Inside The Actor's Studio: Leading Men – DVD Review

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Jeff Wurtz


James Lipton .Himself/Host
Robert De Niro .Himself
Kevin Spacey .Himself
Sean Penn .Himself
Al Pacino .Himself
Russell Crowe .Himself

The Movie

Inside The Actors Studio has a unique place on cable television. Getting premier actors on a regular basis, James Lipton has received some rather unique interviews with some unique actors. Releasing the shows in sets, “Leading Men” focuses on two generations of leading men. The generation entering geriatric age (Al Pacino and Robert De Niro) joins up with two of the premier actors of the current generation (Russell Crowe and Sean Penn) for a set of in depth interviews from Lipton at unique vantage points in their career.

Crowe’s interview follows his gem Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World on January 4, 2004. Crowe lets his guard down for a really interesting interview, detailing some of his earlier career as well as some of the early moments of his career. Releasing several albums as “Russell Rock,” a DJ, he talks about his early days in a traveling “Rocky Horror Picture Show” troop. He speaks in depth about his breakthrough role in Romper Stomper as a skinhead and Lipton guides Crowe through his career. Covering his big roles, such as L.A Confidential and Gladiator, it’s a fascinating look at Crowe right in the early part of his ascension as a leading man. Crowe talks a lot about getting into character, and how everything he does is about the character and not about him.

Penn’s interview is from January 17, 1999, and Lipton gives him the best introduction of the set. At this point in his career Penn been nominated once for an Oscar (Dead Man Walking) and was right before his stretch of acting brilliance between 2000-4 when he won an Oscar and was nominated for two others. It’s interesting to see and hear him talk about his career to that point, as he was poised to be a great leading man but hadn’t really strung together a series of awards season performances to gain him that final level of respectability. Being the first to light a cigarette on stage, it’s interesting to hear him discuss his future as an actor as well as his experiences directing especially in light of the recent Oscar talk for Into the Wild.

De Niro’s interview is from January 31, 1999, two weeks after Penn, and is interesting because it’s one of the few candid interviews with the legend that have happened as De Niro is notoriously private and rarely grants any interviews. The fact that it’s De Niro makes this set worth owning, as he grants few if any interviews, so it’s inherently fascinating to hear the man talk about his life and his career as an actor to that point. Starting at 10 years old, for De Niro acting has been a craft he did on and off as a youth but didn’t get serious into it until he was 18. Talking about his emersion into the Method style of acting, listening to one of the best actors of the last 50 years talk about his craft is akin to hearing any top professional discuss their craft. He spends some time discussing his collaborations with Scorsese, perhaps the most potent actor/director combination of all time.

The other great actor of his generation, and another one who is very private, is Al Pacino, who stepped onto the stage on October 12, 2006. One of the Co-Presidents of the Actor’s Studio, it’s another long interview with a man notorious for not giving them. They mix things up by having Kevin Spacey show up for a quick impression of Pacino on the big screen, which is fun for the minute or so it runs. It’s interesting to hear Pacino talk about his career up until about a year ago, including some of his more renowned moments. He spends over 90 minutes on the small screen talking about his career.


Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format with a full screen picture, the presentation is good but the presentation isn’t nearly as crisp and solid as one would expect from the medium. The De Niro footage in particular looks like it’s been dubbed a couple times and the end result is a third generation copy for the DVD.

The Extras

Great Moments that didn’t make the cut comes with each of the interviews and are interesting enough from each. There are plenty of great moments throughout from the four actors involved, as they relay anecdotes from all over cinematic history.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Inside The Actor’s Studio: Leading Men
(OUT OF 10)