Magnolia Pictures / Magnet Releasing
David Hyde Pierce stars as The Perfect Host.
Judging from the limited release of his new film The Perfect Host, David Hyde Pierce must be huge in Alaska, The indie thriller casts Pierce as a seemingly mild-mannered bachelor who reacts unpredictably when a bank robber on the lam invades his home in the Hollywood Hills.
Pierce, best known for playing on TV the fussy brother to Kelsey Grammar's Frasier, gives a wickedly bravura performance in a movie spiked with bizzare twists and turns, but here's where it gets really weird. The Perfect Host will not open in arthouse strongholds like Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, but will get showings at the Beartooth Theatre in Anchorage Alaska, and Juneau's Gold Town Nickelodeon. That's right: the man best known for playing an erudite snob evidently has a fan base in Sarah Palin's home state.
Pierce deserves whatever following he can get. Aside from the quality of his spookily offbeat Perfect Host gig, Pierce has proven his mettle as an actor by achieving a rare feat among people who've played the same character for years at a time.
He's transcended the character of Niles Crane.
Thank the career gods for theater.
Savvy Daniel Radcliffe stretched out as a song and dance American executive in the Broadway revival of How To Succeed in Business even before the final Harry Potter movie opened. James Gandolfini left Tony Soprano behind by anchoring crowd-and-critic pleasing stage drama Gods of Carnage.
Similarly, David Hyde Pierce proved there was life after Frasier by returning to his roots in the theater. He won a 2007 Tony Award as Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role in Curtains, which followed on his appearances in the zany Monty Python musical Spamelot and Pulitzer prize winning comedy The Heidi Chronicles.
I might have guessed that Pierce had his eye on the long game when we met him a few years ago during rehearsals for a Los Angeles stage production of the frothy two-hander Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.
His co-star: Method Acting legend Uta Hagen. Pierce, who'd been offered his role first, told me "We started talking about who would do the play with me and when they said that Ms. Hagen was interested, I told them, 'OK, here's the problem: I won't do it with anyone else. Seriously, I'm telling you if, for whatever reason, she decides not to, that's it, it's off, I will not do it.' "
While studying theater at Yale University, Pierce had immersed himself in "Respect for Acting," Hagen's classic guide to acting technique. Pierce mused, "Most actors who are that good don't know how they do it, or if they do know, they can't speak about it."
You get the feeling Pierce himself could speak reams about the art of comedy, the business of show business, and the charms of Alaska.
Co-written and directed by Nick Tomnay, The Perfect Host opens in limited release through July. The film is also available through Video On Demand.