Saturday, July 21

No ‘Sleep’ planned for Stoltz in busy year schedule


A&E


By Colburn Tseng

Eric Stoltz has been very busy during the last year. Since
April, the 34-year-old actor has appeared in a television film,
"Roommates," and three features: "Naked in New York," "Killing Zoe"
and the recently released "Sleep With Me" which he also produced.
By the end of the year, Stoltz will have turned up in two more
features: "Pulp Fiction" and "Little Women." And if that wasn’t
enough, Stoltz has completed two more unreleased films and is
currently working on "Rob Roy," a period drama set in 17th Century
Scotland co-starring Liam Neeson.

"It looks like I’ve been a lot more busy than I have been in
actuality," says Stoltz, pointing out the smaller size of his roles
in "Pulp Fiction," and "Little Women." Smiling pleasantly from
behind a goatee and hair extensions applied for "Rob Roy" that flow
down below his shoulders, Stoltz sits at the peak of his 12- year
career.

During a visit to UCLA in 1992 made in conjunction with a sneak
preview of "The Waterdance," which starred Stoltz and Helen Hunt,
the actor off-handedly remarked that he was a USC drop-out. When
asked about his background today at the Westwood Marquis Hotel,
Stoltz, dressed in a white, button down shirt and green slacks, is
less forthcoming.

"I’m a firm believer that the less you know about an actor, the
more you can enjoy the performance," he grins. "Particularly actors
that come out strongly in support of one political cause or
another. When I go to see their performances, my vision of the
story is colored by my knowledge of their personal proclivities.
And that kinda bugs me.

"I remember during the Dukakis election, I was just a little
embarrassed because it seemed like it was Arnold Schwarzenegger
running against Rob Lowe. And I thought, ‘This is no way to run a
nation.’"

In the past, Stoltz has revealed that he grew up in California
and began acting as a young teenager. He attended USC for two years
before leaving school to join an American theater troupe in
Scotland. His film debut was 1982′s "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
Stoltz still loves the theater, trying to perform in one play a
year, and for the past several years has been dating Bridget
Fonda.

Stoltz’s performance as Cher’s disfigured, teenage son in 1985′s
"Mask" earned him much critical praise, but it wasn’t until 1992
that the actor began consistently appearing in quality films.
Nearly all of Stoltz’s work since "The Waterdance" has been in
independent films. Has Stoltz made a deliberate choice to eschew
big studio fare?

"Sometimes it’s a deliberate choice," says Stoltz after a moment
of consideration. "To do the film ‘Sleep With Me’ was a deliberate
choice because it was a lot of the same people that did ‘The
Waterdance,’ and they’re friends in the independent film community.
I want to help them out and be a part of it. But a lot of times,
like ‘Killing Zoe,’ or ‘Pulp Fiction,’ it’s accidental or
unplanned.

"I try not to function with a master plan of what I’m gonna do
next, or only work in independents or studio films. The thing I’m
doing now ("Rob Roy") is a big, boffo, studio-film, big-budget,
epic." Stoltz pauses and grins again. "Which is great, because now
I can pay my bills for a couple of years."

Known primarily as an actor, Stoltz has also worked behind the
camera. In the late ’80s, he worked as a production assistant on
"Illegally Yours" and "Say Anything …" two films in which he also
appeared as an actor. In the production hierarchy, the production
assistant is about as low as you get, so why would an actor take
the job?

"I wanted to learn a different side of production," Stoltz
explains. "And once you get past the humiliation of just having to
bring people coffee, it’s really kind of wonderful and freeing,
from an actor’s standpoint. You can take a step back and observe
the hierarchy of egos and how everyone functions. And also, you
don’t have to worry about how you look. You can go home, forget
about work, and party all night, then wake up and go to work."

At this point the recorder taping Stoltz’s conversation stops.
Stoltz shoots the piece of machinery a mischievous look and blurts
"And that’s when I had an affair with Cher!"

When the tape is turned over and the recorder reactivated,
Stoltz continues with mock seriousness, as if never interrupted.
"And ah -" He smiles and pauses an instant to recapture his thought
"It’s much more fun to work on the technical side when your ego and
vanity are not at play. For me anyway."

Stoltz is still working behind the camera, but he has risen in
the ranks considerably. On both "Bodies, Rest & Motion" and
"Sleep With Me," he was actor and producer. Stoltz says he got the
job on a lark when director Michael Steinberg approached him with
the script for "Bodies."

"I said, ‘Oh shit, man. Another film for no money. What’s in it
for me? Obviously I’m not gonna get any money. Well make me a
producer, and I’ll learn how to produce.’ It was sort of a bold and
obnoxious act of ‘Give me a raise.’ And they did."

Stoltz was expecting his first stint as a producer to be a
dilettante experience. What he got was a trial by fire.

"We got to the set, and none of the other producers had ever
produced anything before, or even done a film before. I was the
only producer who’d actually made films. I’d done like 15 films, so
suddenly I was being asked all these important questions by the
assistant directors about locations and scheduling."

As for the future, Stoltz, who has been offered scripts to
produce and/or direct, has no definite plans. For now, his
attention is still focused primarily on acting in projects that
interest him, regardless of the budget.

"My agents would probably love it if I would plot and plan, and
cut my hair, and do a certain studio film and gradually rise up in
the ranks," Stoltz explains, "which I like to think that I could do
if I would choose to. But at this point it’s not as interesting to
me." He pauses. "That might all change in two years," he adds with
a grin. "You never know."

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