June 20, 1994
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A decade ago, as an idealistic young magna
cum laude Yale drama graduate, Bronson Pinchot, came to audition for a part at
New York City's Circle in the Square theater. The director asked him for a
German accent, and Pinchot replied, "I don't do accents. I think
they're a cheap means of seeming interesting."
But Pinchot eventually changed his mind -- and landed the part. He has
been accent-uating the positive ever since: first with his vaguely Mediterranean
shtick as Serge, the art gallery assistant in 1984's Beverly Hills Cop,
next for a seven-year run as Perfect Strangers' remotely Slavic "Coozin"
Balki, and again this month as one of the best things about Beverly Hills Cop
III, which finds Serge as proprietor of a chic Los Angeles gun boutique.
Still, Pinchot is greater than the sum of his linguistic tricks.
"There's bittersweet pleasure in having people stroke me for playing these
little comic creations," he says in the modulated voice of a classically
trained actor. "You're like the champagne bubbles that have nothing
to do with the grape. I haven't done close to what I can do."
Which might be guessed from seeing what he does do. When not developing a
stage act with comic Roger Kabler, Pinchot spends time in his minimalist Malibu
beach house honing his life to almost Zen-like simplicity. He reads
voraciously (most recently the diaries of art historian Bernard Berenson),
savors Mozart and is a "beyond passionate" collector of Greek and
Roman antiquities. "They've been knocked off their pedestals by
earthquakes or fifth century Christians," he says. "Yet that
they've survived is incredibly poetic."
The same might be said for the actor himself. When Pinchot was three, his
father, Henry, abandoned his wife and four children. "He was an
out-of-control, substance-abusing wife-beater," says Pinchot, who last saw
his father, now 77, about ten years ago. "To me, he was scarier than
the boogeyman. He would show up high as a kite and try to break through
the windows. He came home one Christmas, kicked the presents around the
house like soccer balls and beat my mother with a telephone cord."
Pinchot's best childhood memories focus on his mother, Rosina. "She
was interested in giving her kids more than the usual," he says,
remembering how she would quiz them on Shakespeare while she rolled dough in
their California kitchen. "She was like taking an arc light into a
grimy garage. She made all the rats and creepy-crawly things run into the
On full scholarship at Yale, Pinchot moved to New York City after graduating in
1981 and soon struck pay dirt as the irrepressible Serge. "All of a
sudden somebody waved a wand over me, like Glinda the Good Witch of the
North," he says, recalling his mildly wacko period induced by such
fame. "I was like a puppy that's just been allowed to run around the
Nevertheless, he was adamant about
refusing a part in 1987's Cop II. "I didn't want to belike
some kind of pasta people lose their taste for, and then I'd be done," he
says. It was a role in last year's violent True Romance that
allowed him to resurrect Serge. "Serge is like a strawberry dipped in
white chocolate," he says, continuing the food analogy. "True
Romance is the meat and potatoes."
No matter how satisfying, the demands of his career have also taken a toll on
his personal life. "I'm too self-involved right now to be a good
father or a good mate," says Pinchot, whose live-in relationship with an
animal-rights activist ended year and a half ago, and who sometimes dates Amy
Heckerling (Look Who's Talking). "There are times when I just
want to spend a week by myself." As someone who loves children, that
does leave him with a dilemma, but not an insoluble one. "I
think," he says with a smile, "I'm going to pull a Charlie Chaplin and
have kids when I'm 60."