Cue the rock and roll. William H. Macy has taken on countless standout roles spanning his 50-year career. And 1995’s Mr. Holland’s Opus was no different, as he played Vice Principal Wolters — a faculty member who tirelessly worked to eliminate certain music and arts programs in favor of math and science.
“It’s one of the sublime moments I’ve had in my career,” Macy, 72, exclusively told Us Weekly while promoting his new rom-com, Maybe I Do. “That’s a lovely movie.”
Mr. Holland’s Opus spans three decades in which Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) initially takes on the job of a high school music teacher as a temporary measure while he tries to succeed as a music composer. By the movie’s end, he realizes that the students he’s taught over the years are actually his greatest sympathy — “the melodies and notes” of his opus and the music of his life.
Macy starred alongside Dreyfuss, 75, Terrance Howard, Alicia Witt, Jean Louisa Kelly and late actors Olympia Dukakis, Glenn Headly and Jay Thomas in the Stephen Herek-directed drama.
Vice Principal Wolters’ view turns around by the end, cheering on Mr. Holland as he leads his former students in the first performance ever of the “American Symphony,” written by Holland. The surprise auditorium reunion celebrated his career dedication as he embarked on retirement.
An unforgettable moment on set for Macy was actually earlier in the film when Wolters scolded students for being too loud.
“Mr. Holland has lost control of his classroom. And I’m walking down the hall and I hear all these kids screaming and everything, and I peeked through the window. And I walk in and I wrangled the class into order, telling him to sit down and stuff like that. I grew up in the theater. I can be loud,” the Shameless alum recalled to Us. “So I walked in and I said, ‘Sit down!’ And I sort of ad-libbed it a little bit. I stuck to the lines, and it was so big, what I did that two of these girls sort of giggled. And I said, ‘You think this is funny? Sit down, sit down.’ And I scared the s–t out of them.”
So much so, that they didn’t know Macy was on the call sheet. “They’re working on the lights and we’re sitting there, and these two girls come up to me and they said, ‘Are you really a vice principal?’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m not.’ They said, ‘Oh, what do you do?’” he continued. “I just thought that was a sublime moment. I’m rarely nonplussed.”
Mr. Holland’s Opus was nominated for multiple awards following its release, with Dreyfuss also receiving an Academy Award nomination. The ensemble even made one of Macy’s close pals break down while flying one time.
“My friend saw it on the airplane, and he said, ‘Macy, you a–hole! I made a fool of myself on the airplane. I’m blubbering like an idiot,” Macy told Us.
“Gosh,” he added. “Richard was so fine in that and Olympia — oh my God. It was a great, great cast.”