WHEN it comes to cinematic worlds of fairies and trolls, David Strathairn isn’t exactly an obvious casting choice. The veteran character actor does complicated, dissolute and tortured like nobody’s business – but the sight of the guy being whisked away by a CGI flock of wood sprites seems truly odd.
“The Spiderwick Chronicles” has one of its screenwriters, John Sayles, to thank for Strathairn’s involvement. The pair attended Williams College together in the late ’60s, and Strathairn has appeared in six Sayles movies to date.
“Spiderwick,” however, was a far cry from the low-budget sets of Sayles and the gorgeously smoke-filled newsrooms of “Good Night, and Good Luck,” in which Strathairn made an Oscar-nominated turn as Edward R. Murrow. For one thing, there were a lot of green screens.
“It was on-the-job training,” he says. “It was exciting, watching these skilled technicians set up the shots and all the equipment and the measurements – I’d never seen that kind of technology.”
But Strathairn is hardly becoming a kiddie actor; he’s in rehearsals at the Public Theater for the very grownup “Conversations in Tusculum,” about Julius Caesar’s political manipulations, in which he stars with Brian Dennehy, Maria Tucci and Aidan Quinn. He’s also appearing in the indie film “My Blueberry Nights,” out in April.
“I play a kind of alcoholic, local town policeman who’s having a hard time dealing with the fact that his wife doesn’t want him anymore, and has moved on,” he explains.
In other words, a welcome return to complicated, dissolute and tortured.