget a liplock with Michelle Pfeiffer! [laughs] I remember being in the bowling alley and the school. I have very distinct memories from making that movie – Christopher McDonald is one of my great friends, we still call eachother by our T-Bird names. He’s still “The Goose” to me.
PW: When you do stumble across it, does it feel like watching someone else?
Maxwell: No, I’m quite detached from it. But I do look at it and think, “damn, why didn’t they give me a second picture?” [laughs] But them is the breaks – you’re only as good as your last movie and I can’t complain. I jumped into a big primetime soap, “The Colbys,” another sequel that didn’t catch fire at the time.
PW: You were also a part of "Empire Records," a movie that I adore and quote fairly often. PopWrap even celebrated Rex Manning Day a few weeks back.
Maxwell: Oh! What a charming thing to say! Rex Manning Day! [laughs] That was another film that didn’t do very well, but – rather like “Grease 2” – found it’s niche on TV and VHS. One of the funny things is that a lot of these things haven’t hit at the time – because then you can ride the wave.
PW: Maybe you're just ahead of your time, Maxwell.
Maxwell: Either that or I completely missed the boat [laughs].
"Cactus Flower" is currently playing at the Westside Theater, click here for more information
Photo: Carol Rosegg