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Tom Hulce

Tom Hulce was picked over intense competition for the title role in Amadeus, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the man-child musical genius of the 18th Century fated for an early and poverty-ridden death and musical immortality.

When Hulce received the call from director Milos Forman that he had the part, Hulce immediately plunged into piano lessons to equip himself for the numerous scenes in Amadeus showing Mozart at the keyboard. I never played the piano before, he says, "though I played the violin and sang as a child. When I first met Milos Forman and producer Saul Zaentz, they asked if I played piano and I told them my parents always warned me I'd be sorry."

Besides four hours daily of piano lessons, learning scales as well as Mozart Concerti, Hulce studied the rudiments of conducting with Sir Neville Marriner since the script of Amadeus required him to conduct extracts from four famous Mozart operas and three other works. In addition, Hulce was called upon to duplicate one of Mozart's legendary piano stunts—playing the piano suspended upside down, lying on his back, with crossed hands. Playing Mozart was my greatest challenge, Hulce said, "and working with Milos Forman was unusually demanding. He's a perfectionist who insists on, and gets, the most from every performer."

Tom Hulce was born in White Water, Wisconsin, and grew up in Michigan. After studying at the North Carolina School of the Arts, he took off for New York. A month after his arrival he was picked to understudy the British actor Peter Firth in Equus, another Peter Shaffer drama, and eventually took over the role himself. Once I played the lead in Equus, he said, it was a calling card. Directors no longer questioned whether I could act, but whether I was right for the part.

Hulce starred in George S. Kaufman's Butter and Egg Man" at the Berkshire Theater Festival, and joined the Phoenix Theater for their production of Arthur Miller's Memory of Two Mondays. He made his film debut in James Bridges' September 30, 1955 as a boy from Arkansas whose world is shattered by the death of James Dean. Hulce went on to star in the Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie Emily, Emily as a retarded youth struggling for self-sufficiency.

There followed a major role in National Lampoon's Animal House and Those Lips, Those Eyes with Frank Langella. His list of theater credits include Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Shaw's Candida and Chekhov's The Sea Gull. Hulce found time to direct the musical Sleep Around Town at Playwrights Horizon. "I was working non-stop in New York, making about equal to unemployment compensation, when I went to Los Angeles for some television, mainly a role on CBS's ‘St. Elsewhere.' Then back to New York to star in the title role of ‘The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket' at Playwrights Horizon."

Shooting Amadeus on location in Prague was hard work for Hulce. "At first, it felt like a costume party. It took all of half an hour just to put on my wig. But gradually I began to feel at home as Mozart in Prague. Beth Berridge, who plays my wife Constanze, helped both of us to steep ourselves in our characters; the production designer, Patrizia Von Brandenstein, even catered a period dinner for us, just so we could get comfortable about eating and drinking on camera. And slowly, over seven months on location, I felt at home with the food, the costumes, the wigs, the sets. I became Mozart. Knowing that I was standing in the very spot where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart conducted the premiere of ‘Don Giovanni' was an eerie and awe-inspiring experience."

Tom Hulce was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Amadeus.


Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Tom Hulce Facts

Birth NameThomas Hulce
OccupationActor
BirthdayDecember 6, 1953 (64)
SignSagittarius
BirthplaceWhitewater, Wisconsin, USA
Height5' 8½" (1m74)  How tall is Tom Hulce compared to you?

Selected Filmography

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Parenthood
National Lampoon's Animal House
Amadeus
The Hunchback of Notre Dame / The Hunchback of Notre Dame II
Amadeus: Director's Cut
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame II
Comedy Greats Spotlight Collection
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
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