In the movie Paparazzi, Cole Hauser plays a movie star stalked by sleazy tabloid photographers. Together with Robin Tunney, who plays his wife in the film, Cole gets his revenge in a performance that is cool, witty and down to earth. So it is somewhat surprising, given the smoke and mirrors of filmdom, that when Cole Hauser walks in the door of the hotel suite the studio set up to meet the press, that he is exactly like his character onscreen. Cool, witty and down to earth.
And, just like in the film, a guy we want to see win.
This is the first leading role for Hauser who has co-starred with Bruce Willis and Robert Duvall and befriended Vince Vaughn and director Richard Linklater among others. He's been around. Debuting in School Ties, appearances in Dazed and Confused,Good Will Hunting, Pitch Black
and Tigerland, he has been on the brink of landing that breakout role for a long time. But now it's starting to turn his way. Like the character he plays in the movie, the opportunity of being the lead in an action film is something he has worked hard for. "It's not fame I want," he responds when asked what he expects from all this. "It's success," he says.
But it is a hilarious moment, almost right out of the movie, when a reporter asks Cole if he could ever be the vengeful character he plays onscreen. Cole takes a beat, turns and stares the guy down, and we realize he isn't kidding. And in a steely voice he deals with it, just like a movie star. "I don't know if you have kids..." Cole asks the reporter who basically says: "Gulp." "But if someone hurt your kids, you're capable of all kinds of things." And since Cole and his wife are expecting their first son, it may help to explain why his solid family man quality comes across onscreen. One thing is sure: he is prefect for this role.
Paparazzi began life several years earlier, a pet project of producer Mel Gibson whose Icon Productions oversaw the making of the film. Spurred on by his own tumultuous relationship with the press, and with the death of Princess Di still a scary reminder of what being stalked by the press can lead to, Gibson developed a script that was much darker than the one that finally got made. It took a worse case scenario -- a movie star who runs afoul of shutterbugs resulting in his son being hurt -- and turns the tables on the bad guys. It is a daydream for a lot of stars still dazed by flashbulbs and rude reporters, and may help explain why so many stars showed up to do cameos. It's a much lighter film now, a revenge fantasy with a lot of great surprise appearances by Gibson, Chris Rock, Vince Vaughn, Matthew McConaughey. And there's Inside Hollywood fun with E! Entertainment reporters appearing as themselves. But when Cole's character gets revenge on the slimy shutterbugs that hurt his kid, which include Daniel Baldwin and Tom Sizemore, (who's had his own dose of tabloid trouble lately) the crowd cheers in delight. Clearly, whether the producers of this film knew it or not, they have really tapped into something.
Adding to the spice and fun is Robin Tunney. And though her part as Cole's wife has its own action beats, including a wrestling match with Baldwin, the surprise is how funny she is in person. Tunney has also been around the Indie world, with parts in everything from The Craft to End Of Days and Vertical Limit, but in person the quality that comes across first, besides being a beauty, is her sharp wit. Tunney is hilarious. Her own tales of brushes with the tabloids make for funny stories, including being wrongly accused of having a porn career (due to an article she wrote for Jane Magazine about nude scenes) and finding herself scrutinized for what she wears to premieres. "They love those plunging, bad soap opera, sequined [dresses]" she says. "So if you show up in pants and flat shoes you end up on the Worst Dressed list."
Rounding out the "nice guys who deserve to win" category is the director, Paul Abascal. A long time hair stylist who worked for Mel Gibson's company, Abascal got his directing break when he put together Mel Gibson's Unauthorized Diary: The Making of Lethal Weapon 2 and 3. It earned him a Cable Ace award and became famous for revealing Gibson as a guy who could poke fun at himself -- and others. The DVD bonus reels were so popular that Abascal was asked to direct episodes of Tales From The Crypt for Joel Silver, which led to lots of TV directing jobs. But this is his first feature. Abascal was approached by Gibson to direct Paparazzi and it was Abascal who developed the script, adding his own light touch to the film's adrenaline rush fun. Abascal is fielding offers for other film projects now and has Mel Gibson to thank for that.
Paparazzi is one of those fun surprises during this doldrums season -- the dumping ground that is August. But no surprise is as welcome as seeing the good guys win, and in Paparazzi they do, both in front of the camera and behind it.