An Actor Who Gambles With Failure

James Spader did not expect his latest film to be a hit, he tells Jim Schembri why.

THE FACT that the rather dopey $55 million science-fiction/fantasy film Stargate is the most expensive and successful film James Spader has ever been in and will expose him to more people than all his other films put together seems merely a happy coincidence. He did it for a laugh. He didn't expect it to be a hit.

"When I set out to do the movie I set out just to have some fun,'' he says. "As we were going along I didn't have a clue about whether this was going to be a film anybody wanted to see, or if, when they did, they were going to run screaming from the theatre!'' Spader's whispy blond hair and WASPish good looks have been a trademark of his scroll of performances that include his memorable and morally duplicitous characters in Wall Street, Pretty in Pink and Wolf, and his goody-two-shoes yuppie lawyer in True Colors.

Stargate breaks a lot of new ground for Spader. It is his first bona fide blockbuster. It is his first role as a headlining hero. It is his first action film.

It is hard to believe that an actor would take part in a film as expensive as Stargate and not worry about it being a big hit. After all, films like this either hit big or flop big. A failure of this magnitude could potentially do a lot of damage to a career, yes?

"I have a very democratic view of films in terms of hits and failures,'' Spader says. "With every single successive film that I do I realise that I know less and less about what people's criteria are for wanting to go see it.

"I don't think there are great odds-makers in Hollywood, I don't think that people really do have a great tap into what people want to see out there, and very often it is just a throw of the dice.

In Stargate's case the dice have come up seven. The film has made over $100 million worldwide so far to become the season's surprise hit.

Stargate is screening at the Village Centre.

© Jim Schembri, 27 February 1995, The Age (Thank you, Susan!)