Actor Alon Ozery, 50, ponders himself after Houdini

Alon Ozery, like most people, had envied his father and his grandmother for the emotional stability of their youth. “When my grandmother got home from work, she would sit down with her glass of gin, sometimes three or four, and with a look that told me that she was ready to be anything she wanted to be,” he writes in an excerpt from From Without a Horse to Home.

But when Ozery gets older and more risk-tolerant, he discovers that this ability to live out his feelings has its limits. At 50, the bubble bursts for Ozery, a recent Emmy Award winner for starring as that demanding con artist, Harry Houdini, in NBC’s miniseries.

Ozery, who co-wrote From Without a Horse to Home with his late father, illustrator Alvin “Pop” Ozery, explores the results of his experience of soul-searching in the touching new memoir, a personal look at some of the many guiding questions of the early modern era: “What is home?”, “Is solitude an authentic human existence?”, “Who are we as humans?”, “Is art important?” The book, also titled From Without a Horse to Home, is due out this week.

In a telephone interview, Ozery talked about his memoir and the famous character he played on television.

The New York Times: What’s the most important thing you learned from being at the center of the Houdini story?

Alon Ozery: I learned that you can only touch this famous figure if you have the perspective to tap into some of his secrets. And you don’t just have to tap into his secrets. You have to hear through him what’s going on in his head and tap into what he was communicating about.

Mr. Ozery: I wanted to really explore these issues around human structure, his perspective and the inner tension, the tension between being a human being in this perfect chaos of society and being a great thinker and a master illusionist.

The New York Times: You seem to feel that your life is inextricably tied to this character you created. Do you think he is alive inside of you?

Mr. Ozery: I do believe there is always a side of you that exists. It’s a special side. His life is a fascinating study of human nature, and of human desire and human contradiction. I try to look at him as this companion in life. And not as the poster boy for my father. Not as this complete product. As a vessel through which his real human qualities can come to light and reveal themselves.

The New York Times: You have a lot to celebrate at 50. Were you concerned about yourself at that age?

Mr. Ozery: When I write about this issue of loneliness and isolation, it’s because there is a price for those choices we make on our mortality. And that’s the price of choosing to live with uncertainty. Of giving your values up to survival. It’s not the flavor of water. It’s what goes into it. You have to be prepared to be alone all day, for three months, even, if you need to be.

The New York Times: You also write about the power of a good-looking person.

Mr. Ozery: The key to life is to find a partner who has the best-looking parts of you.

The New York Times: What do you hope people come away with after reading this book?

Mr. Ozery: I want them to ask those deep and weird questions and run with them.

Leave a Comment