I bought my house 12 years ago. This is the most settled that I’ve been. ... I’m not sure I loved moving around a lot. But I really loved location movies. I still do. I just don’t want to do them as often — it’s a big sacrifice from your life. When I focus on a movie, it’s very hard to figure out how to deal with life — and children and dogs and cats and all that stuff too. I get lonely. It takes a while to recover.
I didn’t go to Juilliard, and I don’t have some kind of voodoo method to what I do. Whether I like to admit it or not — and usually I don’t like to admit it — the stuff I do affects me. It’s this strange lonely thing. It’s hard to explain what it is to lie in a pool of fake blood for four days and just be thinking those thoughts. It’s not like I go off in character or something like that. But there’s a real sadness to it. So I don’t want to do that more than once a year. [Laughs]
What else would you do?
Well, that’s the big question. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years. One is that if I weren’t famous again and no one knew who I was, I’d be perfectly happy. I think some people around me would be like, "Oh, yeah. Just wait until you’re nobody and see how you feel about it." Well, in America, you get to experience that — every three or four years, everybody forgets who you are. So I know I’ll be fine. ... Maybe the year before Charlie was born, about 10 years ago, I felt like I wanted to have this plan where I wouldn’t be acting anymore. I’d just be directing. And I just couldn’t make it happen. That tortured me for a long time. Now I realize it’s because it wasn’t right. I kept getting sucked back into acting.
And here you are, still a big box-office draw.
I can’t believe that I grew up and stayed being an actor. I’ve been working for 41 years. It’s a really long time to be doing the same job. It’s not like I don’t feel ambivalent about it. There are times when I’m more ambivalent than others.
In what ways has your relationship with your sons changed as they’ve gotten older?
When my kids were tiny, I was caught up in the identity of being a mom. You’re still changing their diapers, and it feels like it’s going to last forever. Now I can see it all coming. My older guy, he’s almost 9. He’s reading; he’d much rather be with his friends. I like having these conversations with him where I talk about my passions and he talks about his. If I don’t have any passions, then it’s depressing.
Every once in a while I’ll have one of those days when I’ve fed the fish, cleaned 10 poops from the patio, taken the cat to the vet, sewn my son’s stupid karate stars on until my fingers bleed, and made sure that he has everything, and he wakes up and goes, "Oh, what’s for breakfast?" He doesn’t know, and why should he? Right? But there’s absolutely no sort of acknowledgment or reward for this — except for the intangible of my kids growing up to be wonderful people. I do find myself in the garage listening to NPR because I want to have a stimulating side to my life. ... The only thing about having kids that I miss is being alone.
What’s the upside of being 44?
I think the pressure’s off. The hardest part of my personal neuroses is that I feel responsible for everything. I put so much pressure on myself, and I always did as a kid. There’s a nice thing about turning a certain age where you’ve made so many life decisions; so many non-chosen paths are behind you, and you don’t have to worry about them anymore. All those arbitrary goals that you have as an actor and filmmaker, I feel like I already did them. So I can check them off.
When I interviewed you in 1994, you scoffed at the idea of cosmetic surgery. Now, as the crow’s-feet start to appear, have you adjusted your stance?