'Sex, Lies' and Spader ''It's all come as a great surprise.''

In Los Angeles, where he was preparing for night shooting on his newest film, a thriller titled ''Bad Influence,'' James Spader was talking about the laurels and excitement wreathing ''Sex, Lies and Videotape.''

Not only has the prize-winning (Cannes; United States Film Festival) movie about Louisiana love lives made its writer and director, Steven Soderbergh, a marquee name, but it has also put heightened loft on the career of Mr. Spader, who won the best-actor award at Cannes for his portrayal of Graham, the somewhat impotent video voyeur whose return to Baton Rouge after a long absence sets the plot in motion.

Mr. Spader said that when he first read the script during the winter of 1987-88, ''I wanted to meet the man who had written it.''

''I was very interested in the material,'' he said. ''It was quite unlike anything I'd seen recently.'' About a week later, Mr. Spader, who can list
among his credits such films as ''Pretty in Pink,'' ''Baby Boom,'' ''Less Than Zero'' and ''Wall Street,'' got together with Mr. Soderbergh. ''I wanted to work with him,'' Mr. Spader said. ''I find Steve to be a very serious, humorous, interesting man.''

But he said he had no anticipation during the filming, which began last August in Baton Rouge, of the accolades the movie would attract. ''When I'm working, I really don't concern myself with that,'' Mr. Spader said. With regard to the impact on his career of the praise for the film, he said: ''Well, to put this in perspective, I should say that at the time it started to acquire a great deal of attention, I was entering rehearsals on 'Bad Influence,' and my wife was entering the last term of her pregnancy. My life was extremely chaotic anyway. Basically, the way it's affected my life is that different people have started to take notice of my work who took no notice of it before - at least in my
perception.'' So the scripts are flowing in. But for the next month, Mr. Spader expects to be immersed in his portrayal of Michael Boll in Curtis Hanson's ''Bad Influence,'' which also stars Rob Lowe and Lisa Zane. Mr. Spader describes ''Bad Influence'' as ''an extremely strange, peculiar thriller, and where you end up is extremely surprising.''

''You really think you know where you're going all the way along,'' he said, ''and boy, you're surprised just how lost you are.''

Boll, he says, is a financial research analyst - ''an extremely scheduled, methodical, dissatisfied man'' - who meets someone who opens up a whole different side of his life.

When filming ends, Mr. Spader expects to take some time off to spend with his wife, Victoria, who works on the art-department side of film making, and their son, Sebastian, who was born in late July. ''At this stage of the game,'' he said, ''I have the choice of being either up and working or up and burping. I have two extremely important things going on in my life that I love, and although I'm having a wonderful time on this film, I'm looking forward to the wrap so I can get on with the burping and the bouncing.''

And there will be those scripts to think about.

''I'm hoping 'Sex, Lies and Videotape' will give me the freedom to be a little more self-indulgent in my choices,'' Mr. Spader said.

© By Lawrence Van Gelder for The New York Times, August 18, 1989(Thank you, Susan!)