‘Lucky Guy’ with Tom Hanks strives to capture the look and emotions of Mike McAlary’s time

March 26, 2013


“Lucky Guy,” the Broadway play starring Tom Hanks as ace Daily News columnist Mike McAlary, is a stickler for detail.

The star adopts late reporter's style, down to the mustache, and talks with his colleagues to prepare for role.w

The show re-creates the day when McAlary won the Pulitzer Prize down to a T — actually a tie.

On stage, as in April 1998 at the News, mustachioed McAlary wears a tan suit and patterned necktie to accept the prize. His wife, Alice (Maura Tierney), in red, beams at his side.

Capturing clothes and facial fuzz is one thing. Re-creating emotions that rocked the Daily News to its core at the time is another challenge.

As he accepted the Pulitzer for his series on Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant beaten by New York City cops, McAlary knew he was dying of cancer.

So did everyone else present at the bittersweet victory.

“When we gathered under the Daily News clock to hear Mike McAlary accept his Pulitzer Prize, the moment could not have been more fraught,” says music critic Jim Farber.

“He was at the peak of his life right as he was facing the end of it, and everyone knew it. It was crushing and stirring at once.”

Reporter Corky Siemaszko recalls the once-scrappy McAlary’s frail figure.

“What I remember most from the day McAlary won the Pulitzer was how gaunt he looked. This was a guy who filled out his suits. That day his clothes hung on him and his mustache looked too big for his face. He looked very fragile. Very frail. And he was very emotional.

“I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember his voice was very strained and that there weren’t very many dry eyes in the newsroom,” says Siemaszko.

Bill Hutchinson was assigned to write about McAlary receiving the prize. “McAlary had come straight from his hospital bed to the newsroom and he was very weak, but his words were incredibly strong,” he recalls.

“I can still recall verbatim the quotes that inspired me as a young reporter, and still do: ‘Most of us don’t need the Pulitzer to motivate us. We do it because we hunger for the chase. The story is the thing. And you have to go get it. The readers’ problems are the ones that matter.’”

Eight months after McAlary won the Pulitzer, he died on Christmas Day at age 41.

To get the scoop on the man he’s portraying in the drama (written by his late friend and frequent collaborator Nora Ephron), Hanks interviewed Daily News staffers.

“Tom wrestled with who Mike was as a person,” says editorial page editor Arthur Browne. “He knew Mike was a complicated individual with strengths and weaknesses.”

Siemaszko was grilled over lunch by the Oscar winner. “He asked a lot of questions about what McAlary was like to work with, how he was perceived by his co-workers.

“We talked a bit, too, about how McAlary moved, how he dressed, how he stood, things like that ... and what did McAlary think of his own work. He asked good questions,” says Siemaszko.

“Lucky Guy” is in previews and opens Monday at the Broadhurst Theatre.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Source : NY Daily News