Tuesday, May 21

LeGros helps put ‘Destiny’ on the cutting edge


LeGros helps put ‘Destiny’ on the cutting edge

Actor’s film history includes everything from midget aliens to
big-time bank heist

By Colburn Tseng

James LeGros is one cool actor. How cool? When the co-star of
Destiny Turns on the Radio learns he’s speaking with the Daily
Bruin, his first words are hearty congratulations on the basketball
team’s recent NCAA Championship victory.

Easygoing, funny and charmingly modest, LeGros has a remarkable
knack for giving attention-grabbing performances. Whether he is in
a starring or supporting role, and whether the movie is great or
not-so-great, LeGros is nearly always memorable.

The moviegoing masses may not know James LeGros by name, but
they probably know his face. In Drugstore Cowboy he was Matt
Dillon’s fellow junkie. In Point Break, he was a bank-robbing
surfer who bleeds to death while parachuting to Mexico after a
botched heist. And in Destiny, he plays Henry Thoreau, the owner of
a run-down motel in Las Vegas.

The roles LeGros has taken have varied greatly in type, and this
is not by accident.

"The artists that I’ve drawn the most inspiration from, for
example, would be a Marcel Duchamp, Picasso or Matisse," says
LeGros during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel. "They all
seem to be artists that reinvented their approaches to their work.
Which is why they always grew, and always expanded and were always
on the leading edge of the development of their art form.

"In film you’re somewhat limited because it’s a more
collaborative art form, but that’s what I’ve tried to aspire to,"
he says. "I’m not saying I’ve succeeded, but it’s a goal that I
shoot toward."

"I’ve also had the opportunity to work with a variety of
different people. All of these people have a different approach.
Not all of them are extremely talented, but a few of them are, and
of those few, they’re all different. So I’ve learned that to make
my own way, I have to pick a little bit from this one and that one,
and see how it fits on me, which is hard to do."

One talented individual LeGros has worked with is Matt Dillon,
whose name sparks considerable enthusiasm in LeGros.

"Oh, he’s great!" the actor grins. "I remember meeting Matt in
the parking lot of the Red Lion Hotel in Portland, Ore. I saw this
guy walking across the parking lot, and I said, ‘My God! That’s a
movie star! Look at that!’ And sure enough if it wasn’t ol’
Matt."

LeGros’ gracious words for his former co-star beg an obvious
question. Does James LeGros see himself as a movie star?

"Oh me?" the actor responds. He looks down toward the ground
with a bashful smile. "Oh God. I … you know, I don’t know."

Does he get recognized in public?

"Yeah," LeGros says almost reluctantly. Does he shy away from
it? LeGros responds with the same reluctance. "Yeah."

Before LeGros was ever recognized in public, before making any
of his movies, the Southern California native was just another
student at Orange Coast College. The early years of his career,
like those of all actors, was marked with roles most would want
forgotten. But unlike most actors, LeGros mentions his early
movies, Solarbabies and Phantasm II, by name.

"They were movies full of stuff coming at you, and little midget
aliens and flying orbs," he says with a laugh. "Just ridiculous
stuff. But it was a good experience. Doing parts like that, being
Goon No. 2 in Batteries Not Included, I got an opportunity to see
how films are made and how film acting works. And it was a good
source for knowledge. Then later when I was doing movies like
Drugstore Cowboy, or My New Gun, Guncrazy or Mrs. Parker and the
Vicious Circle, that experience paid off."

LeGros became involved with Destiny through long-time friends
Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, the film’s screenwriters. Wishing
to help his friends turn the script into a movie, LeGros committed
to the project years before production ever began.

"One thing I like about the film," says LeGros, "is that you
don’t necessarily have to see a close-up of a .45 caliber slug
meeting somebody’s forehead and exploding out the back of it.

"I’m not saying that that’s not good in some movies. Certainly
it’s a very effective tool in telling some stories. But I was glad
to be in a story where that wasn’t necessary to drive the
plot."

Though he appears in the occasional big-budget studio picture,
LeGros works more frequently in independent films like Destiny.
Scheduled for release later this year are two more indies: Living
in Oblivion, a dark comedy starring Steve Buscemi, and Safe,
directed by up-and-comer Todd Haynes and starring Julianne
Moore.

LeGros has been a busy man. But, though he has worked steadily
over the last several years, the actor is not without his
employment insecurities.

"I think every actor feels like each job is his last," he
confesses. "I don’t think you ever get over that. But I’ll tell you
what I don’t get stressed out about. I used to get upset about
money. And I don’t worry about that so much because that seems to
work itself out one way or another … Something has always come
up."

LeGros settles back to listen to the next question, then
suddenly sits upright and speaks again.

"Of course now that I’ve said that, I’m gonna be out of work for
the next two years."

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