When asked how he managed to land such a plum role in High Fidelity, the new Stephen Frears-directed film starring and produced by John Cusack, Todd Louiso shrugged, blushed, and gushed, "I don't know. I got so lucky."
Louiso, who plays Dick, a social misfit who works in a Chicago record store, did what the majority of actors have to do to get a job in this town-he auditioned, and to his surprise landed what is probably the biggest role of his career thus far.
Getting the job was one thing. Showing up on the set and finding that he got along with the key players of the project was another. Once again, fortune smiled on the actor.
"Stephen Frears was amazing," commented Louiso of the director of Dangerous Liaisons and The Snapper. "He's incredibly generous. He puts you at ease from the moment you get on the set. I was really nervous when I got there, and from the minute I saw him in the parking lot where the trailers were, he said some things to me that really cut the tension."
Likewise, Louiso had only great things to say about his collaboration with Cusack and Jack Black (Dead Man Walking), who play his co-workers at the record store. Indeed, the chemistry between Louiso and his fellow actors shines through on-screen.
Luck does seem to follow Louiso wherever he goes. He previously played "Chad the Nanny" opposite Tom Cruise and Ren e Zellweger in Jerry Maguire and was Nicolas Cage's FBI partner in The Rock. Before that, Louiso played small roles in Scent of a Woman and Apollo 13.
His luckiest break, however, came when he was cast seven years ago as a regular in the James L. Brooks series Phenom, which ran for one season on ABC.
"Phenom was one of the best [acting] jobs I've had," claimed Louiso, who at the time had recently completed New York University's undergraduate film program. "On the television series, you're working all the time, and that consistency is hard to get as an actor."
Louiso, who has resided in Los Angeles since he was cast on the series, admitted that the hardest part of acting continues to be the stretches of time between jobs. However, instead of sitting around waiting for his agent to call, he has made it a habit to find ways to exercise his creativity.
Currently between work, Louiso's now trying to raise money for a feature film, which he plans to direct. He previously helmed a short film titled The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, which he adapted from a Tom Stoppard play and which has aired on Bravo and the Independent Film Channel. Louiso met the famed writer while both were working with director Robert Benton (Bonnie and Clyde) on the film Billy Bathgate-Stoppard as a screenwriter and Louiso as a production assistant (just before getting cast on Phenom).
When asked how he got Stoppard's permission to adapt his play, Louiso credited a combination of bravery and na™vet -a combination which also seems to explain how he's managed to come so far as an actor.
Recalled Louiso, "I had the idea to make a film of Stoppard's play for a little while and after Billy Bathgate came out I thought, I'm just going to write him a letter and see if he'll let me do this. So I wrote to Stoppard and I didn't hear back from him. Then I just called him in London one day and I thought I'd get an assistant or a secretary, but he picked up the phone... and I hung up. I called him back 20 minutes later, so he wouldn't think it was me, and I told him my idea and asked his permission. He said, "Sure.' It took a long time, though, to make-four years-because in between that I got the job on Phenom."
While it may appear on the surface that Louiso has somehow managed to get a myriad of lucky breaks without really trying, the truth is that he has been plugging away at the arts most of his life. He began acting as a child in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was raised by his father, a dancer and choreographer, and his mother, who worked for an ad agency. During his junior high and high school years, he attended one the nation's first alternative arts schools. In high school, Louiso came out to Los Angeles to audition for the film Three O'Clock High, and while he didn't get the part, he did secure an agent.
However, instead of moving straight to Hollywood, as many young actors are tempted to do, Louiso chose, instead, to move to New York, get a college degree, and even try his hand at work outside of acting, including a two-year internship for Saturday Night Live, where he worked behind the scenes on the commercial parodies.
If Louiso could offer one piece of advice to his fellow thespians it would be to embrace experiences that don't necessarily have to do with acting.
He elaborated, "I actually grew up hearing this a lot: If you're an actor, you can only be an actor and you have to just do that. But in order to be a good actor you have to draw on life experiences. To only concentrate on acting, you're cutting yourself off. I've had so many jobs other than acting, it's insane. I'd say it's crucial."