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Combustible Woods

An incendiary afternoon with reformed bad boy James Woods.
Alysse Minkoff
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 6)

As he approaches the end of his Montecristo No. 2, the conversation turns to women. Woods is uncharacteristically quiet, reflective, almost philosophical when he says, "I'd really love to get married again. This is a softer, kinder, gentler version of my 'old public persona.' But, in fact, I would just love to get married. The biggest challenge in life is to find someone in your contemporary world who can resonate both traditional values and that love for you," he says. "I think there are a lot of really good women out there. I really do. But I think that women have really been pounded by this feminist stuff. I think the mean-spiritedness of the feminist movement has been very destructive to women's naturally kind instincts and I think it has hurt all of us. I think we are finally starting to realize, 'Hey, we've got to get over it and find a way back to each other.'

"What nobody gets is that it's great that we're different. Women tend to whine a little and guys tend to not want to talk about anything. Women could reasonably argue that the reason they whine is because 'you guys won't talk to us about anything important.' Like relationships. My fervent hope is that if I ever get married again and have children, that the marriage will stay together no matter what. I have that as a standard, and I think that is one of the reasons that it has been so difficult for me to find a wife."

The struggle to balance love and work, creativity and commitment, Hollywood success and hearth and home, is apparent. "My goal right now is to have a family. The thing I want more than anything else is a wife and children. Work for me has been an ongoing dialectic. Work is important for me--a basic, inbred part of me that I, in the best sense, take for granted. To work and to love. I need work; it's just a given, and I'm as excited about it every day as I was in the beginning. And as for love," he wryly offers, "let me give some advice to women--if you want a teddy bear, go to FAO Schwartz. If you want a man, come over here, OK?"

In a new house that does indeed look like it has always been there, in a cozy library surrounded by his books, his awards and the American flag that was draped over his father's coffin, James Woods shares his view of mid-life. "When you're 30, you want to make a lot of money. When you're 40, you hope you're not going to die. When you're 50, you start to realize: How do I make peace with all of this? For the first time in my life, I'm starting to think about how many films I have left in me. And I think, I'm turning 50. How old do you think I will be when I'm teaching my kid to play golf? What will it be like when all of those inevitable things that we dread happen to our loved ones and to us?"

It isn't surprising that James Woods gets every last, savory puff out of his cigar. When he is finished with it, there is almost nothing left. He places the butt in the ashtray. "Sure, I tend to be a bit of a worrier and a little obsessive, and my biggest fear is that I will fuss and worry myself to death." Clearly, that's where cigars come into the picture. "When you smoke a cigar, time stops. And you can sort out your thoughts. Contemplate. You can just kind of hold it and puff it and just drift down the stream of your thoughts for an hour or so. Thank God for cigars. At least there is one place where I can be quiet for a moment and actually be alone with my thoughts." He gazes into the fire as if the answer to one of life's great questions is encoded in the flames. And the mischief dances in his eyes. That knowing grin that borders on a smirk reappears. And right now, finally, James Woods looks ready to have it all. Because he just won't settle for anything less.

Alysse Minkoff is a freelance writer living in Malibu, California.

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