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Ryan Phillippe

Smile. PLease Nice Nice Nice Nice Nice Nice Back to the index Premiere December 1999 In the Works: Ryan Kidnaps Juliette by Sean M. Smith photo by John Baer Outside room 14 of a low-slung, south-of-the-border motel, Ryan Phillippe has been trying to cry for about an hour. He is supposed to deliver a monologue that reveals his character's moral center. But this is not easy when the truckers streaming down the adjacent highway keep honking. "I'm sorry, man," he says, breaking character. "There's just so much f***ing noise, all I can hear is, like, NASCAR." Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects, describes his directorial debut, The Way of the Gun, as "a western with cell phones -- and the cell phones don't work." Tonight, as the clock inches toward 2 a.m., that description seems pretty apt, what with the trucks continuing to honk, the wind overturning lights, and a smoke alarm starting to scream somewhere. Luckily, McQuarrie seems to be the most serene virgin director in movie history. "I'm working very hard to kill the close-up as a cinematic device," he deadpans to his cinematographer. "And you're not helping." On the next take, Phillippe nails it. Gun, which is being financed by Artisan Entertainment (read: the Blair Witch folks), is packing enough young Hollywood heat to make Miramax jealous. Phillippe and Bencio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects) star as criminals who kidnap Juliette Lewis, who plays a surrogate mother carrying a rich couple's baby. Her two bodyguards (Go's Taye Diggs and The Limey's Nicky Katt) track the trio as they head for Mexico, but things really go south when a mercenary (James Caan) shows up to "deliver the ransom." McQuarrie says he is fascinated by antiheroes "because they're struggling with who they are. But heroes -- when you see Superman struggling with who he is, you just want to slap him. 'What's your problem" You're a really good guy!'" McQuarrie's decision to jump into the director's chair the second after he grabbed his gold statue would be an eye-rolling cliche if it weren't for one fact: He didn't want to. "I was very comfortable being a writer," he says. "But there are projects down the road that I'd like to [direct] that are sort of lofty and expensive. I had to start somewhere, so here I am." Here, by the way, is about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, at a truck stop where the cast kills the boredom by busting on one another. "Nick calls me the low-rent Wesley Snipes," Diggs says, laughing. Oh yeah? "Nick," Lewis rotorts, "refers to himself as the low-rent John Stamos." Books in Film: Recent Releases