Photography by Mr Matthew Brookes | Styling by Mr Bruce Pask
Words by Mr Yale Breslin
Having first shot to fame with his performance as the prospective groom in The Hangover, the Florida-born actor is now concluding a well-received run in his off-Broadway production of Asuncion, which was written by The Social Network's Mr Jesse Eisenberg. A coming-of-age tale that documents the DNA of male friendships, Mr Bartha's confidence and honesty in his role of Vinny, a laid-back stoner professor with an uncanny knowledge of African studies, clearly portrays the artistic depth he's able to embed into his live-audience performances. Here, 33-year-old Mr Bartha sits down with MR PORTER to discuss mentors, his addiction to theatre and why he doesn't regret turning down tickets to see a Bob Dylan concert when he was 13.
You've just finished starring in Asuncion. Do you have a preference when it comes to film versus stage?
They stretch different muscles. Theatre is more of a sustained energy, and film is more collaborative in that you are a piece in a puzzle. The immediacy of the reaction from the audience in theatre definitely feeds you. You learn to take more chances on stage. I've also had the chance to play more interesting characters in plays. For me, theatre is an addiction. I feel as if a lot of people do movies to afford their theatre addiction. I just happen to get off on living in that certain character's state of mind for a prolonged period of time. It's also strangely easier than movies.
What's so special about theatre?
If you're an actor that loves creating characters, you get the chance to stay in that character for a specific amount of time. In film you have to do the same thing to get a great performance, yet it's spread out over months and months. You're constantly interrupted by "Action" and "Cut". You always have to remember that level of energy where you left off. There isn't a timeline. So in theatre, you get to just live in the sequence. It's the greatest job.
Have you experienced any unsettling audience interactions?
You can hear everything - every cough, every shuffle. You can see everything as well. Most people try not to look into the audience. I was doing a show last year called Lend Me a Tenor, and at a critical moment, while I was holding a rose, I looked into the front row and I saw a guy sleeping. I took the rose and nailed him in the head.
From left: Mr Zach Galifianakis, Mr Ed Helms, Mr Bartha and Mr Bradley Cooper in the 2009 comedy The Hangover
failure to launch
Mr Bartha in the 2006 romantic comedy Failure To Launch in which he co-starred with Mr Matthew McConaughey and Ms Sarah Jessica Parker
From left: Mr Jesse Eisenberg and Mr Bartha in a scene from the off-Broadway play Asuncion
Mr Stanley Tucci directed the show. What was it like working with him?
He is fantastic. He's kind of a throwback in a way. The interesting thing about him is that with every character in the play, he infused a little bit of himself. He's kind of a cad, a ham and can also be very serious, he has a sharp sense of humour and he's also a bit of an Italian gentleman. He's a fantastic collaborator and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had.
Who do you consider your mentors?
My father. I also like Bob Dylan a lot. He's brought me through some hard times.
Have you seen him in concert before?
I have, in New York. I got into his music early. When I was a teenager, my parents bought me Dylan tickets to a Detroit show and for some reason I said I didn't want them. And it was because I was so obsessed with the fantasy of what Dylan represented, so I listened to his tapes instead.
The standard "never meet your heroes" scenario?
When I was much younger, I met some of my heroes like Don Mattingly who I had an unfortunate encounter with. Long story short, I don't like him now. But Rickey Henderson on the other hand is one of the most generous people ever.
How do you think your personal style has progressed over the years?
I don't really think about it actually. For me, it's just about comfort. That's the most important thing. I'm all about fit and fabrication as well. Whatever feels good and is comfortable.
Do you have anything you'd never throw away?
I have a golfing shirt that my late grandfather wore when he used to play. I absolutely idolised him. He gave it to me and I bring it wherever I go. I wore it on the audition for the first movie I landed.