Neil Patrick Harris: Hollywood's Renaissance Man
BY SARI ANNE TUSCHMAN
Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Emmy Awards, sang and danced the opening number for the Oscars and stars in one of the most popular sitcoms on television, How I Met Your Mother. Now he’s adding director of Rent at the Hollywood Bowl to his ever-impressive list of credits. We sat down with Harris as he prepared to direct his first musical production to ask him all about his latest project. But the real question is: When does he find time to sleep?
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: Why did you want Rent to be the first full musical production you directed?
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: I’ve always felt a strong kinship with [Rent playwright] Jonathan Larson. His family grew up in Albuquerque, which is where I’m from. It was just one of those shows that when all of the hoopla surrounding it began, I was at that right age. I loved the sound track; I memorized every song. So when I was asked to helm this production I felt like in a weird way it made sense.
What do you think the experience of seeing Rent at the Bowl is going to be like?
Rent is a great show to do there because it was originally staged so wonderfully as a bit of a concert itself—with microphones on stands and the band on the stage. [At the Bowl] we’re allowed a little more leeway with staging. We’re going to increase the cast by about 10 people, and I think we aren’t going to double-cast as much. It will be exciting because you won’t have to use your imagination quite so much, and then in turn you’ll get a bigger sound.
Tell us about one of your latest projects, Accomplice: Hollywood, and why you wanted to bring it to LA.
Accomplice is like a little scavenger hunt, walking tour and an interactive clue-based, three-hour game. You buy a time and tickets, but you don’t know where you’re supposed to go. A day before your show starts, you get a call from someone in character telling you something terrible has happened and about a link to a website and exactly what you’re supposed to do. You get a dossier and figure out where you’re supposed to go next based on clues that are inside it. You go from place to place and interact with people in character in real-world locations. Immersive theater is something New Yorkers are much more accustomed to, and I think people in LA are craving some sort of afternoon that’s challenging, artistic, fun and clever.
Are you actively trying to be the busiest man in Hollywood?
Nope, I’m lucky. Once How I Met Your Mother started I was back in the industry on a more public scale. That allowed me to choose a couple of fun things I liked to do. As the success of the show has ramped up, so have those opportunities. I’m in a lucky position that I get to now choose the work I’m doing. I would love to be the host of a variety show someday and introduce magicians and jugglers. That would be the coolest job in the world to me. You only have one life; you might as well do what you like. Rent runs from August 6-8 at the Hollywood Bowl. Visit hollywoodbowl.com.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CLIFF LIPSON/CBS