C.J.: Nothing like interviewing a Barrymore on Oscar day

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2014 - 7:55 PM

out of character Despite creepy roles, John Blyth Barrymore couldn’t be nicer.

John Blyth Barrymore, who’s in the metro rehearsing for the movie “Inheritance,” enjoys answering inquiries about his height not with stats but with this: “I’m one inch taller than John Barrymore.”

And that’s all you’re getting from the grandson of the late John Sidney Blyth Barrymore, the handsome matinee idol known as “The Great Profile.” I did not ask grandson John his height. He regaled me with that quip after I asked to see his driver’s license to make sure it read: Barrymore.

Sunday, hours before the Oscars telecast, I interviewed this member of the legendary theatrical family. If one has to interrupt a day off to interview a celebrity, this is the Barrymore. The former Silicon Valley software developer brings it and he does so with the élan of someone named Barrymore, who’s also blessed with comic timing.

Barrymore was a special guest at the Twin Cities Film Fest Special Awards Night event at St. Louis Park’s ICON Theatre at the West End. He’s here preparing to shoot “Inheritance,” which will also be shot in Maple Lake and Buffalo.

“It’s about a woman who leaves her abusive husband and takes her daughter back to her family’s Minnesota farm to start a new life,” said Bridget Cronin, executive producer of the film. Chris Bueckers is producer and Paul von Stoetzel is director.

“Sinister events cause her to disappear for her daughter’s safety and her own sanity,” said Cronin. “John Barrymore plays the abusive husband. He is a nice person in real life, but he is not going to be nice in this movie.”

How nice is Barrymore, who has played such characters as a hitchhiking massacrer?

“We connected on LinkedIn. Started chatting about the different projects we were working on and when I had a script ready I asked him if he would read it to see if he was interested in a role,” Cronin told me. “After he read it he said to me, That’s one of the creepiest scripts I’ve ever read. When do we get started?

“He’s so down to earth. Who am I?” said Cronin, who still marvels at Barry­more’s openness.

“Inheritance” is a horror movie, just as two others in which Barrymore has roles are: “Hitchhiker Massacre” and “Mansion of Blood.” However, “Before I Sleep,” a movie expected to be released this year, is not a horror flick. Barrymore said it stars “Campbell Scott, Chevy Chase, Morgan Freeman — a bunch of actual name actors. It’s going to be a good film. Those directors, a brother team, did know what they were doing.”

So, apparently, did filmmakers who made his legendary grandfather look like a big guy.

“In ‘Svengali’ they made him look real tall,” said Barrymore. “The only movie where you ever see his actual height is when he’s disguised as a Southern gentleman in ‘20th Century,’ ” said Barrymore, affecting a Southern accent while repeating his grandfather’s lines from the movie. “He’s trying to make a getaway and you can see he comes up to the upper arm of the guy next to him. That’s the only time you actually see how short he really is.”

Barrymore just tells it like it is. That’ll make my upcoming Q&A with Drew Barrymore’s half-brother fascinating reading. They have the same father — “John Blyth Barrymore Jr., aka John Drew Barrymore,” according to Barrymore, who noted that he has only half-siblings. “My mother had three kids from three different men and my father had four kids from four different women. They weren’t able to tolerate anybody long enough to have a second child.”

Interviews don’t get better than this.

Hitting the nail on the head

On his Oscar special, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel sussed out what’s so annoying about the consistent observation media made about one “Captain Phillips” star from Minnesota.

Barkhad Abdi was also nominated for best supporting actor,” said Kimmel. “Funny on the red carpet almost every reporter pointed out the fact that a couple of years ago he was a limo driver and tonight he got to ride in a limo, which is a little bit condescending. Most actors start out with regular jobs. You never hear anyone say Harrison Ford used to be a carpenter and now he lives in a house.”

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