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Alfred Molina gets an education in an artist's struggle [Updated]

March 20, 2010 |  8:30 am

Molinabig
Soon after actor Alfred Molina started reading John Logan’s new play, “Red,” he was hooked. “By Page 21, I knew I had to do it,” Molina recalls. “I often tell people that when you read a play, the moment when you know you have to do it is not a punching the air moment. It’s actually a sinking feeling because all your options disappear. Everything narrows down to this one thing you know you have to do.”

The role was that of abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, the central figure in Logan’s 90-minute drama set in Rothko’s New York studio in 1958. As the world-famous painter works on a series of murals commissioned for the Four Seasons Restaurant at the city’s iconic Seagram Building, he rails against the commission, a changing art world and a new assistant who embraces the change.

"Red” debuted in December at London’s high-profile Donmar Warehouse, directed by Michael Grandage.  The play opens on Broadway on April 1, and playwright Logan says Molina “is even better on Broadway, because he’s been unleashed. He has a greater animal freedom, and he is now absolutely ferocious.” 

His head shaved, his demeanor fierce, Molina inhabits Logan’s isolated, isolating intellectual, raging at Eddie* Redmayne’s Ken but also at himself. He comes across considerably different than he did as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,”* much less as Doc Ock in “Spider-Man 2.”

[* Updated: An earlier version of this story did not include actor Eddie Redmayne's first name and gave the name of the musical as "Fiddler in the Roof."] 

Molina looks how the role demands he look, and an interview is no exception. He has a short break at home in Los Angeles between his London performance and Broadway, and over coffee in a Hollywood diner, he most resembles his complicated but affable Englishman in the recent film “An Education.”

Read more about Alfred Molina and “Red” in Arts & Books this Sunday.

-- Barbara Isenberg 

Above: Molina backstage at the Golden Theater in New York. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times.

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