US Magazine
March 25, 1985

Carrying On
He's the swishy Serge in Beverly Hills Cop,
but Bronson Pinchot is neither blue nor gay

by Vicki Jo Radovsky
Photos by Stephen Kelley

Pinchot laps up love from his brothers (Justin is seen far left), sister and mom, not to mention the cat.

"This is like the Jack-in-the-Box of Indian food," says Bronson Pinchot, nibbling at a forkful of what he calls "Tandoori McChicken."  Lunching at a low-rent ethnic restaurant, the actor is reminded that at least he didn't have to talk to a clown to order it.  "But you have to talk to a clown," he chuckles, "to get this interview."

Pinchot, 25, copped critical raves for his role as Serge, the snobby, gay art gallery assistant of indeterminate origin in Beverly Hills Cop.  He managed to upstage Eddie Murphy and gain a reputation as a memorable comic actor in a mere five minutes onscreen.

"It was the smallest role I'd ever been offered, and technically, I shouldn't have done it," says Pinchot.  "I'd had a nice supporting role in Risky Business [as Tom Cruise's sidekick] and an OK supporting role in The Flamingo Kid [as Matt Damon's card-shark pal], and then this . . . nothing.

"I decided if they got to my scene in the film before the vacation I'd planned, I'd do it.  If not, they could screw themselves because it was no part and no money.  Three days before I left, they called."

The role was originally an effeminate American with only one line, but when Cop director Martin Brest saw Pinchot's improvisational prowess, he told him to wing it.

The actor created the accent from "a compilation of a lot of Israelis.  I deliberately scrambled it up as a sort of statement about Beverly Hills, because the employees in those shops are so intimidating, and you can't tell where they come from."

Pinchot never dreamed that Serge would bring such a surge of success.  "I was taken completely by surprise," he says.  "Who would expect all this from one lousy scene in a movie?"

Who would expect all this from a kid whose family was so poor that, Pinchot quips, "I was born on a pile of newspapers"?  He was born to Russian / Italian parents in New York City, and at age 2, moved to Pasadena, Calif., with his family.  Upon their arrival, his parents split up.  "My mother didn't even know how to write a check," says Pinchot.  "But by sheer will she pulled us four little kids together and transformed what could have been a lousy experience into something special.  She decided we were gonna have a great childhood.

"I did have a wonderful childhood," he adds, "but I was petrified of someone pointing at me and saying I was poor or fat, which I was."

Pinchot put all his energy into academics and became a straight-A student.  He won a scholarship to Yale, where he appeared in his first play, and eventually graduated magna cum laude in theater studies.

He turned pro four years ago, -- singing medieval tunes at the summer Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn.  Moving to New York in 1982, Pinchot appeared in several theatrical productions.  His portrayal of a nerd in the 1982 Off Broadway musical Poor Little Lambs brought him to the attention of the producer and director who cast him in his first film, Risky Business.

Future films are in the offing.  Pinchot will appear in Martin Scorsese's upcoming After Hours and star as a horny 17-year-old who's seduced by a Penthouse Pet in the teen sexploitation film Hot Resort, due out this winter.  [Editor's note - Hot Resort was filmed before Beverly Hills Cop.  Chances are Bronson's success made the producers of Hot Resort plan to release the film again in hopes of making some money from it.]

"I had to do it to vindicate my adolescence," he says.  "When I was that age I was such a wallflower.  The film's aimed at kids who wouldn't beaten me up at school."

Pinchot also plays lawyer Dennis Kemper on the new NBC sitcom, Sara.  "It's being touted as The Mary Tyler Moore Show of the 80's, and I play a gay Gavin MacLeod," he jokes.  "Actually, he a straight gay person rather than a stereotype doing macrame, a totally adjusted guy -- who likes to go to bed with men."

Although it's his second homosexual role, Pinchot's not worried about gay typecasting.  "If I play a gay character, I've got to make people believe I'm gay and happy about it.  Directors looking at how an actor works aren't taken in."

These days, the only thing Pinchot isn't happy about is his recently broken engagement to an actress whose name he won't reveal.  "The low point of my adult life was getting back my engagement ring in a little manila envelope under the windshield wiper of my car with a note that said, 'I'd like my Bloomingdale's card back.'  She's gonna die when she reads this," he says with a sad smile, "but she deserves it."

"I've just now gotten to the point where I even feel confident enough to put myself on the line again.  I was standing in a phone booth the other day and there was a mirror next to me.  I looked at myself and said, 'I don't like the shirt you're wearing, but you're gonna be OK.'"