Ask any actor to name the directors they would like to work with and the answer will often include Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers. Soft-spoken Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays the equally soft-spoken Arnold Rothstein in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” will give you different names because he’s already worked with that impressive list of directors.
His work with Scorsese came through “Boardwalk Empire,” the cable series set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era, that’s the product of the noted director and writer Terence Winter. The action centers on Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a politician who has built his power and influence through illegal activities.
The third season of “Boardwalk Empire” hit DVD this week, just in time for the fourth season opener of the HBO series at 9 p.m. Sept. 8 on the premium cable channel.
“Scorsese is a fan of improv and is always pushing actors to think up something that would make the scene more fun. He loves any idea that helps the scene be alive,” Stuhlbarg says.
It’s been easy for Stuhlbarg to contribute on “Boardwalk Empire” because of the extensive research he did before filming started. Many of the players in “Boardwalk Empire” are based on real people, including Rothstein who is best known for fixing the 1919 World Series that became known as the Black Socks Scandal.
Stuhlbarg discovered that Rothstein thought of himself as an accomplished businessman who was involved in stock market to selling liquor during Prohibition. He’s used that information to play Rothstein as a “gentleman gambler.”
“I just feel like I am a really lucky guy who these talented directors have found places for me,” Stuhlbarg said. “I feel honored and blessed.”