As part of the brand-new David Mamet play, China Doll, Denham gets costar Al Pacino all to himself while onstage. The show runs through January at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.
â€‹Scorsese. Clooney. Affleck. Hanks. Christopher Denham has worked with all of them. Yet impressive turns in films such as Argo and Shutter Island were just a prelude to his biggest challenge to date—on Broadway in David Mamet’s new two-character play, China Doll, starring Al Pacino. But the down-to-earth resident of Rye seems just as enthusiastic about his other projects. Fans of the WGN television series Manhattan know him as physicist Jim Meeks, who is racing to develop the atomic bomb. He also recently wrapped Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. With so much going on, Denham was still kind enough to sit down with Westchester Magazine (emphasis on kind). His open and unassuming manner instantly suggests why he’s become a director’s favorite.
Other than director Pat MacKinnon, China Doll is just David Mamet, Al Pacino and you. What’s that like?
I have to pinch myself daily to remind myself it’s really happening. These people are legends. Every day is a master class. Mamet is constantly refining the play, and Pacino is so spontaneous and authentic. I just hope that something gets through to me, maybe by osmosis.
Has anything about Pacino surprised you?
I think people falsely attribute his genius to divine inspiration. They don’t give him credit for being a really hard worker. I’ve never worked with anyone that thorough or energetic.
How did you take to Mamet-speak?
I’m from Chicago originally, so I was born and bred on Mamet. Hopefully, that sort of lingo comes naturally from my mouth.
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Manhattan is set in the 1940s. You were also in Argo—pure ’70s. Do you like period dramas?
I love specific period work. But what’s great is that Manhattan does away with distorted, rose-tinted nostalgia. These people were scientists, but the average age was 26. They were scared, lost kids facing the moral ambiguity of what they were doing.
My wife’s family is in Connecticut, and obviously I work in the city a lot, so we wanted something in between. We stumbled onto Rye and fell in love with it.
Favorite Rye haunts?
I don’t want to lose my seat, but Kelly’s Sea Level. It’s built into an old house, and it has best cheeseburger you could ever eat in your life… and I’ve had a few cheeseburgers.