Denis Leary shouldn’t be on TV. Hell, by his account he shouldn’t even have gone to college. But he did. Along the way, he managed to become one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, eventually landing a career-altering role on FX’s Rescue Me. We caught up with him in between takes for his new movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, and he was as brutally hilarious as you’d expect.
The Bostonian king of caustic comedy dishes on childhood dreams, the Red Sox and drinking.
What’s it like being a Boston guy in New York City?
It used to suck, but it changed in 2004 when the Red Sox made that climb back from being down three games to none against the Yankees in the (2004 MLB) playoffs. We were just wrapping up rescue me, and that night I had dinner with a firefighter who was a Yankee fan. The people in the restaurant were unbelievably tense, as was this firefighter. The guys that worked in the lobby of my building all had these tense faces. the next morning, when I went to my office, it was all Yankee fans, and that was the greatest feeling in the world.
What are you drinking these days?
It’s impossible for me to walk into bars anymore. Take St. Patrick’s Day: I think the celebration is great, but people who shouldn’t be allowed to drink are out there drinking with the professionals. It’s not a good combination. The drink I’m really fascinated by is bubble gum–flavored vodka. If you can’t handle vodka without the bubblegum taste, that means you shouldn’t be drinking the vodka. If you can’t drink the stuff the way it’s actually meant to taste, you should be doing something else. Go get high.
What would you be doing if you weren’t acting?
I wanted to be a hockey player. Where I grew up, the basketball courts were rarely used. I was terrible in school and actually said, “I’m going to be a hockey player.” Then when I was 13 or 14, it was like, “Wait a minute, I’m not going to be a hockey player,” which was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I would’ve been out of that game, even if I'd made it to the college level, because I played like a moron.
What does that mean?
I was the first guy to yap at a guy on the other team and say something funny. Then he’d have to fight the tough guy on my team, so you can imagine where I would’ve ended up if I tried to carry that further than high school. Now that I know guys who play professionally i don’t know what the hell I was thinking. so the fact that i ended up being able to go to school, learn how to act, learn to write—it kind of saved my ass, because I had nothing else.