The actor’s actor

He’s known among the most talented actors in the business as one of the best at his craft. Malibu resident and leading character actor John Savage will appear on the screen, this time the smaller screen, this fall as Lydecker, a genetic wizard of sorts in the upcoming youth-oriented dramatic series on Fox called “Dark Angel.” “James Cameron and Chuck Egley came up with this really cool conceptual story and put these young people in it as having been genetically altered,” said Savage, who has been enjoying filming on location in Vancouver this summer. “My character is somehow responsible for that.”

The personable Savage first became known to mainstream America on the big screen during the seventies when he starred opposite Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep in the Academy Award-winning movie, “The Deer Hunter.”

Savage began his career of performing in front of his classmates at the age of 10. An aspiring vocalist in a church choir, punishment for not showing up with homework completed was to stand in front of the class and sing. Solo for a shy guy can be torture. Humor came to his rescue.

“It turned out I was funny when I did it,” said Savage. “They laughed. I went along with it.”

Standard school work did not provide the best stage for Savage to excel.

“Teachers helped me out because I couldn’t get it together at school. I was a dreamer, a fantasizer,” Savage said, adding that he was guided toward study in subject areas no longer provided for many students in schools today.

“At that time they actually had this kind of thing called ‘arts and music’ at school,” he said.

This is where Savage found his connection to the real world.

The real world connected with Savage time and again from the Broadway stage, first in the musical “Fiddler On the Roof,” with Zero Mostel, and later in David Mamet’s “The American Buffalo,” where his talent caught the eye of De Niro.

This recognition led to the starring role in “The Deer Hunter” in 1978. Savage later appeared opposite Al Pacino in “The Godfather III,” continuing to a role in Spike Lee’s film, “Do The Right Thing.” More recent film credits include “Message In A Bottle” and “The Thin Red Line.”

While music was his first love, acting has been the music of his life. “I wanted to be a musician, but that required homework,” muses the now 50-year-old actor. “I don’t see this as work. It’s weird. Thank God for some of the representation in the business, as hard as it is for me to understand or accept, ’cause I’d be doing it for free.”

Savage, a New York native, sailed through studies he earned on scholarship at the Academy of Dramatic Arts.

“I loved that,” Savage remembers.

He also loves his family, including children from a first marriage, a grandchild, and his wife of 10 years, actress Sandi Schultz. He approaches his life with the same sincerity and humility as his acting.

“At this point in my life I’m thinking less,” said Savage. “There’s a need for me to be more available for anyone that might need me. I want to keep it simple. Being responsible is a big deal.”

Savage experiences his career as a journey rather than an enterprise. Though he will turn 51 this month, he is admittedly still a child at heart.

Savage said of his work, “It’s discovery. You know there are much more accomplished actors who can break down a character, or part, or role and put it back together.

“I’m more of an actor who wants to act so he can slow down life a little and maybe get a little closer to it.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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