"I was 17 and a bit of a class clown, and a very pretty girl suggested I sign up for acting classes," Saxon says. "She never showed up, but I got good friends and a career out of it."
Saxon joined the first class at American Conservatory Theater's Conservatory, and went on to numerous roles in the theater, television, and films, including Saving Private Ryan and Mission: Impossible.
Saxon says he loves acting in every medium, but with theater something special can happen.
"You get such a immediate connection with an audience," he says. "That's better than drugs or drink or anything."
Bay Area actress and director Joy Carlin (who recently appeared in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine) directs After the Revolution, her 12th play for the Aurora, and she asked Saxon if he was interested in a part.
"She's one of my idols, so for her to offer me a play, I jumped at it," Saxon saays. "She has an extraordinary wealth of experience. She's very calm, and she can say something that cuts right to the heart of the play, and she's able to rein us in if we need it."
After the Revolution is the prequel to Herzog's Obie-winning 4000 Miles, which recently played at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. Saxon describes the play as a coming-of-age story about a young woman from a Marxist family who graduates at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, idealizing her grandfather.
"When she comes out of law school, she's on top of the world, and very much thinks that things are black and white, right or wrong," he says. "She comes to realize life is not that way, and her grandfather is not quite the sainted political hero he's been painted to be."
After the Revolution engages the audience, Saxon says.
"It's a provocative play," he says. "I loved the relationships. She's a very intricate writer. It's like an onion skin where you keep peeling away and finding more."
Saxon has been living in England for the past few decades, and this is his first appearance at Aurora. He loves the intimacy of it, he says.
"Because of the size, it's about scripts and actors, not pyrotechnics," he says. "There's not a lot of room for bullshit, pardon my language."
After the Revolution runs through Sept. 29 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St, Berkeley. Tickets are $35-$60. For information, call (510) 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.