At home on the range

If you had asked actor Thomas Haden Church last year about his interest in doing a TV miniseries, he would have told you to go jump in a shark tank. The former "Wings" star was coming off a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in "Sideways" and had just signed on to do "Spider-Man III," due out next year. The last thing he wanted was to return to the small screen.

But this wasn't just any miniseries; it was a western. And it starred Robert Duvall. For the Texan with a cattle ranch 100 miles northwest of San Antonio, it was too good to pass up. The result is "Broken Trail," premièring Sunday on AMC. Not only did Church relish working with a cinematic legend, but he received an invitation to watch the movie with President Bush at the White House.

"My brother is a Democrat, and he's like, 'So, you're going to go hang with W. How do you feel about that?' " says Church by phone from his ranch. "I'm like, 'I'm fine with it, man, it's not political. He's honoring something that I did professionally.' " Church reflects on the whirlwind two years since his critical success in "Sideways."

On working with Robert Duvall:

"If you're sitting in the saddle dressed as a 19th-century cowboy, and you look across a loose herd of horses, and Duvall looks back and smiles at you, that's a pretty good day.

["Broken Trail" is] a very thoughtful story that has more feature/independent sensiblities than a TV movie, because It was not written or adapted or directed or edited – and certainly not performed – in a way to accomodate selling Diet Coke and Hyundais. We did a movie, and they're just going to have to figure out where to stick the commercials."

On 'Sideways' costar Paul Giamatti's Oscar snub:

"There is nobody who can tell me that anybody did better work [in 2004] than Paul Giamatti. I'm not a real technically crafted guy. I learned on the job. I really had done no acting before 'Wings.' Paul has a master's from Yale, his undergrad is in acting and his master's is in acting.... He's expertly skilled and one of the most brilliant people I've come across – and well read and emotional and thoughtful. That's why he is where he is, because he's amazing."

On his great-aunt seeing 'Sideways':

"Despite the repeated warnings from my family, she took 10 of her Ladies Auxiliary friends to see 'Sideways,' and 45 minutes into it they stormed into the lobby and hunted down the theater manager and demanded their money back. My aunt walked into the parking lot and was warning people about the profanity in the movie. And here's the irony: She used me to gain credibility with strangers, like, 'That's my great-nephew, but this movie's so profane, I'm telling you not to see a movie that my great-nephew is starring in.' As it happens, one of the people she warned not to see the movie was the entertainment reporter for the Gastonia, N.C., newspaper. She saw the movie, then went back to the Gastonia newspaper office and typed out a review and highlights of my aunt ranting in the parking lot. How perfect is that?"

On losing the Oscar to Morgan Freeman:

"It was fun to be competitive, but if I had been in the Academy I would have voted for Morgan Freeman. I wanted him to win. Here's why: I believe that if it's your first time to the show, your performance has got to tower above all others in order to win, especially if you're up against someone like Morgan Freeman. Otherwise ... you've got to go with the guy who's been there the longest and has delivered great performance after great performance."

On the courtside antics of Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks:

I used to play basketball with my brother at a place called The Premier Club, which is where Mark Cuban used to play. And I've actually played at the American Airlines Center, and I've played with some of the team and with Mark. He's always been like that. I remember playing basketball in the early 1990s when he was just a software millionare, and he was a loud mouth, and he tried to intimidate you on the court. He was always that way. He's a nice guy, but when things turned competetive he could be slightly beligerent.

On Andre Benjamin, with whom he plays a crow in the upcoming children's movie, 'Charlotte's Web':

I have a newfound appreciation for [Andre's group] OutKast.... I knew that Outkast was hugely successful but I had no idea who they were or what they did. But over the last year I've familiarized myself with their music and I really like it. And I don't really care for rap, or any kind of urban music, but I really like their music. I think Andre is phenomenally talented.... Doing these sessions with him [on "Charlotte's Web], we'll be talking about something, and whenever the small talk dies down, he'll immediately be humming something, i can hear him tapping on something, like he's starting to work out beats, what the rhythm is. His mind is constantly musical. I think he's one of those guys, like i assume Mozart was like that, where it's always going on in his head, and just has to get it out.

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