James Spader: Nomad in life and in his work

James Spader says he has always considered himself a nomad in both his personal life and his acting career.

So it may be fitting that in his latest film, "Stargate," Spader plays an Egyptologist who travels to a faraway planet in search of the secrets of the Pyramids.

"One of the things I like most about acting is that it's kind of a nomadic lifestyle," Spader, 34, said during an interview in Beverly Hills. "You go
around from place to place, investigating a character for a few months and then moving on."

For most of his film career, though, Spader's living has been earned playing different versions of what "Stargate" producer-writer Dean Devlin called "snotty, evil yuppies."

Spader says he has nothing in common with any of his characters but likes playing evil people.

"I love playing antagonistic characters and bad guys and supporting characters," he said. "I love playing little cameos in small, quirky odd
films. Even when I'm playing good guys, I try to find the foibles and the bad guy within them, and vice versa as well."

In "Stargate," Spader gets to play a hero of sorts, a young scientist whose innocence and fearlessness outpaces even that of the commandos who venture into a strange world with him.

"I think it took me by surprise," Spader said of "Stargate."

"It wasn't the sort of film I had been a fan of (as an audience member). But I was intrigued by the scale of the thing and some of the ideas behind it."

More than an acting challenge, Spader says, "Stargate" represented a sheer physical challenge - making a film in the middle of the Arizona desert outside Yuma, where the temperature often hovered around 120 degrees.

Then there was the problem of learning how to speak a strange language, based on an ancient Egyptian dialect that hasn't been spoken for 1,000 years.

"At least with the Romance languages there are certain things you can grasp," he said. "For this, there wasn't a thing I could relate to."

Spader says he is considering several different film roles at the moment. But, if his past holds true, we can expect to see him playing a villain in the near future.

"Usually when I'm finished playing an appealing character, I always look around for a nasty SOB to follow that," he said, "just because of my own desire to do something different.

© John Hurley, 10 November 1994, The Cincinnati Post (Thank you, Susan!)