Wild About Harry

From left to right, actresses Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco and Jamie-Lynn DiScala pose backstage during the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 19, 2004, in Los Angeles.
Getty Images/Kevin Winter

The events of Sept. 11 made Harry Connick Jr. question whether his new Broadway show - the first he has ever composed - really should go on.

“I was ready to just scrap the whole thing,” he tells CBS Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver. “I mean, for a couple of weeks after that, I said, ‘What are we doing? What are we doing here?’”

But he was working with veteran Broadway director Susan Stroman, who had a different view.

“You know, those people who did that on Sept. 11, did that terrible deed, they don't want our land, they don't want our money,” she says. “They just want our spirits and we cannot give that to them, and especially Broadway cannot give that to them, so we had to go forward.”

Now Connick feels much better about things. “You go out in New York and kind of peek above your jacket and everybody would gradually get back to feeling like Americans and that we were gonna be alright,’ he says.

With the kind of determination that has made him a multimedia star at age 34, Connick dug back, trying to translate the rhythms of his native New Orleans to the Broadway stage.

“I feel like a rookie quarterback coming into the NFL,” Connick says of his stage debut with Stroman’s new musical "Thou Shalt Not."

But he was the first choice when Stroman, the hottest director on Broadway with Tonys for "The Producers," and "Contact," decided to set her next work in New Orleans.

“I thought to myself, “Who could write this score and bring an authenticity to that New Orleans and also to the passion that the story needs,’” she says.

Based on a novel by French author Emile Zola, the play, which opens next week, centers on a love triangle. Connick says it’s different from what he has done in the past.

“You know, it's a funny thing,” he says, “because I never really wrote autobiographical. I’ve always found it more ...more interesting to make up things and to get inside the head of whatever the story was.”

It’s not just Broadway that’s drawing Connick’s energy these days.

He’s working on two CDs that are about to be released. That job includes writing arrangements, conducting a full orchestra and working on the sound tracks. For Connick,. This is nothing new.

"That's my earliest memories, playing music,” he says.

A child musical prodigy at 3, Connick was cutting albums with seasoned New Orleans musicans by the time he was 10.

His earliest fans were his late mother, a judge, and his father, who still is New Orleans District Attorney. His early albums sold well, but it was his voice on the sound track of the film “When Harry Met Sally,” that really made him a star.

Soon he was appearing in movies, such as “Independence Day,” himself.
Starting with his role as a tail gunner in "Memphis Belle" he's been in a dozen films, inluding three new ones due out this fall. Still, he says he's tired of the leading man roles.

“Lately, I've played these characters and some of the movies haven't come out yet, but like the good guy in the bad situation.”

He had a lot of fun doing the movie "Copy Cat Once" because in it he was the evil stalker.

“I like doing that,”he says. “I don't know if I want to do the other stuff.”

In response to criticism that he is too versatile and involved in too many different things, he says, “You want the purest, you want the best. As soon as somebody starts to divert, you think they're not as good. And I totally understand that, but I gotta wake up in the morning and do what makes me happy.”

What makes him happiest of all these days is his 8-year marriage to former Victoria's Secret Model Jill Goodacre with whom he has two daughters.

He says he picked her up at a swimming pool.

“That's my proudest moment,” he says, “because I have no game with girls. I got out of that pool and this was about the prettiest girl I've ever seen in my life to this day, and I just went up to her and said, ‘I'm Harry. I'd like you to stay and have some lunch with me.’ And she said, ‘OK’ and I'm like, ‘Oooh..what do I do now?’”

Connick is aware that his rise seems meteoric to some, but he insists there were humiliating moments.

“I remember when I was trying to sell records in France,” he says giving an example. “They had me playing in these record sections of the department store and have like 20 chairs lined up and no one would be there and I'd be playing.

“There's been some humiliating times, but generally speaking, I'm extremely lucky and my career went very fast.”

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