Master of Malice

Article excerpt

Byline: Jacob Bernstein

Frank Langella is back as a lying, cheating scoundrel--and loves it.

Six years ago, then known primarily as the man who'd once been Dracula, Frank Langella was weighing three offers--two TV shows and a tiny new play with an eight-week run at a not-for-profit London theater. His girlfriend begged him to head to the screen, but he was smitten with playing a malevolent politician.

So he ditched the girlfriend ("Her agenda was to be on the arm of somebody at the Emmys," Langella says), Frost/Nixon got raves, moved to the West End, then to Broadway, won Langella a Tony, and finally became a hit movie, which earned him an Oscar nomination.

Langella, 73, couldn't have chosen differently. As he explains over orange juice, he's totally, deliriously happy playing liars and cheaters. "Someone once asked me what are the most important qualities you look for in an artist, and I said mystery and danger," Langella says. "There are animals in the jungle you watch and animals that you go right by. I watch the animal that could kill me."

That's an apt description of his latest role, in Man and Boy, the Broadway revival of Terence Rattigan's 1963 play about a Madoff-like schemer (Langella) whose business and reputation collapse during the Great Depression. As the press and the police descend, the man's son attempts to save him and discovers a person who has no idea how to give or receive his love. …