Life / Daily News
November 3, 1989
Act is a Sickness
That is, the role isn't right
unless it causes him distress
Daily News Film Writer
Pinchot has a simple test for determining whether or not he should take a role.
the thought of doing it makes him literally sick to his stomach, he goes for it.
won't do anything that doesn't scare me," the star of television's
"Perfect Strangers" and the new movie "Second Sight" said in
a recent interview. "In my world, the creative gold has always come
when I've done something that gave me major butterflies.
like when you're in junior high and you get up to bat, and you think, 'I don't
want everybody to hate me if I miss the ball!' If I don't have that
feeling, I don't go for it."
-- who had a small, inconspicuous part in "Risky Business," and who
played the small, very conspicuous part of the snooty art-gallery clerk Serge in
"Beverly Hills Cop" -- knows that particular sensation well. He
felt it when he accepted the role of Balki in "Perfect Strangers" -- a
character as relaxed and naive as Pinchot is driven and sophisticated.
felt it again recently when he made a TV movie called "Jury Duty," in
which he plays four different characters. He said he was sick on several
nights during the shooting schedule.
he felt it during the difficult days when he was creating the character of Bobby
in "Second Sight," a psychic who works for John Larroquette's private
spent a lot of sleepless nights," said Pinchot, a serious young man of 30
who thinks quickly and speaks articulately. (Born in New York, raised in
South Pasadena and educated at Yale, he now lives in Malibu.) "It
sounds so melodramatic, but I collapsed a couple of times while doing the
had complete carte blanche. He could look any way I wanted, be any way I
wanted. That drove me to distraction! I would stay up all night
thinking about it."
will judge the success of his efforts when the film opens today.
Sight" began to take shape when Pinchot was sent a script and told he could
do with it what he wished. Knowing that "most of the things that have
really popped for me are things I've put into my own food processor and worked
on," he agreed to give it a look.
was very dense -- packed with stuff, like those 'Police Academy' things, and I
didn't want to do that," he said. "But it did have this
fascinating character -- a very pure, tabula-raza person, who had immense
psychic powers. I thought, 'That could be great. I haven't seen
finishing that season's episodes of "Perfect Strangers," Pinchot set
out on a three-month search for the character. He started meeting with
psychics -- and found, to his horror, that most of them weren't the slightest
about 15 or 20 hours with psychics, I thought, 'This is not excitingly comedic
at all!'" he recalled. "All they do is sit there and look at you
intently and tell you things. Nobody wants to look at people
talking! That isn't going to make a great comic character!"
I'd tell people what I was doing (playing a psychic), they would say: 'You'll be
perfect! You'll be so funny!' And I kept saying: 'What do you
mean? What do you see me doing?' I was having a lot of trouble
key didn't come until Pinchot visited a woman psychic with a personal message
said, 'I think you're going to marry a woman who has an accent.' I said:
'I'm curious to know how you arrived at that piece of information. Do you
woman said, 'No, I feel her. My tongue wants to twist and curl in my
mouth. I feel that means she's going to speak English with
that point, the light bulb went on over Pinchot's head.
lot of different psychics get their information in different ways," he
noted. "Some of them see it like a movie. Some see it over your
head. Some see it in your aura. But this one person got the
information physically, and I made that they keystone of the character."
other words, Pinchot decided that Bobby would get his information by physical
sensations -- a premise that would presumably lend itself to physical
comedy. That's a style of comedy Pinchot has mastered on "Perfect
one point in the film, for example, "I pick up physically on this guy who
is stranded somewhere and has to go to the bathroom but can't go."
psychic is the hero of "Second Sight"; the film takes his abilities at
face value, and "80 percent of the comedy comes from people who don't
believe him getting, as I put it, the pea soup in the face," he said.
reflects the fact that the actor gained new respect for psychics during his
three months of research. He met people he suspects are frauds -- and
others who seemed to have legitimate powers.
one woman looked at me and said, 'Something incredible is going to happen to you
on April 11,'" he said. "Which was the day we were going to
start filming. You have to get freaked out by something like that!"
for that matter, by the aforementioned psychic who used her tied-up tongue to
predict Pinchot would marry a woman with a foreign accent.
woman said three things that were very interesting. She said: 'You're
going to meet this woman. She's going to have an accent. She's going
to live on a river. She's going to be like a gardenia.'
Wren (Pinchot's girlfriend) doesn't have an accent, but she grew up on a lake
and her favorite flower has always been a gardenia. I don't know what the
accent was all about. Maybe they were misinterpreting what they got.
Maybe they knew she was going to be the good kisser she is."
do all that research -- and suffer through all those sleepless nights -- in an
era when most film comedians simply play thinly veiled versions of
themselves? "I don't have a choice," Pinchot answered.
"I cannot do it any other way."
can be funny if I want to be funny," he said. "It's a natural
gift. I don't believe you can teach it. But I want to be funny and
be a character at the same time. That's my little niche.
Murphy's funny, but I have yet to see him play a character. He always
winks at you through the character. I call that the post-'Saturday Night
contrast, "I haven't been myself on film yet," Pinchot said.
"I don't know if I ever will be. If somebody said, 'You want to play
a guy who collects rare books and lives by the beach and has a lot of silk
shirts?' I'd say no, because I am that! The only time I ever use myself is
in little subtle ways that you would never get."
is not only Pinchot's artistic preference; it's an attitude that should help him
sustain a lengthy career.
think it's a very fearful thing to put one persona on film, get it established
so people can't live without it, and then one day find out nobody (wants it
anymore)," he said. "Maybe there is someone in an office
somewhere saying 'Let's not use Bronson Pinchot -- I'm sick of him,' but I sort
of doubt it."
prefers reserving the sickness for himself.