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Third Degree With Alessandro Nivola

The actor (who is currently on Broadway playing Sir Robert Morton in Terry Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy) and Amagansett resident answers our burning questions.

Alessandro Nivola

What’s been your favorite role to date?
The rock singer I played in the film Laurel Canyon, because I got to make out with Christian Bale’s [character’s] mother and girlfriend at the same time.

What’s the worst job you ever had?
When I played Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel in Coco Before Chanel I called my wife [Newsroom actress Emily Mortimer] one night from Paris while filming it and wept. I’d had a very long day being abused by a demented Frenchwoman about my French accent, being called a ‘f**king American’ by my Belgian co-star and being forced to ride bareback all morning by an angry Argentinian teenager who had been put in charge of teaching me how to play polo.

Which five iconic figures would be at your dream dinner party?
Willie Nelson, Rafael Nadal, Sir John Gielgud, Muhammad Ali and Gabriela Sabatini.

Which profession would you never try?
Athlete—it’s the only career shorter than an actor’s.

Best advice you were ever given?
Nicolas Cage said to me, ‘Alessandro, what do you want to be, man?’ As in ‘You better define who you are in a simple and palatable way that the world can understand.’ I didn’t take the advice, of course.

First Hamptons memory?
I grew up spending summers in Springs, which is where my dad is from (he went to the Springs School). Saul Steinberg lived across the street, and I think we had the same birthday. All he wanted was toys, so I gave him a toy every year and he gave me art.

Favorite thing about the Hamptons?
The air and the light, and East Hampton Bowl—and it’s closing, dammit!

Least favorite thing about the Hamptons?
The bathroom at Zabar’s Farmers Market in Amagansett.

What’s your mode of transportation?
My late grandmother’s 1984 Honda Civic. People think I drive it to make a statement, but it’s just that it starts the first time after sitting outside in my driveway all winter.

Where do you go when you just want to be alone?
No such thing in my house, with two kids. Maybe my trailer when I’m at work.

Hardest thing about being a dad?
Giving advice.

When are you at your happiest?
In bed with my wife!

What’s your favorite word?
Shambolic. English people say it. It means ‘a total shambles.’