Archive for Saturday, November 5, 2005

Alan Ruck’s day off

Ferris Bueller sidekick well past typecast

November 5, 2005

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— So, just how far into the 21st century are we?

Alan Ruck, who played Matthew Broderick's buddy in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," is nearly 50.

These days, the tall, lanky actor is working on Broadway, where he recently finished a stint as timid accountant Leo Bloom in "The Producers" and is now in Alan Ayckbourn's "Absurd Person Singular," playing on Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre.

Ruck, who at 49 still looks younger than his age, plays Sidney, a working-class Englishman who bullies his neat-freak wife and desperately wants to climb Britain's steep social ladder. The three-act play centers on three couples who meet on three successive Christmas eves. It is a dark farce about changing fortunes.

In some ways, the role of Sidney is a measure of how far Ruck has come in his acting career, where for a long while he was regularly tagged as the sensitive sidekick, a typecasting which, in his words, "is really awful."

"A friend of mine came to see me in this play and said, 'I was so glad to see you play somebody that wasn't nice!"' Ruck said during an interview in a Biltmore lounge.

His voice was deep, thanks to a cold, and his slowly graying hair was parted in a way that made him bear a passing resemblance to Ronald Reagan. He doesn't care much for that description, however.

Ruck's colleagues say he's a nice guy. Almost too nice.

Alan Ruck stars in Alan Ayckbourn's "Absurd Person Singular," playing on Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre.

Alan Ruck stars in Alan Ayckbourn's "Absurd Person Singular," playing on Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre.

"He's sometimes very hard on himself," said John Tillinger, who directs "Absurd Person Singular."

"He always listens to the demands of another actor. He will do almost anything to accommodate their needs."

Escaping Cameron

Ruck grew up in Parma, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His father worked in a pharmaceutical chemical factory while his mother was a school teacher.

Ruck grew interested in acting as early as the 6th grade, but it wasn't until landing roles in high school plays and enjoying the response from audiences that he decided it was his future.

"I didn't have anything else to define who I was," he said. "I wasn't an athlete. I really wasn't interested in academics. I didn't play an instrument."

It didn't make a difference that acting is a profession with few promises of success.

"I've been ambitious; I've always wanted to succeed as an actor," said Ruck, who attended the University of Illinois. "I guess I'm just blessed with a certain amount of ignorance. It just never occurred to me that I wouldn't."

Though Ruck has had many roles - including appearances in the movie "Speed" and on stage in "Biloxi Blues" - he is probably best known for his role as Cameron, the loyal, worried friend of teen rebel Ferris Bueller.

The movie's 20th anniversary is next year, and its staying power has surprised even Ruck. He's had experiences with younger fans, who seem genuinely shocked to realize he's grown up.

Ambitious ignorance

Ruck's work on the TV sitcom "Spin City" enhanced his face, if not necessarily name, recognition. There he played Stuart Bondek, a sexist chief of staff in an office of big-city bigwigs.

While "Absurd Person Singular" has plenty of physical energy, it's mostly a breeze for Ruck, whose run in "The Producers" required singing and dancing.

Ruck starred as Bloom in the national tour of "The Producers" last year as well on Broadway earlier this year. It was a role Broderick originated on stage.

Ruck, his wife Claudia and their children live in New York's Rockland County. The actor says he doesn't plan to move out of the state anytime soon, mainly because his kids, 17-year-old Emma and 11-year-old Sam, are in good schools.

But he wouldn't mind spending more time in Los Angeles.

"I just go where the opportunities lead me," he said. "I would love to do another sitcom."

"I enjoy the theater, but the truth is you can't really make a great deal of money doing it. I'd like to see if I could be cast in a drama. I don't know why I want to do that. I'll probably do that and run back to comedy."

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