James Woods still isn’t entirely sure how the end of his acting career came to be announced on Friday by a real estate reporter for a local newspaper in Rhode Island.
But he’s pretty sure it’s his own fault.
“My career is not going to end in a real estate announcement,” Woods assured The Washington Post, after headlines suggesting it had done exactly that spread from the Providence Journal to People (“James Woods has found the most unusual way ever to take a final bow.”)
“It’s just funny,” Woods said. “My agent said, ‘Are you retired?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, am I?’ ”
He is not, even if the starring villain of “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984) and “Ghosts of Mississippi” (1996) is better known these days for “Family Guy” cameos and his ultra-political Twitter feed.
Here’s how, as best Woods can reconstruct, reports of his retirement became “greatly exaggerated.”
After nearly 50 years in Hollywood, with various Emmy awards and Oscar nominations to his name, the actor has, by age 70, also accumulated a good number of houses.
He owns several properties in his childhood home of Rhode Island, including a vacation home beside a lake in Exeter that was put on the market this week for $1.39 million.
Before driving up to the lake this week, Woods went to breakfast with his real estate agent, Allen Gammons, to devise a marketing pitch.
“We did a little interview,” Woods recalled, and then patched Gammons into his phone call with The Post for the details.
“You said you want to simplify by having less property as you go toward retirement,” Gammons said.
“Yeah, exactly,” Woods said.
So Gammons wrote up a news release. It began:
“Longtime Rhode Island resident and Warwick Pilgrim High School graduate James Woods, Veteran of nearly 150 movies and television shows, has announced today that his recent retirement from the entertainment field has prompted him to simplify his life.”
The real estate agent read the draft to Woods over the phone before sending it out. The actor was driving at the time, and more interested in the photos.
“I was not paying attention,” he said. “I somehow didn’t hear ‘retirement.’ ”
Others heard nothing else.
Buried three paragraphs deep in an article titled simply, “James Woods to sell home in Exeter,” the Providence Journal mentioned that Woods would be ending his career and “hopes to spend more time on passions including photography, antiquing and Texas hold ’em poker.”
These details also came from the news release.
When he learned that he had apparently retired, Woods said, he was tempted to leave the story uncorrected to find out what would happen.
“Who would care if I were?” he wondered.
The Hollywood press soon answered his question. Within hours, entertainment sites swooped in on the “bizarre home listing,” as Deadline called it. Or the A.V. Club’s take:
On Twitter, where Woods writes much less about film than conservative politics, fans lamented the news while non-fans mocked him for it. Had he not retired decades ago, some quipped. Others wondered when he would “retire” from social media, where the actor regularly attacks liberal causes and what he sees as left-wing bias in entertainment and the news.
Woods watched his bogus retirement played out online, but never debunked the report until The Post tracked him down on Saturday.
In truth, he said, it was funny.
“I’m the world’s biggest tease on Twitter,” Woods said. “I do not remotely take myself seriously in any way. Why do you think I’m on ‘Family Guy’?”
That said, the actor stressed that he’d be happy to act again — if and when a worthy role comes along.
“No actor retires from the film business,” he said. “In my 30s, I could play a sharp young lawyer. In my 40s, I could play an accomplished family man under attack.”
In his 70s, he said, he’s hoping to star in an upcoming film about the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church — not playing a villain this time around, but a gay protagonist.
But that movie has yet to be financed.
In the meantime, Woods said, any apparent dry stretch in his resume is due to his own choosiness, not his retirement — and certainly has nothing to do with antiquing.