Prof recalls student shy about star link

by Bonnie Britton

It doesn’t surprise Gregory Kucich that William Mapother, one of his former students at Notre Dame, is getting good reviews for his performance as Marisa Tomei’s estranged husband in the film In the Bedroom. p. Kucich, associate professor of English and director of graduate studies in English, has kept in touch with the 36-year-old Mapother, and said by telephone this week that the actor had a number of interests at Notre Dame and as a senior “was thinking about getting into screenwriting, and creative writing as well. He told me at one point he was thinking about theater or film.” So Kucich asked him why he considered acting.“Very modestly, he never made a big deal about this, he told me about his cousin (Tom Cruise). It was such a nice moment. He’s not at all the sort of person who brags about connections or anything like that. He almost felt embarrassed.”

Kucich said Mapother “really stood out in class for his intelligence but also for his passion for whatever it was that we were talking about. At that time, he was head of the Notre Dame Squash Club. We would play squash together. In between squash games, we’d talk about literature. I can remember one time sitting on the floor of the squash court, talking about Keats’ poetry. He was just beaming with enthusiasm.”

Kucich went on to explain Keats’ theory of “negative capability,” of which Mapother has become enamored.

“He’s referring to the capacity of the creative artist to void his own personality, to void his own ego, and virtually become whatever it is that he’s creating. The negative part of the term refers to the voiding of personality. The artist becomes nothing, no identity at all. Then the capability part of the term refers to becoming someone else.”

Kucich said he thinks Mapother has been interested in incorporating and adapting that literary background in Keats’ theories “into his own acting style. It’s a wonderful thing whenever a student stays in touch with you. It makes you feel something really clicked, something really worked.”

He recalled that last summer he was in Los Angeles working at the Huntington Library, and dined with Mapother.

“It’s interesting to think of how people in Hollywood have such a glitz appeal for people outside that world. When I met him, a colleague of mine came along, so it was two English professors looking kind of starry-eyed. It was just the reverse for William. He was so excited and happy to be having dinner with two English professors.”

January 13, 2002

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