Inside an actor’s life

MU alumnus draws lessons for theater hopefuls from his career on stage and screen
Tuesday, October 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:01 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The first time the actor Robert Loggia met the acting coach Stella Adler, he got to touch her, well, breast.

“And if I may say so, her nipple,” Loggia said, clutching his chest at the memory. More than 250 people in the Rhynsburger Theatre gasped, then laughed at his decades-old story of meeting Adler, who pulled his hand to the bosom of her low-cut dress and said, “Tell me about yourself.” Loggia did — and got a scholarship.

Loggia, a 1951 graduate of MU’s School of Journalism, visited his alma mater last weekend for homecoming and, on Monday, took part in a public forum based on “Inside the Actors Studio,” a staple of the Bravo cable television channel.

Loggia was twice nominated for an Emmy — for “Mancuso, FBI” and “Malcolm in the Middle” — and for an Oscar for “Jagged Edge.” He was even in the video game “Grand Theft Auto III.” But Loggia is probably most universally known for dancing across a toy store’s oversized keyboard with Tom Hanks in “Big” — which they did in one take, he told the crowd, still obviously gleeful at the accomplishment.

Assuming the role of James Lipton, the much-paradied host of “Inside the Actors Studio,” theater graduate student Brett Johnson asked Loggia about his career and his time at MU as a journalism student. His stage debut came in 1949, in MU’s production of “To the First Born.”

“I found a home,” Loggia said, recalling the rush of being onstage for the first time.

Now 76, the born-and-bred New Yorker said he was advised by his Sicilian father to change his name to Logan; nobody would be able to pronounce Loggia, his father said.

Chuckling quite a bit while he answered questions, Loggia advised hopefuls in the crowd who want to make it big, including Adler’s counsel that “the role comes first, then the actor.” To go into acting, he said, one needs to have the feeling of giving rather than receiving.

“Most actors who are really good actors don’t do it for fame or admiration,” Loggia said. “You do it because you love it. It’s a calling.”

When Loggia was asked about coping with rejection, he made the crowd laugh again. “I was never rejected,” said Loggia, who has held some 200 roles in plays, movies and TV shows. “I’m a spoiled brat, I was a real mama’s boy.”

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