Three Questions with a Bears Fan, Episode VI: Christopher Denham, Star of Stage & Screen

| April 6th, 2020

He’s worked with Mike Nichols. (Image 1, Charlie Wilson’s War.)

He’s been in a Best Picture. (Image 2, Argo.)

He’s done a Broadway two-hander with Al Pacino. (Image 3, China Doll.)

But now his career reaches a new height as he’ll answer three questions on a blog.

I used to admire Chris Denham from afar, as a fan who’d seen his work on the stage in New York. Then he married one of my best friends – marrying into one of my favorite families on earth – and now I get to admire him off-stage as well. He’s a great dude, a mediocre husband and I’m sure he’s a good father but I’m not qualified to make that judgement.

DBB: You did Charlie Wilson’s War with Mike Nichols and Shutter Island with Martin Scorsese (who I assume you can now call “Marty”). I assume those were very different kinds of sets. So stylistically, what kind of football coaches would those two guys be? 

Denham: Nichols and Scorsese were more similar than different. They were both storytellers on set – raconteurs. Lou Holtz comes to mind. Neither was a screamer. Both of them dressed impeccably. Does that make them the Tom Landrys of cinema? Both men were cerebral. Well prepared. Storyboarding the shots (game-planning) but allowing the actors to call audibles and scramble. I’m stretching this metaphor too far. 

DBB: I first became aware of you when I saw you in Master Harold and the Boys on Broadway in 2003. (When I do my South African accent I’m still doing your South African accent from that shows.) I have argued Broadway theatre – with the huge crowds, celebrities in audience, stage door experience – is the closest the arts come to professional sports. Was that your experience at all?

Denham: Yes, doing a Broadway show approximates the adrenaline, the sheer rush of live sports. I mean, anything can happen. It happens right in front of you. Right in your face. Literally. Doing that play with Danny Glover, I accidentally threw a wet rag into the first row, into the face of an unsuspecting old lady. It was such a big rag. It completely covered her face. The best part was she just threw it back on stage and everyone clapped. I did Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore and this damn cat is supposed to walk onstage at the end. Occasionally (it tended to be Wednesday matinees), the cat would just saunter offstage and walk into the audience. People would just go nuts and start clapping and cheering insanely. It was amazing actually. It reminded us what theater can do that film and TV can’t do. It’s participatory.

DBB: It’s a hypothetical Super Bowl in the hypothetical future, assuming the virus doesn’t take us all. The Bears win it all. Who, aside from me of course, will come to your mind first? 

Denham:  Number One would have to be my Dad.  He’s a die-hard Bears fan and has stayed loyal through some of our many, many losing seasons. He took me to meet Gary Fencik at a 5k charity run. He helped me learn the accurate choreography for the Super Bowl Shuffle.  Some kids could do a general approximation of the Super Bowl Shuffle. And I would just laugh and shake my head. Amateurs. They were so off. They would miss several of the major moves. My Dad really rehearsed that routine with me. Every single position was precise. It was our Fosse.

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