Danny DeVito on the Trump Administration: ‘They Probably Don’t Even Care About Their Own Grandchildren’
The acting legend talks to Marlow Stern about FX’s ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ the upcoming ‘Dumbo,’ and the state of American politics.
BEVERLY HILLS, California — “I’ve always been self-centered and hedonistic,” says Danny DeVito, flashing a naughty smile.
We’re seated together on a couch off the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, where the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (minus Glenn Howerton) has assembled to entertain members of the Television Critics Association as part of its summer press tour. The 13th season of the FX series will premiere on Sept. 5, and it’s already been renewed for a 14th, which will tie it with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom in U.S. television history.
DeVito plays Frank Reynolds, Dennis and Dee’s pistol-packing, prostitute-frequenting sorta-father—and arguably the most mischievous, thrill-seeking member of The Gang. Though the charming 73-year-old actor is quick to defend his iconic character: “Frank is not a bad guy—if you’re on his gift list. He does a lot of giving, takes care of them,” he says.
And the Jersey native doesn’t think that playing Frank has rubbed off on him; on the contrary, he believes, “There are parts of us in each character. They’re exaggerated versions of us for the show.”
He has far less kind things to say about the Trump administration, which DeVito, a longtime lefty who stumped for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election, finds utterly appalling.
So, Always Sunny is back for its 13th season. That’s quite a run.
The pauses that we have had are not long. I did a play last year, Kate had a kid a couple of years ago. But we don’t stay away from each other for very long. And I think we’ve known each other for fifteen years, and have done the show for thirteen years. It’s kinda cool. The way we do it is, we do three good months of intense shooting. I don’t like getting up early in the morning, but we do, and we knock it out. I’m telling you, it’s a lot of fun.
It’s hard to pick a favorite episode, but one of mine has to be “The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention.” That scene where you’re gargling booze and it’s dripping down your face and chest is just… spectacular.
[Laughs] Oh, that’s a good one. You know, it’s like every year you and your friends say, “We’re gonna take this weekend off and nothing matters. We’re gonna go to this place, a bunch of guys and girls, and we’re just gonna let it all go. No holds barred. Anything you want to do, you can do at this place.” That’s our twelve weeks. Anything you wanna do. Like Charlie and I just shitting in the bed. “Who Pooped the Bed?” is another favorite. We have a lot of fun together, Artemis and I, when they put her on the show.
That scene where you’re about to hook up and ask Dee for bacon bits because you like to put them in Artemis’ hair so they “rain down on me when we bang” kills me.
Yeah! I like it! [Laughs] But this season went by so fast. Just three months of insanity, going from one episode to the next. It’s hard to keep track. And we take a week off in between, so we basically do the whole season in 10, 11 weeks. And it takes us about five days to do an episode. The crew is great, man. Every day is a new experience
It looks like you guys are having a lot of fun making it.
I would do Sunny forever. I don’t want to stop—I want to keep going. Just do Sunny, pop up in a play, do a Tim Burton movie every once in a while.
Speaking of Tim Burton, he loves dressing you the same way in his films—as the circus MC, with the top hat, vest and long jacket in Batman Returns, Big Fish and the upcoming Dumbo. Why do you think that is?
Dumbo is gonna be amazing. Man, it’s so beautiful. This is our Circus Trilogy. Batman was a bit different, but I did have circus performers. And Big Fish was pretty much in the same arena as Dumbo, where I’m the head of the Medici Brothers’ Circus, and we buy Mrs. Dumbo, she has the baby. Tim likes bizarre and crazy, but this movie is very sweet, very sensitive. It’s not dark at all. The way you remember Dumbo? This is a million times better. It’s got all the elements for kids of all ages. It sounds like I’m a barker for the circus, but it’s so sweet. You look at that elephant and you just melt, man.
Batman Returns came out 26 years ago and was really ahead of its time. Now, comic book movies have totally taken over Hollywood.
I was a big comics geek. I used to go to the candy store every day and see what new superhero comics came out, so I love this stuff. I love going to see Deadpool, Ant-Man. Michael [Douglas] is in Ant-Man, and I’m going to see that tonight. It’s fun for us fantasy folks. I love going to see all that shit. I love Spider-Man. It’s fun stuff. I’d love to do one someday, I just gotta do the right one. Maybe someday something will come around. Maybe I wouldn’t be the villain! Maybe I could be a hero someday.
DeVito unleashes a big smile.
I know you came out big for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. Do you think he’s the Dems’ only hope for 2020?
Well, I’m really excited about Ocasio-Cortez. That was great, man. It was very exciting to see that. The thing about it is, Crowley was in there for ten years, and she beat the machine—and we know that because of what happened with Bernie. So now we have Stacey Abrams, who could be the first African-American governor of Georgia. Not only young people but all people are starting to get hip to the fact that we have to take care of healthcare, education and the environment. Did you read that piece in the Times about the decade we almost stopped climate change? These guys are climate deniers because these guys got together and put all their money into propaganda. Please. We’re riding around in cars polluting the shit out of the city. Look what’s going on now in California with the tragic fires. You’ve got floods in India, problems all over the world. It’s horrifying.
And the Trump administration doesn’t really seem to give a damn about the environment. They certainly don’t believe in climate change.
They’re just making money. They just want to make money. I think they live with the mentality of—there was this old saying, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” That mentality is really horrible. They don’t care about other people. They probably don’t even care about their own grandchildren.
But do you think he’ll get re-elected in 2020?
This guy’s a clown. The Democrats are clowns, too. I don’t put too much faith in the Democratic Party. I’m a progressive, and I love to see people thinking about universal healthcare, education for everybody, working on the environment, retooling our industries so we’re giving jobs to people to create sustainable energy systems.
If the two sides of the Democratic Party don’t align though, Republicans may keep winning the presidency.
It’s very difficult to get people to change their minds, but people are going to vote to change the planet, people are going to vote to give free education, people are going to vote to be considerate and have humanitarian values about people who are immigrants. My grandparents are immigrants. You can’t destroy a country, like Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador, put it in the shitter, and expect people to not run away from those countries because the gang violence and poverty is so magnified. Where are they gonna go? We got the Statue of Liberty over here, come on. We’re a big country and we’re rich. We should be taking care of people.
And the situation at the border right now with the immigrant child prison camps is awful.
Oh, it’s horrible. They are prison camps. It’s awful. They’re little concentration camps. I try to do my part, which is to support progressive candidates who are trying to change the government, and try to be as vocal as I can about it.
Have you ever crossed paths with Trump?
I did once but… I’d rather not talk about it. It wasn’t a good experience.
Stay tuned for more with Danny DeVito following the premiere of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Sept. 5.