Tony Shalhoub tries something new
'Monk' actor turns director for 'Made-Up'
By Stephanie Snipes
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Everybody knows about the Hollywood elite. They're the people with the big paychecks and bigger box office receipts, and they have names like Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts.
But not everyone can be part of that tiny group, and not everyone has to be. They are the stars who play the sidekicks, the best friends, the quirky and the diverse.
Stars like Tony Shalhoub.
Shalhoub is known for a laundry list of memorable characters, including Antonio Scarpacci, the cab driver on the TV show "Wings"; Jeebs, the alien who can re-grow his head in "Men in Black"; and Primo, the gifted Italian chef who dominates the kitchen of a small Italian restaurant in "Big Night."
Perhaps his most lauded performance to date is in the critically acclaimed USA Network series "Monk," a comedic detective show in which he plays the title character, Adrian Monk, an obsessive-compulsive detective with a variety of personality tics.
"I like to do things that are different from the last thing that I tried. That's the whole purpose of it. That was the reason I got into acting in the first place, to try diverse roles," said Shalhoub in a recent interview.
Shalhoub's portrayal of the quirky crime-solver has won him Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actor's Guild awards.
"We're thrilled with the way people have embraced the show and kind of relate to the character, not just the character of Monk but all the characters. It's a good job," said Shalhoub.
A family affair
In "Made-Up," Shalhoub directed and acted with his wife, Brooke Adams.
Now Shalhoub is trying on a different hat. In his current project, the independent film "Made-Up," Shalhoub played ringleader to co-stars and crew, a majority of which was family.
In "Made-Up" Shalhoub's real-life wife, actress Brooke Adams ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), plays Elizabeth, a woman attempting to reinvent herself after a divorce, all while being filmed for a documentary about her day-to-day life.
Shalhoub, who also directed the film, plays a restaurateur hired to star in the documentary.
Adding another layer to Shalhoub's family project is "Made-Up" scriptwriter Lynne Adams, Brooke's sister. Brooke and Lynne also produced the film.
Bit parts in the film went to several of Shalhoub's brothers and sisters. His nephew, Michael Matsdorff, edited the film.
With personal and on screen relationships overlapping, "Made-Up" gives credence to the metaphor art imitating life. Shalhoub said the lines between family member and co-worker were muddied at times.
"You sometimes lost sight of the fact that you were actually doing a movie. It started to become more about the relationships, the real relationships," said Shalhoub.
Shalhoub said challenges of funding and finding a distributor should not dissuade actors from making a film.
"This business can be very frustrating but there is success story after success story of people who take the bull by the horns. Actors who are frustrated ... [should] do your own project. Find a writer, shoot a movie. It can be done," said Shalhoub.
The future calls
Shalhoub hides himself in roles. Here he is as a slick lawyer in the Coen brothers' "The Man Who Wasn't There."
Shalhoub enjoyed directing "Made-Up," he said, but he added that his his passion remains acting.
"I've sort of been able to expand the playing field a little bit, I think it's long overdue. But I still feel like I have a lot of dragons to slay as an actor and I want to keep doing that," said Shalhoub.
Shalhoub is returning to the "Monk" set to shooting several more episodes, scheduled to start airing in June. He also has a new film coming in September called "The Last Shot," a dark comedy, starring Alec Baldwin and Matthew Broderick.
Another project on the table is a biopic centered on the life of famed Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran.
So Shalhoub's plate is full. But his goal always remained the same.
"I really, really wished and hoped and worked hard toward having longevity, being able to work with people that I respected [and] to keep looking for and seeking out interesting parts," said Shalhoub.
So far, so good.