Hollywood is full of hyphenates, the kind of people who introduce themselves as a model-actor-writer-waiter-personal-trainer-dog-walker.
Lately there is one Tinsel Town citizen, however, who has actually earned every word in his hyphenated title.
Tracy Letts is an actor-writer-producer-Pulitzer-Prize-winner who is going to have to get longer business cards if he gets any more successful. You may not recognize the name unless you pay attention to the end credits of Homeland (he plays Senator Andrew Lockhart on the popular show) or if you know who won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
He’s a multi-talent with a shelf of awards, some heavyweight acting credits and a new movie screenplay on his resume.
His latest project, the script for August: Osage County, puts words into the mouths of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The film brings together the Weston sisters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) with their pill-popping mommy-dearest Violet (Meryl Streep).
As a writer Letts says inspiration came from Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Jim Thompson, which might explain the dark vein that runs through his work.
How twisted are his plays? “Everybody in Tracy’s stories gets naked or dead,” says his mom, author Billie Letts.
Tracy jokingly says that his mother is “a liar” for saying that, pointing out that “not all of the people in my plays wind up naked or dead.”
Still there is no denying that his screenplay for Killer Joe, the 2011 Matthew McConaughey thriller, is written with what Roger Ebert called, “merciless black humor.” The story of a corrupt cop and a bad insurance claim earned critical praise even if the Women Film Critics Circle cited the film for its presentation of what they called “the worst female and male images” of the year.
According to Entertainment Weekly his script for Bug, starring Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon as a lonely woman and unhinged war veteran trapped in a bug infested Oklahoma motel room, contains an “enjoyably icky heart.”
Tracy Letts seems willing to take on any challenge to add to his hyphenate status. There’s just one thing you can’t ask him to do. “I don’t act in the stuff that I write,” he says. “I have no interest in doing that.”