'Sex, Lies' put Spader in demand

''IT IS 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 thelaurels 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, StevenSoderbergh, a marquee name, but it has also put heightened loft on the career of 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.

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, Spader, who can list among his credits such films as Pretty in Pink, Baby Boom, Less Than Zero and Wall Street, got together with Soderbergh. ''I wanted to work with him,'' 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. ''WhenI'm working, I really don't concern myself with that,'' 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 itstarted 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, Spader expects to be immersed in his portrayal of Michael Boll in Curtis Hanson's Bad Influence, which also stars RobLowe and Lisa Zane. 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 upa whole different side of his life.

When filming ends, 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 importantthings going on in my life that I love.''

© LAWRENCE VAN GELDER, New York Times, 19 August 1989 (Thank you, Susan!)