Stanley Tucci portrays real guy so central to ‘Spotlight’ film

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Over the years, Stanley Tucci has carved out a highly successful film career by creating some of the more memorable figures in cinema history. From his hilarious yet poignant Meryl Streep sidekick in “The Devil Wears Prada” to the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman in the “Hunger Games” films to his Oscar-nominated, deeply disturbing George Harvey in “The Lovely Bones” to his sweet and loving husband to Julia Child (again with Streep) in “Julie & Julia,” Tucci has become Hollywood’s go-to guy for great character roles.

With “Spotlight” (opening Nov. 13), Tom McCarthy’s new film about the Boston Globe’s expose of the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse cover-up, Tucci has given us yet another meaty performance.

When he called recently, the actor admitted his portrayal of Mitchell Garabedian, the real Boston lawyer who fought to bring justice to the victims of priestly abuse, was a first for him.

“I think there are bits and pieces of him that I have worked into other performances,” said Tucci, “but as a whole I don’t think I’ve ever played anyone quite like him.”

While Tucci never got the chance to meet Garabedian before filming “Spotlight” (named after the Globe’s investigative unit), the actor said the research material was certainly not lacking.

“There’s so much online. He has a website, for example, where you can go to see his press conferences and other public statements. That was incredibly helpful for me to try and capture his mannerisms and personality.”

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Tucci has incredible respect for Garabedian, whose single-attorney law firm was about the only legal entity standing up to the deeply entrenched power of the Catholic Church in predominantly Catholic — and especially Irish-Catholic — Boston.

“Here was the quintessential little guy fighting the big, almost overpowering institution. The fact that he stuck with it as long as he did — and is still at it today — is a great testament to his fortitude,” said Tucci with obvious admiration.

Signing on to play Garabedian, Tucci said, was a true no-brainer. “It was one of those jobs you get offered and you’re just so excited to do it. You don’t care about the budget. You don’t care about the schedule. You just want to go in and do it.”

As for being a lawyer in real life? For Tucci, that’s a non-starter. “I’d be a terrible lawyer. I’d be far too emotional. Now, with Garabedian, he had tremendous emotion and was highly dramatic and confrontational, but he did with a strong degree of control. He used what I’d call controlled anger to fight his cases, [representing kids abused by priests].”

Beyond the strong script co-written by director McCarthy, Tucci stressed he and the rest of the cast “really wanted to be part of this. The subject matter was something that needed to be told. It’s the kind of story that needs to be told over and over and over again.”

Like many, Tucci is convinced that perpetrators of sex abuse should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Moreover, “I think the Catholic Church needs to become more transparent on this as well.

“It’s a combination of total transparency and proper punishment for people who act this way.

“One of the characters in the film says something like, ‘Yeah, you’re abusing somebody physically and emotionally, but you’re also abusing their faith. You’re destroying their faith.’ That’s a terrible thing, because the Catholic Church has done, and still does, some wonderful things. The people who are perpetrating these crimes are perpetrating them against the people themselves, but also against the basic tenets of Christianity — and that’s what’s so awful. The basic tenets of the church. It’s an insult to the Church, and it’s an insult to the people who follow the Church.”

What bothered Tucci about the cover-up highlighted in “Spotlight” was “it’s all about them protecting those criminals who abused those kids. It’s the children who should have been protected!”

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