The tenth anniversary of 9/11 has been something the characters on Rescue Me have anticipated with trepidation. Now that it’s here, the show concludes its final season. Denis Leary met with the Television Critics Association over the summer to discuss the final episode, the real life issues still being addressed, and his role in next summer’s blockbuster The Amazing Spider-Man.
Leary began as a ranting stand-up comic with a huge presence on MTV. Now that he’s also had success as a comic and dramatic actor, he hasn’t lost any of his bite. Wrapping up his FX series seems both practical and socially relevant. Even through the profanity, you can tell Leary has a sensitive side. Rescue Me airs its last episode Wednesday, Sept 7.
Q: Would you ever want to do a Rescue Me movie on the big screen?
Denis Leary: No, there’s not going to be a Rescue Me movie. Not a chance.
Q: Why not?
DL: Because I think we wrapped it up, hopefully. If you watch the finale, there’s really no way you could have a movie.
Q: If Tommy Gavin lives, where would you see him on the 20th anniversary of 9/11?
DL: Probably still at the firehouse. I would hope.
Q: Are there still some big fire set pieces coming up?
DL: Yes. There’s a pretty big fire towards the end. I don’t want to tell you any more than that.
Q: Did you take anything with you from the set?
DL: Well, I took the bunker gear and the helmet because I have a charity and I know the value of auctioning stuff off. So I took some of his other fire equipment that I was going to save it for 10 years and then auction it off for a lot of money, but then the Smithsonian called and we had to give it to them. So, it’s in the Smithsonian now, and I’m not going to make any money off of it.
Q: Where will you be on the 10th anniversary of 9/11?
DL: I’ll be in New York, actually. I’m doing a couple different things. Nothing of my own design. I’m appearing in other people’s things.
Q: How has 9/11 changed television and media?
DL: I don’t know if it’s done anything like that. I would hope the thing that it changed was people’s perception of firefighters in general, but specifically the FDNY. I think it’s very true. I think people are really aware of what those guys do, and are aware of the fact that, in any given circumstance, as first responders, they’re actually on site before the military is, in terms of defending our country. The guys I know, the firefighters I know in New York, that’s the thing they hope for most out of this 10th anniversary is to remember the 343 guys from that day, but also to just remind people of who they are and what they do because people do tend to forget.
Q: It’s still moving so slowly in terms of benefits.
DL: I know it’s unbelievable. Really the only reason anything happens is because Jon Stewart did an episode about it. So a comedian who has a fake news show had to actually lambaste these guys on television before they moved forward on the bill which really sums up where we’re at. The mayor was going to cut 20 firehouses. In the end he didn’t. That goes back to the oldest argument in the book about firefighters is that they never go on strike. Because they don’t, as public service people they’re always going to be the first people to get cut financially. That’s kind of astonishing.
Q: Can you imagine a better role than Tommy Gavin, in your career?
DL: It’s very hard to imagine because you got to do action, comedy and drama, which is unheard of, all at one time, and with a group of people that I really loved going to work with – the cast and the crew. I would hate to put that weight onto anybody else’s project because I don’t think it will ever happen again. It was great. It was in New York. Peter [Tolan] is my favorite guy to write with. John Scurti one of my oldest friends. A lot of the guest stars that came on were old friends of mine that I’d always wanted to work with – Sarandon, Tomei, Peter Gallagher, Maura [Tierney.] I would hate to go to USA and say, “Oh yeah, can I bring all my [people]? You don’t really get that opportunity.
Q: How is your paramedic show coming for USA?
DL: I’m producing an setting up a pilot for that project, so we’ll see what happens. There’s nothing going on right now, except the script is being written.
Q: Are you going to be in it?
DL: No, I’m not going to be in it.
Q: Does the paramedic show go hand-in-hand with Rescue Me?
DL: No, it’s a completely different world, really. The only thematic thing that’s close is that paramedics are really considered the garbage men of the savior service because they’re supposed to just pick up the body and deliver it to the people that are going to do all the work. The firefighters are supposed to save them, and you take them and put them into the ambulance. That’s their insecurity complex.
Q: What was the last day of shooting Rescue Me like?
DL: The girls were all crying.
Q: Were you?
DL: I was trying not to cry because there were about 350 firemen on set that day. We were shooting in a church. Peter and I had to do a speech because we had to thank the crew and everybody for working on the show, so we wanted to be funny and we had to keep shooting that day. So, we tried not to cry, and when the girls were breaking down, and a couple of the firefighters who are very big, tough guys, started to get teary-eyed and we were like, “Uh oh, this is going to get bad real soon.” It wasn’t until we were editing for a long time and had to do a brief re-shoot, that we really started to think that you’re not going to see these people again, at least not on a daily basis, so it makes it a little difficult. But, it’s better than doing nine seasons and having everybody say, “What the f*** did you do those two extra seasons for?” That’s what I always think.
Q: Who was your very last scene with?
DL: It was about 150 firefighters, down on the waterfront in New York. It was a very complicated shot. That was the last thing that we shot, actually. It was nice.
Q: Was it important to have another character die towards the end of the show?
DL: We had coffee mugs made up after the first season for the cast and crew that said, “Love Sex Death Life” because those are the four themes of the show. Staying true to the nature of the show, it was important that somebody or somebodies were going to have to pay the price. Because we were dealing with grief, it was a great thing for all the characters on the show to have to deal with again. It’s also the nature of what these guys do for a living. It’s such a life and death job that that never went away from the show. We didn’t think it was the right way to go out without dealing with that again.
Q: Why that character?
DL: Thematically we thought it was the best choice.
Q: Has your experience on the show made you a better person?
DL: It made me a better actor, a better writer and a better producer, just by virtue of how much work it was and the nature of it. I don’t know if it made me a better person. I’m still pretty self-centered, greedy and angry. It didn’t save me, but it taught me quite a bit.
Q: Will you do more stand-up?
DL: I just did a mini-tour on the east coast, heading down towards the Smithsonian, to kick off the press for this season and to raise money for my foundation. I do it for charity. In the fall I do a couple shows, one for Michael J. Fox’s foundation, a public one for the Cam Neely Foundation up in Boston. I just keep the muscles going.
Q: Do you have any more Funny or Die stuff coming up?
DL: Not right now. Probably when Spider-Man comes out.
Q: As a comedian, do you have a rant about Hollywood remaking a movie from just ten years ago?
DL: Oh, I didn’t give a sh*t. I’m not really a Spider-Man fan. I’m more of a Batman guy.
Q: Is Captain Stacey a juicy role for you?
DL: It’s a pretty dark vision to Spider-Man. It’s a darker story but yeah, there’s some very funny things in it, some of them that were scripted and some of them that came out of work.
Q: Is there some humor in it as well?
DL: It’s a darker story, but there are some very funny things in it. Some of them were scripted, and some of them came out of the work.
Q: George Stacy actually really hates Peter Parker, but what did you think of Andrew Garfield?
DL: I loved Andrew. I really did. I thought he was great.
Q: What did you think of him as a superhero?
DL: He’s terrific in the role. He was trained as a gymnast, when he was growing up in England, which came in handy. Most of the stunts in the movie are done live, in front of the cameras. There’s a ton of stuff. He’s just a terrific actor. I really loved working with him. I thought he was great. Same thing with Emma [Stone]. They’re both actually more mature than I am, so that says a lot. They’re really very incredibly talented and really f***in’ professional for kids. She’s 22 years old. I don’t want to tell you what I was doing when I was 22 years old. I was very impressed by her.
Q: Did she bake you anything on the set?
DL: She actually did a couple of times. I don’t remember but it was good.
Q: Are you definitely set for Spider-Man 2 and 3?
DL: Yeah. I guess they officially announced it.
Q: Does Captain Stacy have the walking stick, like he does in the comics?
DL: No. Not yet, anyway.
Q: Did you read the old Stan Lee comics to get familiar with them?
DL: No, I didn’t. I’m more of a Batman guy. Not the ‘60s, but the really dark Batman. My wife was a Spider-Man nut, which is why I went to the Tobey Maguire ones. I have a good friend, Jeff Garlin, who is a Spider-Man freak, and he was the first guy that said to me, “The first time I met you, I thought you were George Stacy,” and this was 30 years ago. He had an old comic book frame that he had saved on his computer and he showed it to me, and I was like, “You’re sick!,” and he was like, “No, I’m a Spider-Man freak.” People take it very seriously.
Q: Is it really that different from the Tobey Maguire films?
DL: Yeah. The tone is very different.
Q: What are you watching on TV?
DL: I’m not watching anything. I’ve been doing Spider-Man and then I did press for the Smithsonian thing and now I just finished Spider-Man. So I haven’t watched anything except for baseball and the hockey playoffs.