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NewCityNet Film Tip of the Week

By Ray Pride

FEBRUARY 2, 1998:  The chameleonic Bill Pullman gives a wonderfully twisted and funny performance as an agoraphobic private detective in "Zero Effect," embodying the conceits of first-time director Jake Kasdan's script. Daryl Zero is the most detached man on the planet, completely focused when he's on the case, but otherwise unable to function in society. Zero has a frontman, attorney Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller), who transacts his business, and when he's not working, he's hidden away, scarfing snack food and composing the rottenest rock songs you can imagine. There are a lot of incompletely realized ideas in the 22-year-old Kasdan's script, which tries for a "The Usual Suspects" level of gamesmanship. But even when Kasdan's inexperience muddies a moment, Pullman's rich, spirited performance embodies the character's all-too-modern emotional ineptitude. He always seems to be having fun. "Fun is something that you always look like you're having," Pullman growls when I tell him that. "That's part of why you get to work again!," he says, laughing. "The fact that it didn't feel like sweat and no one ever said, gee, we wish we had someone else in the role -- which has happened sometimes -- that helped. In a role where you're stretching, it can be very restrictive and you're truly vulnerable. But I never felt precarious here."

While Pullman has been an integral part of several megahits -- "Independence Day," "Sleepless in Seattle," "While You Were Sleeping" -- most of his work tends to the risky, such as "Zero Effect" and Wim Wenders' "End of Violence." "I don't know that risk is the word. I've done such different kinds of work, in theatre, a thousand kinds of parts, I've never thought I wouldn't be the perfect guy for any role. See, I was already identifying with Daryl Zero's arrogance!"

So is there a typical or prototypical Bill Pullman role? "I'm trying to think of the Quentin Crisp line... 'Style is something that everyone ridiculed you for when you first started out, then embraced you after you did it for a while.' I guess I really get a great amount of satisfaction when people say to me, 'I always love seeing what you're going to do next,' instead of the usual, 'Oh you were a great president in "Independence Day," when are you going to do that again?' that you get from someone on the street. It's not necessarily by design. It took me a long time to realize how different the movies are from theatre. In theatre, you're the part. In movies, whatever you are in that movie, people get hooked on. They project that as your personality. If you don't get the girl, then you're that kind of guy. If you run the nation, then you're that kind of guy. If you're the dumbest man on the face of the earth, then you're that guy. You get the German interviewers who ask you then, 'Isn't it terrible that you're such a loser ?' You can never satisfy everyone's expectations."


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