Stanley Tucci on His Toughest Role Yet

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 26, 2009
4 min read

Award-winning actor Stanley Tucci -- best known for his roles in Big Night, Kit Kittredge, and Julie & Julia -- will be appearing in The Lovely Bones this fall. But at the top of his career, Tucci experienced the devastating loss of his wife, Kate Tucci, to cancer. WebMD the Magazine asked him about his life in acting, the loss of Kate, and his thoughts on parenting, food, and staying healthy.

You'll soon be seen playing child murderer George Harvey in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel The Lovely Bones. As a father of three, was this a difficult character for you to try on?

It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I can't bear to watch anything where kids are getting hurt. I was up in the air about [accepting the role], but it's a beautiful story and I knew I was in good hands with [director] Peter Jackson, who was so respectful of the material. It was a challenge, and I like a challenge. I'm glad I did it.

Forget fiction and reel life, real life can be plenty dark (as Jaycee Dugard's recent news story underscores). How do you keep your kids safe, and how much do you tell them to instill a healthy sense of wariness, without living in fear?

A little fear is OK. It's important for children to understand what they should and should not be afraid of. I worked closely with an FBI guy [for The Lovely Bones], and he would tell his own kid: "See that guy over there?" He'd pick 'em out, and tell them exactly what to look for. But ultimately, we all have to keep a close eye on our children.

Let's focus on the joys of fatherhood now: Describe your proudest parenting moment.

My proudest moment is when I actually get the school lunches packed in time! I'd rather be a sous chef at Lutesse than pack those darn school lunches!

As your 50th birthday looms, would you swap places with a younger version of yourself?

I'd like to be 30 again, but not mentally or emotionally -- just physically.

Are you a health nut, in a health rut, or do you fall somewhere in between?

I believe in eating. I eat a lot. I drink wine. I love martinis. I eat meat and fish and pasta ... I also exercise six days a week. I run on the treadmill, do sit-ups, and do yoga. So it's about striking a balance. You've got to earn good food and good drink.

You've won two Golden Globe Awards, an Emmy, plus many other accolades. Is acting therapeutic for you? And is the experience more cathartic on stage?

On stage it's just more tiring! It's a different energy. I guess acting used to be therapeutic for me when I was younger, but then you have kids, you gain maturity, you see the world as a more complex place, even as you simplify your own life ... I don't require the same energy now to act; I guess I don't need to. But I just love it.

How do you mentally prepare before a performance? Do you have any rituals?

Depends on the role. Sometimes I just walk out and do it. Other times, I need to sit in silence. I always do a classic vocal stage warm-up before going on stage.

You've appeared in several food-loving movies: the recent Julia & Julia (2009) and your own film Big Night (1996). Are you foodie?

My God, yes, I'm obsessed! We had some great food on Julie & Julia, particularly this amazing duck dish. But I don't have a favorite food. I love it all.

How do you relax?

I don't!

Name your dream role, if you have yet to land it.

I couldn't name it. I'll know it when it appears, and then there will be another dream around the corner.

Of the five senses, which do you value most and why?

My sight. I'm very visual. Once, my wife and I were in Florence at a museum and we noticed two older men standing a little too close to a sculpture ... and then we saw one of them touch the sculpture. And then we realized the man was blind, he was feeling his way around the artwork, with his friend describing it to him. I turned away and cried; it just broke my heart, that this man couldn't see such a beautiful thing.

When and where were you happiest?

Well, my wife passed away earlier this year [from breast cancer]. So I would have to say, waking up with her next to me in the morning, that's when I was happiest.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

This year I've had to reassess my future, with my wife's death. Suddenly things look a lot less clear ... Hopefully, I'll be sitting in a really good restaurant with a really good martini in a really beautiful setting.

What disease or condition would you most like to see eradicated in your lifetime?

Cancer, of course.

If you were stuck in a hospital bed and you could have anyone, from any era, recovering next to you, who would it be?

Don Rickles. He'd keep me laughing!