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Danny Huston Does the Boogie Woogie

Danny Huston Does the Boogie Woogie (photo)

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You might imagine there’s a lot to live up to in a showbiz career when your half-sister, father and grandfather have each won at least one Academy Award, but one peek at Danny Huston’s acting résumé (“The Proposition,” “Birth,” “The Aviator,” “Children of Men”) illustrates he’s primed to take over the family business. (And for those wondering, the aforementioned relatives are Angelica, John and Walter.)

Armed with his sharp ear for dialects and a bigger-than-life screen presence, Huston commands the room in director Duncan Ward’s star-studded “Boogie Woogie,” an art-world satire adapted by Danny Moynihan from his own novel. Huston stars as London gallery kingpin Art Spindle, whose over-the-top laughter infects several storylines involving rabid collectors, opportunistic assistants, oversexed conceptual artists and the titular Mondrian painting, prized among the scenesters. Sipping on Arnold Palmers in the lobby of Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel, Huston and I discussed Art — both with a capital “A” and the lowercase kind — and filmmaking advice given to him by his legendary pop.

Even with a stellar cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Alan Cumming and Amanda Seyfried, your performance is the ensemble’s most comically mannered. How did you develop him?

First is the laugh. That was very much written: H-A, H-A, H-A. It was something I saw on the page that could potentially trip me up, which I had to overcome. I found this laugh, which is, as you say, close to being pantomime. [laughs] Second were these Jay Jopling glasses, which are a signature. Combined with his avid appetite for art, you’re dealing with three broad strokes that define the character. So I tried to give him some humanity, but it is a little bit of a masquerade. He does, in a way, hide behind these characteristics, but underneath is a man who truly loves art. It’s not something that he’s doing for greed alone. He has a keen sense of what is beautiful, a taste that others rely on, but he can probably see further than that. That’s what makes him buoyant. [laughs]

04212010_DannyHustonBoogieWoogie4.jpgHow would you describe your own taste for art?

Well, I went to art school. I resisted the film business as long as I could, because of the big circus act and the amount of money that it costs to make films — I saw my father suffer through that. I loved painting and drawing for many reasons. One of them was that all it really required was me, a pencil and a pad. It was something I was passionate about, and still am. But then I went to these gallery openings, drank too much warm white wine, and realized that there was just as much bullshit involved as in the film business. I finally relented and went to film school.

I was around during the Tracey Emin times, and I know Damien Hirst, so I understand that scene. Danny [Moynihan’s] book was originally set in New York and the script translated it to London, so I thought it possibly gave a fresher look because the New York scene had been so investigated, opened up with a scalpel, and prodded to just about every area. Danny Moynihan and Duncan Ward both live in London, so it hopefully had a genuine quality, even though it is a satire.

But to answer your original question, I like anything where I see vigor and life, and where I feel there’s something that I connect with, that’s speaking to me in whatever form may come.

Why is the ridiculousness of modern art and its surrounding scene still such a ripe target since, as you say, it has already been done from so many angles?

I suppose, primarily, it’s the amount of money spent. Want those butterflies or dots that Damien Hirst produces so eloquently — you better have a couple million to spare. Especially in this day and age, it immediately makes you reevaluate what it all means. The status of owning a piece like this is, at times, comparable to the grotesque. [laughs] I don’t think it’s difficult to observe it with humor, but also a certain amount of horror.

04212010_DannyHustonBoogieWoogie7.jpgHaving said that, what’s been invested in producing these works as far as where the artist has come from and how he’s got there is also what you’re buying. There’s the famous Tracey Emin bed, which has condoms and whiskey bottles and stains. It’s certainly something that, if not one’s mother, one’s grandmother would immediately want to get out of the house and start to tidy up. When you start to observe these pieces with an educated eye and understand what these works mean, then it opens up a whole other world, not one to ridicule. There’s a point where art is not subjective, and my example for that is Picasso. If you don’t like Picasso, that’s your problem. [laughs]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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