David Krumholtz, Unsung Hero of ‘Oppenheimer,’ on His Brief Run as King of the Twitter Thread (and Why He Nuked His Account)

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Photograph: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

The most powerful weapon in Oppenheimer is an orange wedge, unsheathed from a handkerchief by the great character actor David Krumholtz. He’s playing the physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi, who was Oppenheimer’s friend and confidant, but in Krumholtz’s hands the character becomes so much more—he’s Oppenheimer’s soul, his conscience, his Lower East Side shtetl humanity, and he's the movie’s tether, its suppressed Yiddish accent, its Jewish mother.

Krumholtz answers Oppenheimer’s gaunt, haunted seriousness of purpose with round, Ecclesiastical warmth and wry, world-weary humor. There is no method or technique that can give an actor the ability to put this across in a performance. You earn it; it's a history and implicit trust David Krumholtz has earned with us over the course of 30 years as a Zelig-like character actor.

Several months ago, I had the good fortune to stumble upon David’s unverified, wonderful, low-follower Twitter account, which he ran with a guileless zeal I would describe as “Facebook Uncle” energy: crowdsourcing for recs, responding in the replies, sharing banal observations and thoughts as they came to him. It was a pure expression of the very regularness that’s made Krumholtz a universally beloved character actor for over thirty years—and, in regular-guy fashion, when I first reached out to his reps last year to ask if David would discuss this, he politely declined, saying he wanted to keep the account for himself.

But nothing gold can stay. Soon Krumholtz began posting long, hilarious, detailed threads in which he’d tell insane stories populated by his many friends and co-stars over the decades. Before long his Twitter account blew up, and Krumholtz decided to delete it, although he’s still very much on Instagram (and we’ll always have the threads). Now that the account is gone—and with his new film Lousy Carter in theaters and available to stream—I was finally able to talk to David Krumholtz about his incredible career and his love-hate relationship with social media.

This interview has been edited and condensed to make me sound like less of an asshole.

David Krumholtz: Abe, you're a persistent dude. I appreciate it. I'm sorry about the run-around.

GQ: All good man! I'm glad it's finally happening. You're shooting right now, right?

That's correct.

Is this Forelock?

It's Forelock, yeah. I'm almost done. I've got a week left.

I looked up the writer-director, Caleb Alexander Smith, and I can't believe that guy is a writer-director. He does not look like one. That annoys me. Seems unfair.

[Laughs] He's actually quite intrepid and brilliant. I, too, had the same initial reaction—which is wrong of me, to judge a book by its cover. But it's going to be a wild ride. He wrote a very intense comedy, almost like an action comedy, a throwback to 48 Hours or Midnight Run. It's been a lot of fun to shoot. It's been challenging. I've had to do a lot of action, which—I'm getting old. I'm 46 in a couple of months. The other day, they had me running through Hollywood, and I thought, I've got maybe five years of running left in my life. It's been challenging, but it's been a lot of fun.

How's this Knicks season working out for you?

I'm happy with it, but it’s nerve-wracking because Anunoby is back on the injured list, and that makes me nervous. I just think full strength, they're going to win the whole thing. But who knows if we'll be full strength.

Life with Thibs. I wore this shirt for you today. [Author’s Note: I’m wearing a Knicks/Grateful Dead collab T. Krumholtz is in a Grateful Dead cover band.]

I have that shirt!

I should have known. Interviewers always go to you for random actor anecdotes from your many years in Hollywood, but as a lifelong Knicks fan, do you have any random Knicks anecdotes?

Gosh, I remember I was shooting Addams Family Values when I was 15, and it was the year that they had the best record in the NBA, and they met the Bulls yet again in the Eastern Conference Finals, and it came down to the final shot. And Charles Smith, who was a small forward at the time, missed four layups in a row. He kept getting his own rebound and kept missing.

[Shudders] The Charles Smith Game.

And did he get fouled? Sure, probably. They should have called something, but that was a rough series, so they weren't calling a lot of stuff. They were only calling the more brutal fouls. Maybe a few months, or a couple of years later, I guess, I worked with Scottie Pippen. He guest-starred on a sitcom that I did called Chicago Sons. I asked him straight up, “Did you foul Charles Smith?” And he just laughed in my face. But I remember that night. We were in Fresno, California, shooting Addams Family Values, the camp stuff. And the cast was going out to dinner that night. And I watched the game. Then we met up for dinner, and I was crying the whole time in front of everybody. It was so heartbreaking.

I think we were all crying. Who is better at math? Charlie Eppes or Robert J. Oppenheimer?

Well, Charlie Eppes was a genius in every field of mathematics, which was a bit of a stretch. Most mathematicians are specialized in one field of mathematics. It would be Charlie, because we had to stretch the truth and make him a super math genius, whereas Oppenheimer needed a lot of help doing his thing.

Your character Isidor Isaac Rabi is basically responsible for MRIs and the microwave. Has there been any talks for a spinoff or to expand the Oppenheimer Cinematic Universe?

Yeah, The Rabi Chronicles. No, of course not. No, it would get boring at a certain point, I think. No one wants to know how the microwave was created, frankly.

Was the orange, the actual item you'd be feeding Oppenheimer, written into the script?

Yes. Everything was very carefully written. The other day, someone in the cast said to me, “I love that moment when you take off your glasses. You're talking, you're upset, and you take off your glasses. That was a brilliant choice.” But it was written. It literally said in the script, “Rabi takes off his glasses.” Chris is brilliant. Chris Nolan is beyond. I can't take credit for too much of that performance. It was all very measured.

Me and the “Oppenhomies” who had smaller roles in the film, we would talk openly prior to the film coming out about how worried we were that our scenes might be cut. There's some amazing heavy hitters in that cast, and you just go, Oh, crap, if the film is long at all, if it's running long at all, we're scissor bait. We're ripe to be cut. And I was very worried. But the film is exactly the script. It's amazing that it comes in exactly at three hours because literally, I don't think he cut a damn thing.

By my count, you've been in two movies with three actors who’ve turned in performances they won Oscars for.

Wait-—Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey and Cillian. Yeah. Okay.

Are those the three best performances you've seen up close? Are there any surprises?

That's a good question. If I racked my brain, right now—Maggie (Gyllenhaal) blew me away. Watching Downey do something so different, and relish that moment, and bring a lot of pain into his performance, which is what that performance is, was really eye-opening. Cillian is a unique talent in that everything is very organic to who he is. There's a lot of Cillian in Oppenheimer. And that was really interesting, because most actors would gild the lily with a performance like that. And I think Chris Nolan knew, when he cast Cillian, that Cillian wouldn't do that, and that that's what the film and the role required—that he wouldn't overdo it. As far as Jamie goes, from moment one, I knew he was going to at least be nominated, because he was channeling something incredible, and he was spot on and nuanced and subtle.

Jeff Daniels on The Newsroom—working with him was really great. I thought he was really strong. Watching Jim Carrey do physical comedy in Mr. Popper's Penguins was a treat. The manner in which he could move his body and use his strange, awkward athleticism to make magic happen was really cool to observe and admire. But I've worked with some really, really special people.

On the Downey performance: I know you guys are friends, but many felt that you gave the best supporting performance in the movie. And you had to go through awards season, seeing your good friend who you obviously respect and admire, take all the attention and win every possible award you can as a supporting actor. Is any part of that difficult? Was there a part of you that on some level wanted that recognition?

Absolutely not. First of all, Robert Downey Jr. has worked his ass off way harder than I've ever worked, and has accomplished so much, and is amazing in the film with a much weightier, loftier responsibility. My role was written to be the conscience and heart of the film. All I had to do was show up and put some empathy in my eyes and some concern in my voice. So on a technical level, Robert Downey Jr. Is much better than me in the film. In terms of the idea of better or worse or not as good, I think that's such craziness. First of all, it's all a matter of opinion. It's all subjective, so it doesn't really exist in the real world as a tangible, concrete thing. In terms of jealousy, I try not to have any. It's a daily reprieve. The work is the reward for me. It really, genuinely is. Awards for acting, for artistry, are absolutely ridiculous.

I don't need anyone else's admiration, or I do need the admiration. I just don't need an award that represents that admiration. It has all coalesced and become this statue. I take reward from moms DMing me about how their kids love Bernard The Elf. That, to me, is what I really feel I'm doing this for. The only expectation I have and had with Oppenheimer is that I would get work off of it. I'm a working, jobbing actor. I always have been. I'm a journeyman actor. And so really, that's the only expectation. And sometimes I even have to temper that expectation.

It's nice that the performance translated. I personally feel that it's not my best performance. That's not to say it's my worst or that I dislike it. I think it's great. I think I've done a lot of other stuff, and I can do a lot of things, and I'm lucky to be able to do a lot of things. My feeling is you ain't seeing nothing yet.

You're a rapper yourself, and you post about Wu-Tang and Sean P frequently, but you were actually in a movie with Freddie Gibbs, who you don't post about. What's up with that? Are you a Freddie Gibbs fan?

The movie is called Down with the King, and yeah, Freddie was nice enough. I don't want to start beef with Freddie Gibbs right now, but it was a strange little shoot. We did this scene where we get into an argument and I tell him to “Shut the F up.” I came to set that morning and I said, “This doesn't feel real. I feel like if I said that to him, he'd choke the living shit out of me, so he should choke me. It'll be volatile and visceral, and you'll get a sense of who he is." He was thrilled. Freddie was like, “Oh, yeah, I'd love to choke this little guy.”

So as you know, going back to November, I wanted to talk to you about your social media presence. In the beginning, when you had approximately 200 followers, I was one of the 200. And I was really charmed by the account, because it was so unfiltered and funny. When I first tried to interview you about it, you didn't want to do it, because you wanted to keep the account something like a secret. And then it blew up. I turned around and you'd acquired 30,000 followers in a very brief period of time, and then you deactivated. So can you take me through your journey with that account?

First of all, I didn't like this idea of paying for verification. It just ruins the whole experience because everyone and their mother is verified, and it became a meaningless thing to be verified. I guess I wanted it? I was always checking Twitter. I get my news from Twitter. I find it is the best news source. You get immediate news and immediate opinion. I appreciate that. Then I started thinking, “Well, I'll just tweet clandestinely.” Even though I was tweeting under my own name. Then the stories took off, and I guess I felt good about that. But then the same thing that always happens, which has happened in the past when I've had verified Twitter accounts. For some reason, it becomes this desperate, attention-seeking, mega ego-feeding thing, where I can't stop thinking about what people are thinking of my tweets, and I hate that. I hated it. And so in a flurry, I just deactivated it. But I’m still on Instagram.

Another thing that you tweeted about, which I think really resonated with people, was how difficult and rejection-heavy the life of an actor is. Given that, what's wrong with occasionally indulging in and feeding your ego?

Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with how any actor reacts to their notoriety. I just think it made me uncomfortable. I didn't like the way it felt. But yeah, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. At the same time, I think people lose themselves as artists. I think there should be a mystique. I think mystique helps lay the groundwork for surprising work. In other words, if everybody knows everything about me, the next job I do, they think they know what they're seeing when they see it, and it's hard to separate me from the character. I was heading toward that, and I don't want that. I think, for any artist, too much social media is a bad thing. I think it hurts the work or how the work is received.

I mean, it's a good way to promote cover-band gigs, if nothing else, right?

Sure is.

Speaking of Instagram, you got hacked at one point.

That's correct.

As a cautionary tale for our social media using readers, how’d it happen?

I'm usually so vigilant, and I pride myself on being a cynic, so I never, ever fall for that stuff. But it was a good one. They hacked my cousin's wife, and I don't have my cousin's wife's phone number. So they sent me a DM as my cousin's wife, and I thought, Oh, this is the only way my cousin's wife can reach me. This person was reaching out and asking, as my cousin's wife, if I could support her little business... And so I clicked on the link. And it wasn't until they said “Please text me the passcode” or whatever it was that I stopped. And it was too late at that point.

A few months back GQ did a cover story on Barry Keoghan. Barry posted the story to his Instagram, and you had several very funny replies about his penis, I assume related to Saltburn, which you then screenshotted and posted on your grid. Why did you feel the need to post those jokes, and why did you eventually take them down?

I don't know. I'm a funny guy. No one really gives a shit what I say on the internet. No one got hurt. They were clearly jokes. But I took them down because I thought, Well, what if it gets back to Barry. He's such a wonderful actor. I'm impulsive, so I wrote the jokes.

You're the lead in Lousy Carter and a co-lead in Forelock. Do you have any ambitions to start pushing towards leading roles and not doing as much character work?

You jump at the chance to play a meaty role with an arc. A lot of supporting roles have less of an arc. To me, I like telling the story of a journey of a character. You get to do that more with leads. But I've done a bunch of other small indies that I've been the lead of for years. My first was when, I want to say I was 21, a strange movie called You Stupid Man with Milla Jovovich. I played Milla Jovovich's love interest, if you can believe that. I couldn't believe it. And it turns out, the general public couldn't believe it either.

But I've been doing it for years and years. Recently, I played the central character in Leopoldstadt on Broadway. I'm not afraid to take on lead roles. There's a coziness in playing supporting roles, and you can almost get away with more with supporting roles. With lead roles, you really have to measure your moments and think about giving a more dynamic and grounded performance.

Lousy Carter is a throwback to the small, super-talky, character-sketchy Indies that were prevalent in the 2000s and the early 2010s, with some '70s horniness thrown in. Was that what drew you to it?

What drew me to it was Bob Byington. He's a friend. He asked me to do it. You do jump at lead roles when you can. The movie was no frills. It was very low budget. There wasn't really any other impetus to do it other than I wanted to work on something with Bob.

My biggest critique of the movie, which is something you never hear people say anymore, is that it wasn't long enough. It's 76 minutes, which is like a long prestige-TV episode. Were there any aspects of the production that led to it being abbreviated, or was it just a short script? It feels like there was a lot more movie in it, potentially.

It was a short script, and we shot it in 15 days, and that's all we could shoot. We only had the money to do that. We could have explored it more, I suppose, if we had more time. But it speaks to the wonderful and thrilling nature of making independent films that, yeah, it's only 76 minutes or 80 minutes with credits or whatever it is. It still works. Leave them wanting more, right?

Particularly because you were in the room at the time, do you have anything to say about the response to Jonathan Glazer's speech at the Oscars?

I have a lot to say, but you know what? The truth is, if you say anything... There's this ravenous edge of your seat thing where people are sitting, waiting to slam you for anything you say. But I guess all I'll say is I totally understood what he was saying in that moment. And I think it's been misconstrued to fit narratives. But what isn't nowadays? And that's why it was brave of him to do it, because he must have known that, “Oh, this is going to be completely misconstrued”, and the heart of it is not going to be valued. But instead of saying I agree with him or disagree with him, I completely understand what he was saying, and I didn't misconstrue it, and I won't.

If acting doesn't work out for you, is it rapping or the Grateful Dead cover band?

It's probably one of three things: getting a therapist's license, being a real estate agent, or a car dealer. But I think acting has worked out. I think I can finally say—and I'm going to jinx myself—that I'll probably be working for the rest of my life as an actor. It's very precarious for me to say that, because I often think that the opposite is true, and I'm ready at any moment to quit, but we’ll see.

Originally Appeared on GQ