"Controversial crash" - U.S. studios afraid to release James Spader's new flick

TORONTO -- James Spader has been on some Tuff Turf in his career. He's even had his share of Bad Influence. None of this prepared him for the Crash his career would take when he met Canadian director David Cronenberg. Spader stars with Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette in Cronenberg's subversive erotic thriller Crash, which opens on Friday. It's the story of people who are sexually aroused by the carnage of car accidents. The film caused a wave of controversy this year at the Cannes Film Festival and still doesn't have an opening date in the U.S. "Studio people are afraid of Crash. It makes a statement about whoever releases the film. Miramax took a lot of flak for releasing Kids. The same will happen for whoever releases Crash," admits Spader.

In Canada, Crash is being released by Alliance Films, which helped fund Cronenberg's film. Spader says he knew and embraced the fact the film would be controversial. "As soon as you read the screenplay you know what kind of movie you're in. You accept the fact you're pushing the envelope with this movie." In the four months since it was released in Europe, Crash has found as many fans as it has detractors. "We were the No. 5 film in Europe this summer and we were only playing in France. We out-grossed every other movie in France." Spader insists he was not trying to exorcise something in his own life or personality by starring in Crash. "I have my own artistic sensibilities and Crash complements them. It is a provocative, challenging, disturbing film made for adults. "It's not a skeleton in the closet for me."

Spader is also starring in the gangster thriller 2 Days in the Valley. He plays a sadistic hit man. "I like to say of my character in 2 Days in the Valley that he has turned a hobby into a profession. He loves his work. It just happens to be a deplorable occupation."

Just before he went to work on Crash and 2 Days in the Valley, Spader starred in the sci-fi hit Stargate. It was written and directed by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the team responsible for this summer's mega- hit, Independence Day. "Roland called me when he was casting ID4. He told me he'd sort of recycled my Stargate character. "He implied the role was mine if I wanted it, but at that time there was talk of a sequel to Stargate so we both thought it was better that I not repeat things." The role went to Jeff Goldblum. The sequel to Stargate fell through when MGM decided to turn it into a TV series for 1997.

One of Spader's earliest films was Less than Zero, a look at the crippling effect of drugs on jet-setters. Spader's co-star was Robert Downey Jr., whose losing battle with heroine addiction has landed him in protective custody. "I knew Robert before, during and after Less than Zero. It's incredibly sad but not surprising, what's happened to him. "I'm grateful that I was able to clean up my wild life. Getting married and having children did that for me. I guess some of us just can't grow up." Spader says he doesn't allow celebrity to impact on his life. "I don't spend time with masses of people. I rarely go to Hollywood or industry functions. "When I'm not working, I avoid the fame track. I spend every summer with my extended family. My wife and kids take road trips to visit all our friends and relatives."

Though his oldest son is seven, Spader says he "never sits down with him to watch one of my films and I never intend to. "If my kids choose to see one of my films, that's their prerogative. My movies are not the centrepiece of our household." Next month, Spader will begin filming the medical satire Critical Care, for director Sydney Lumet in Toronto. His co-stars will be Helen Mirren, Anne Bancroft and Albert Brooks.

Express Writer by Louis B. Hobson