What Makes Him Tick
What Makes Him Tick
Brian Jacob Smith, 21, stars as 15-year-old Alex the Droog in the extravagantly violent but deeply affecting stage version of A Clockwork Orange, which moves from Plano's Quad C Theatre to the University of Texas at Dallas for another two-week run starting October 31. Reviews for the show compare Smith to Kevin Bacon and John Malkovich. Clockwork director Brad Baker, who wrote the adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novella about alienated British youths, calls the young actor "the real deal." Smith grew up in Allen, briefly attended almost-all-woman Stephens College in Missouri and now is a first-semester acting major at Collin County Community College. His galvanic performance in Clockwork has Dallas' theater pros aflutter, but Smith insists his sights are set on the star-making program at Juilliard, for which he'll audition in February. Smith recently sat for his first interview ever, revealing acting secrets from Ace Ventura and how to snuff a kitty onstage.
Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film of A Clockwork Orange redefined movie violence, having Alex (played onscreen by Malcolm MacDowell) beat a woman to death with a ceramic penis. Your stage version omits the phallus but includes graphic rapes, murders and numerous beatings. Some of those blows look like they connect. Any busted spleens?
Sometimes adrenaline takes over and actors forget to pull their punches. One night I got kicked so hard I thought I'd broken a rib. We have a code word, "blue," that we say if anything goes wrong or anyone gets hurt during the play. I screamed "Blue!" and somebody got me offstage. Then during the prison torture scene, I'm strapped down tight with clamps over my eyes. Sometimes I get a head rush from that and start seeing tracer lights.
The first violent thing the audience reacts to in this play is when Alex strangles the cat. How did you get that cool crrrrrunch sound that makes the audience groan?
Yeah, that scene's always a clincher. It's a toy cat, like a big Beanie Baby with an empty plastic bottle inside. When I twist its neck, you hear this big crunch and it always gets a rise out of the audience. It happens right after I've just raped and murdered this woman, and I always think, why didn't they react to that?
Why the all-girl college?
I went there sight unseen after SMU rejected me from their acting program. I had wanted to go to SMU so bad, and they flat-out rejected me at my audition. I was devastated. I'd heard about Quad C's program [at Collin County Community College], but it was 10 minutes from our house and I needed to get away from home. At Stephens there were, like, 15 guys and 500 women. You'd open your dorm room door and there would be girls everywhere going, 'Hey, a guy!' I did a lot of plays up there, but I flew home on spring break, talked to Brad Baker at Quad C and was blown away. They have a personal investment in their students, not as actors but as people.
Your performance in Clockwork has earned reviews professional actors would kill for. Whose acting impresses you?
Jim Carrey. I've watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective again and again and again. People at Juilliard should study it for acting lessons. He has great timing, vocal technique, everything. I used to do faces and voices for my grandmother, trying to be like Jim Carrey. But just between you and me, as a kid I really wanted to be Screech from Saved by the Bell.
You've been compared to Kevin Bacon, lookswise. How many degrees of separation?
Four. Our director Brad Baker was in the movie Cry Baby with Johnny Depp, who was in...I forget...
...Astronaut's Wife with Charlize Theron, who was in Trapped with Kevin Bacon. OK, the other actor question. All you guys watch Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo. Have you already figured out your answers to the "Bernard Pivot Questionnaire" that host James Lipton poses to the stars?
Of course! And they are: fuckingshit, Chopin, horns, concert pianist, proctologist and "Huh!"
Much of your dialogue in A Clockwork Orange is spoken in the strange "Nadsat" lingo that author Anthony Burgess created--a combination of English, Russian and Gypsy slang. What would Alex say in Nadsat to end this conversation?
If I viddy your grahzny litso one more minoota, I'll tolchok you in the yarbles and send you off to your flatblock going boo hoo hoo hoo hoo.
If I have to look at your dirty face one more minute, I'll hit you in the groin and send you home crying to your mama and daddy.
All righty then!
A Clockwork Orange plays at UTD from October 31-November 10. Call 972-883-ARTS.
The Dallas Morning News noted this week that the Dallas Mavericks basketball squadron is like a fine wine. Perhaps. Don Nelson is big and rich with a full nose; Dirk Nowitzski does get better with age; Shawn Bradley is over-priced; and Michael Finley's aroma is laced with hints of oak, cubeb pepper and boysenberry.
This is the extent of our insight into the team, though. So we thought for our Full Frontal preview of the Mavs season, we'd get an expert to help our predictions. Dougall Fraser, 25, is a psychic-type guy from Dallas. He got his start after being named "Best Psychic" (tough category, that) by this very paper in 1997. He has appeared on radio and TV talk shows and is generally known as a guy with a gift for clairvoyance or guessing, depending on your take.
"Look, I'm gay, and I know nothing about hockey," Fraser said when we talked via phone. Once informed that the Mavericks play basketball, he laughed and said, "Even better. Now you know I don't know what I'm talking about." With that, we threw names at him, telling him only what position that person held with the team or what country he was from, and asked for his insights, which follow:
Mark Cuban: "Wow, you say that name, and I get a weird vibe. I see orange, which is the color of balance, but...here it means an imbalance. It could mean he goes from one extreme to the other. He also could have health problems, like with headaches. Perhaps a problem with his temper...That's the strangest energy I've felt in a long time."
Shawn Bradley: "I'm showing he'll be very successful in 2003, but it's not really connected to basketball. Perhaps as a celebrity, or a commentator--I think he will be known for something great at the end of his life, but it won't be for basketball."
Dirk Nowitzski: "Wow. Tremendous energy. What I'm seeing for him is great success that is very well-connected to basketball. He's German, you said? I see complete dedication. This will be a terrific year for him."
Steve Nash: "I see anxiety. Watch out for a heart condition. Perhaps it runs on his mother's side of the family. He will have some sort of external issues. Ooh, not a good year for him. I see a lot of personal stuff for him this year. Anxiety, big-time."
Michael Finley: "Nice guy, but what an ego. He takes himself way too seriously...I would think he may leave this year."
Don Nelson: "A good guy. Very bright. Really, really bright...I see him making money late in life in a different venture. But I see him staying a while longer."
Donnie Nelson: "I don't get much from him at all."
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