'House's' Hugh Laurie on 'The Cumulative Effect of Dealing With Misery'
This story first appeared in the May 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Hugh Laurie's eternally cranky Dr. House is set to hang up his cane after eight seasons, five Emmys and Guinness World Records status as the planet's most popular current television program (watched by 81.8 million people in 66 countries). Days after the Universal Television-produced series wrapped production, Laurie and House creator David Shore, both 52, sat down at Chateau Marmont for a conversation about the Fox series and its impact. In doing so, the pair revealed why the British star was forced to adopt an accent, how the network would have preferred a younger lead and whether the bantering duo will ever again work together.
Hugh Laurie: When did you first realize that you needed to come to me on bended knee, begging for me to work with you?
David Shore: When you came to me, begging to work for me.
Laurie: You've got a twinkle in your eye, which tells me, but not the reader, that you don't remember any of the circumstances of our first meeting.
Shore: I do. I remember what you were wearing -- a pin. Which means I can extrapolate from that, you were wearing a jacket as well.
Laurie: No pants, oddly.
Shore: You were wearing a pin that said, "Sexy." You said it was an ironic pin. Really. That's what sold us on you, which is, by the way, the way Hollywood works. I remember we'd seen your audition tape, which you made in Africa. It's on the season-one DVD. I believe it's one of the extras.
Laurie: Without my consent or without any consultation whatsoever, I believe.
Shore: You're yelling at me? It sounds like you're yelling at me.
Laurie: I'm not yelling. Yet.
Shore: We had met with many people, and I was growing weary. I was happy with what I'd written, but I was starting to think: "Maybe I'm naive to be happy with what I've written. Maybe I've written something that cannot be portrayed." I was starting to think, "It's my fault, not theirs." And then you came in and convinced me that it was their fault. We flew you in from Africa, and I remember meeting you in [producer] Bryan Singer's office on the Fox lot. You read for us, and then we brought you over to Fox to audition, and you were once again fantastic. I had been a fan of your work, but I didn't realize what an excellent dramatic actor you could be. I knew your comedy work.
Laurie: I do remember specifying, slightly cheekily, that I needed business-class seats to fly over. I remember saying that to my agent, just to find out whether you were serious. Apparently you were. But when I got there, I remember Bryan had two tuna salads in front of him as I read the first scene -- and he didn't really raise his face from the salads all the way through. I thought, "I've just come whatever it is, 8,000 miles, and here's a man with his face buried in a tuna salad."
Shore: If I recall, you'd spent time in a hotel room just rehearsing that scene over and over again.
Laurie: That's absolutely correct because I'm a terrible auditioner. I've probably auditioned a thousand times, and I'd guess I've gotten only three gigs from an audition. Then I got there, and I was nervous. Every single shot we've done, I was nervous. If I'm on and I'm doing something in public with other people looking at me and forming opinions about me, I get nervous. I'm nervous now.
Shore: Fox initially wanted your character to be 25 years younger.
Laurie: They wanted him to be 16.
Shore: No, but they wanted him to be in his 30s, certainly. They kept wanting him younger, and we kept fighting them on that. But once you came in, there was no longer a fight. Do you think living with this character for eight years has psychically affected you?
Laurie: I know you do.
Shore: Yeah. In fact, I think it's affected me...
Laurie: No, I think you thought it affected me. And I'll be honest, in the two days since we've stopped shooting, I've noticed myself being much more cheerful. Of course, that could be the result of sleeping more than four hours. But I think you're right, and not because I'm of the Daniel Day-Lewis school, if Daniel Day-Lewis had a school. He probably doesn't, does he? Imagine if Daniel Day-Lewis ran a school on the south coast of England.
Shore: The Daniel Day-Lewis School for Boys. Nothing to do with acting …