Grace of years brings Macy's hip priest to life

Bandanna-wearing clergyman supports parishioner's fantasy in Hollywood movie.

William H Macy. Photo / AP
William H Macy. Photo / AP

There are plenty of actors in Hollywood who are notoriously difficult to work with on set, but William H Macy was never one of them - or so it seemed. The Fargo and Seabiscuit actor, nicknamed Howdy Doody by director David Mamet for his resemblance to the children's TV show puppet, claims he wasn't a very friendly co-worker early on in his 30-plus-year career.

"I was an [expletive]," Macy says. "When you're young, you excuse your behaviour: 'I just want this to be great. I'm telling the truth. I'm not going to apologise for that.' As you grow older, you learn not to fight every battle. I was guilty of that. I wish I had taken a chill pill earlier."

What changed? Macy said he simply grew out of that stage in his life. Now 62 and starring in The Sessions, Macy believes he has "mellowed" and learned not to take life so seriously. "I want to grow older gracefully," Macy said. "I think about it a lot. I don't want to be one of those people who jokes about their age. I think the key to life is enjoying what you're doing right now."

In The Sessions, which is based on a true story, Macy plays Father Brendan, a Catholic priest who befriends a parishioner and writer named Mark O'Brien who has polio and is confined to an iron lung.

When O'Brien says he wants to lose his virginity with the help of a sex surrogate (played by Helen Hunt), Macy's character decides to lend his support.

Macy admitted he became emotional when watching the film for the first time. "I wept," he said. "The film tells the story of something fundamental. This guy got dealt a bad hand at birth, and yet he was relentless and optimistic and lived life as fully as he possibly could. Everyone wants to know intimacy. It's a huge part about what it means to be alive."

Macy's character can be described as a "hip" priest. He wears a bandanna outside of church and in one scene brings a six-pack of beer to O'Brien's apartment. While Macy didn't grow his hair out specifically, he said his long mane added to the role.

"I got lucky in the hair department. My wife [Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman] really digs it, and that's the most important thing."

Movie profile

Who: William H Macy
What: The Sessions
When: Opens at cinemas today.

- AAP

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