|Peter MacNicol Captures Key Role in 'Sophie's Choice'
by Aljean Harmetz, The New York Times, Sept. 25, 1981
|HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 24 -- Peter MacNicol, who opens on Broadway in November in the Pulitzer
Prize-winning play, "Crimes of the Heart," has been awarded one of the most sought-after movie roles of
The 24-year-old actor will play Stingo in Alan Pakula's movie version of William Styron's novel "Sophie's
Choice." The $12 million movie, which Mr. Pakula will direct next February, stars Meryl Streep as the
doomed concentration camp survivor, Sophie, and Kevin Kline as her New York Jewish lover, Nathan.
Stingo, the narrator of Mr. Styron's book and the third major character, is a naive, 22-year-old Southern
writer who obviously bears some resemblance to the author.
For the last two weeks the Hollywood grapevine has said it was a toss-up whether the role would go to
Mr. MacNicol or to Michael O'Keefe, who was nominated for an Academy Award as supporting actor last
year as Robert Duvall's son in "The Great Santini." Both actors read for the role a number of times, but
Mr. MacNicol, who spent two seasons at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and whose first movie
role was as the apprentice sorcerer in this summer's "Dragonslayer," finally won Stingo after Mr. Pakula
spent an hour staring at him yesterday to make sure he was physically right for the part.
"The rhetorical question is always, 'Why did you cast that person?'" Mr. Pakula said. "Because you start
seeing him in the role when you close your eyes. I thought Peter had the right difficult combination of
humor and passion."
After a story about the movie appeared in the New York Times last July, Alixe Gordin, the casting director
for "Sophie's Choice," says that she was "inundated with calls and letters from every actor 19 to 30
years old who had any chance of looking 22." "I've never been involved with any talent search that had
such an obsessive quality," she added. "I even got almost a dozen calls from writers who said they
weren't actors but they identified with Stingo and wanted to play the part."
Miss Gordin chose Mr. MacNicol as one of 50 actors she sent to read for Mr. Pakula because, when she
saw him in the Manhattan Theater Club production of "Crimes of the Heart," he reminded her of Kim
Stanley's "ability to reach moments of truth that made you want to cry."