Kline revels in an unpleasant character 

Henry Harrison is not a kind man. The outspoken eccentric at the center of “The Extra Man,” Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s buoyant adaptation of a Jonathan Ames novel, is, rather, a textbook narcissist.

Thoughtless and self-absorbed, he’s a “confirmed bachelor” positioned “to the right of the pope” when it comes to bedroom politics, and openly contemptuous of the rich, older women who subsidize his high-society lifestyle.

And that’s precisely why Kevin Kline wanted to play him.

“I love characters who speak their mind, however unendearing they might be,” says Kline, 62. “It’s one of the great joys of acting — you’re given a license to be as cruel, as honest and as destructive as you want, with complete impunity.

“You listen to Henry and you think, ‘My God, what an awful thing to say!’ But you love him because he’s funny. He’s not trying to be nice. He doesn’t care if you like him. He’s like Cyrano de Bergerac in that he prides himself on panache. He’s a struggling artist, but he’s his own man.”

In “Extra Man,” Harrison takes Louis, a young F. Scott Fitzgerald-obsessed introvert played by Paul Dano, into his Manhattan apartment. There, he introduces him to the subculture that is Harrison’s milieu, accompanying lonely heiresses to high-profile functions and living off the perks.

Did Kline, a 40-year stage veteran, have any inclination to take Dano, 26, under his wing?

“Did I give him acting notes? Never. Is that because he didn’t need them?” says Kline, pausing a beat for comic effect. “I wouldn’t say that. But, I don’t do that.

“He’s quite literate, our Paul. He claimed to love Shakespeare, which intrigued me. So when situations arose that inspired a line from Shakespeare, I’d say the line and ask if he recognized it. And, of course, he’d say no.”

Kline — a two-time Tony Award winner who relishes his starring roles in stage productions of “Richard III” and “Hamlet” at least as much as his flamboyant turns in movie comedies like 1988’s “A Fish Called Wanda” — admits that he, like Harrison, sometimes feels like someone from a bygone age.

“You get a lot of street cred for doing Shakespeare, but it’s not a big deal,” Kline says. “I once worked with a director who believed theater was going the way of vaudeville, that Broadway would eventually disappear.

“That’s not going to happen in our lifetime. But do I feel like an actor from another era? The short answer is yes, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because at this point I am.”

IF YOU GO

The Extra Man

Starring Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, Cathy Moriarty

Written by Robert Pulcini, Jonathan Ames, Shari Springer Berman  

Directed by Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Rated R

Running time 1 hour 48 minutes 

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