A Man of Substance

The Substance of Fire lets Ron Rifkin show off his acting prowess

Yet the chance to play even this most personal, custom-fit role was almost denied Rifkin when the time came for a movie of The Substance of Fire. "When the play opened in New York, it was such an inordinate success, you could feel the Hollywood people moving in. You knew when the studio people were out in the audience. You just knew.

"They did come to Robbie, early on, and said, 'Heyyyy . . . we're gonna make a biiiig movie.' But the condition was to use a big Hollywood star. Robbie and I really struggled with that. I said, 'How can I stop you from having a big movie made? That would be terrible of me. You're a young man; this is so exciting, so thrilling.' So we talked and wrestled with it, and there was a lot of anguish and some tears, and finally he said, 'Look. This is what I write about; these are the issues I deal with: commerce and art and commercialism and passion and excellence and loyalty and morality. How could I possibly do this?' And I said, 'What if it never gets made?' And he said, 'So it never gets made.'" But some three years later, it did.

Asked what "big Hollywood star" the studios wanted for his role in the film, Rifkin chuckles. "Those guys. You know? All those guys."

The Substance of Fire
Directed by Dan Sullivan; with Ron Rifkin, Timothy Hutton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Tony Goldwyn.


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