Three Great Things: Lou Taylor Pucci

The actor, who's currently starring in Physical, on the best life has to offer, including his personal adventuring highlights!

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark his standout role as stoner videographer Tyler in Apple TV’s dark new comedy show Physical, actor Lou Taylor Pucci shares some of the things that bring him the greatest joy in life. — N.D

Being a Child of the ’80s
Being a child of the ’80s is something that I relish and have pride in. A few years ago, inspired by Jim Carrey – who visualized things he wanted to manifest, like, “I want to make $10 million” – I decided I wanted to manifest something a little less crazy: being in a 1980s show. And two years later, I was cast in Physical! It’s so fun to be a part of, with the big hair and the colors – the palette of the ’80s is smoky and orange – and there’s a tangibility to everything. In an age now when everything is digital, I love things that are tangible. I carry around a Fuji Instant X (which is like a Polaroid, but takes wide shots) and every event that I go to, I try to get photos there, because they’re an actual physical memory from the place where you took the picture. I don’t know why that means so much to me, but it’s so much cooler to me than digital photos.

Lou Taylor Pucci as Tyler in Physical.

One of my first memories of being an ’80s kid is watching musicals, because my mom showed me a lot of musicals and I got started as an actor doing The Sound of Music on Broadway in New York when I was 11. Another very early memory is watching my dad, with his giant pompadour hair, playing guitar up on stage at a county fair. I think I was in my mom’s arms, so I was pretty young. He is a musician who still plays, and he has a really, really high voice, a rock voice. Because of him, ’80s rock is something I can just hear over and over again on the radio, and it doesn’t get old to me (although it does to my girlfriend, and most other people!). For me, because I heard my father play these things on his guitar when I was still in the womb, it’s comforting. Even AC/DC is comforting!

Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam’s films have affected my life to such a major degree, and they make me believe in magic every single time. Time Bandits is The Wizard of Oz of the ’80s – it’s one of the coolest and weirdest films I’ve ever seen. And then there are crazy ones like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; I’m so glad he made that movie, because so many other people could have directed it instead. What he brought to it, like the lizard people, it’s just so Terry. From the very beginning, when he was doing animation and drawings for Monty Python, he had such a distinct style.

Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys.

When I was a kid, my dad would sometimes bring home a couple bootleg VHS tapes every now and then. One of the bootlegs he had was a grainy, dark, crappy version of 12 Monkeys, which I saw when I was a young kid, maybe nine years old. I remember trying to watch it, thinking, “What the fuck is this? It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I wish I could see what’s going on properly!” For a few years after, I kind of forgot what the movie was exactly, but I knew there was this crazy movie I’d seen about time travel and a pandemic that kills five billion people in 1996, or sometime in the characters’ future. Once I rediscovered the movie, and saw a non-bootleg version of it, I realized, “Oh my God, I love Terry Gilliam in the craziest way.”

Years later, I was looking through a newspaper and saw that 12 Monkeys was playing at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles and immediately decided to go. But when I got there, there was a line around the corner because it turned out Terry Gilliam was going to be at the screening, so I could not get a ticket. However, I went to the theater kiosk and pretended that I had a ticket: “I don’t know what happened. I’m an actor and my agent put one aside for me.” The craziest part is I’d had a film at the Egyptian before – Thumbsucker premiered there – and so behind the lady who I’m talking to, there just so happened to be a poster of Thumbsucker. I pointed and said, “That’s me.” She said, “All right …” and gave me a ticket, so I got to go see Terry Gilliam. What he had to say about the film was so cool. He said, “You know, I usually hate my movies, but I did a pretty good job with 12 Monkeys!” His perspective on activism and his whole worldview also really blew my mind. He’s an inspiration in every way.

I don’t know exactly what to call it, so let’s just say it’s “adventuring.” The most fun I’ve always had doing my job is when I go to new places. I like flying by the seat of my pants – going from my safe place to the complete unknown is my favorite thing ever. And I love being in places where I don’t know the language.

A sampling of Lou Taylor Pucci’s adventuring trips.

I think my adventuring started with my actor friend Justin Chatwin, who was on Shameless and acted with me in a little indie movie called The Chumscrubber when I was about 17 years old, which was only the second movie I ever did. Right afterward, he asked, “Have you ever gone camping before?” When I said no, he took me on my first camping trip, to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, because I’d never really had a childhood where I’d gone camping and I had never learned about nature and how to live in it. Once I got a taste and saw how crazy and extreme nature could be, I just wanted to go everywhere. My favorite trip so far was to Costa Rica, which is just a mind-blowing place where you can still hitch a ride on the back of somebody’s truck and get around that way. It’s amazing.

Lou Taylor Pucci: you’d never guess, but he’s from New Jersey, actually.

One of my most memorable adventures was when I was at the Edinburgh International Film Festival with Thumbsucker. I used my per diem to buy Scottish regalia, then I put all of it on – the kilt, the shirt, the socks, the tassels, the sgian-dubh – and spoke with a Scottish accent, wandering around from bar to bar, hanging out with people, trying to see if they could figure me out. I remember that when I finally got caught, it was after about two hours of talking to this one guy. I had a pretty damn spot-on Scottish accent, because I’d been there for three days, but then it started to slip because I was getting a little drunk. He asked, “Where are you from?” I said, “I’m from … I’m from New Jersey. From America.” I didn’t know what to do, what to say, and didn’t know if he wanted to punch me in the face or not, so I got out of there pretty quick!

Lou Taylor Pucci currently stars in Apple TV’s new series Physical as Tyler, a videographer with a background in porn who ends up directing protagonist Rose Byrne’s aerobics video. Pucci emerged as one of the most promising young actors of his generation with award-winning performance in Mike Mills’ 2005 film Thumbsucker, and his other notable film credits include Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity (his first feature), the horror reboot Evil Dead, Beginners (re-teaming with Mike Mills) and Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation. On TV, he’s had memorable recurring roles on American Horror Story, You’re The Worst and as tortured hipster Benji in Netflix’s You. Pucci grew up in central New Jersey and had little interest in acting until his aunt bribed him to try out for community theater at age 10; Two years later, he appeared on Broadway as Friedrich in The Sound of Music.