Cosmopolitan October 1992 v213 n4 p96(1)
Peter Gallagher - Red Hot Right Now
By David Patrick Stearns
COPYRIGHT Hearst Corporation 1992
As Peter Gallagher walks you through his newly acquired apartment on Manhattan Upper West Side, he takes great pride in the dining room, where the walls were once covered with tacky mirrors and decades of paint. Beneath it all, he discovered the intricately carved wood paneling that now makes the room the most inviting in the house. And that's what Gallagher, thirty-seven, does as an actor. He never clutters up his characters with anything coy or fussy, whether he's playing the roguish but Vulnerable gambler Sky Masterson in the smash Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls or the manipulative movie exec Larry Levy in the hit Robert Altman film The Players. He peels away the layers, and if he doesn't find anything there, he isn't shy about saying so. Even if it means getting fired.
So it was last year, when Gallagher was cast as Demi Moore's husband in Mortal Thoughts: He had doubts about the character and made them known. "It was like I was speaking Swahili," he recalls, bounding up from the sofa and circling his living room like a cat. "It was a terrifying feeling. What you have to do is look at the alternative: If I don't say no and I don't get fired, I'll just be seen as a bad actor, and my opportunities will be diminished anyway."
That's not likely given Gallagher's current status as actor, singer, dancer, and - with his full, pouting lips and black-Irish good looks - one of the most insolently sexy men in show business. Yet it wasn't until his breakthrough role as the womanizing lawyer in 1989's sex, lies and videotape, that he began to take a stand professionally. Never again will the hairy-chested actor submit to the traumatic waxing that was deemed necessary for him to play a rock star in his 1980 film debut, The Idolmaker.Nor will he choose projects just because they'd be good for his career. Gallagher's happy to take small roles in fine films such as The Player. He smiles as he recalls the feeling he, Whoopi Goldberg, and other cast members had after the first screening: "We stood around, murmuring things like ~It's just so cool to be in this movie!'"
Now Gallagher's such an Altman addict that he's about to leave Guys and Dolls to play a jealous helicopter pilot in the director's latest project, Short Cuts. Already in the can are Watch It, a romantic comedy, and The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, a bizarre silent remake of the German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. He also makes a cameo appearance as a morning-news anchor in Bob Roberts, directed by Player costar Tim Robbins.
By no means, however, has Gallagher become too high-toned to enjoy being appreciated on a less intellectual level. This past season, he providedserious competition for Alec Baldwin (Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire) for the title of Sexiest Man on Broadway. "I hear a lot of women enjoy Sky Masterson," he says, "and I want them to know that Sky Masterson enjoys them. Tremendously!"
And what, you may wonder, does Gallagher's wife, Paula Harwood, think about that? "She has a strong right hook," he jokes. "But she understands that it's a good thing when I get this kind of attention."
The couple, married nine years and the parents of a two-year-old son, Jamey, finally seem to be in perfect sync after juggling bicoastal life-styles and demanding careers (she's co-owner of Epoch Films, which produces commercials, documentaries, films. and music videos). "It's very important for us to be together," Gallagher says. "For several years. it wasn't - she was pursuing her career, and I was pursuing mine. But now, we have so much fun together."
Their relationship has come a long way since the day they met at Tufts University in 1973. Gallagher was smitten, but Harwood wasn't interested. The two became friends and stayed in touch while he spent several seasons with the Boston Shakespeare Company. "We didn't date until 1980," recalls Gallagher, "and as soon as we did, we were together." Adds Harwood, "If we'd gotten together in college, we wouldn't be together now. I think we both had to grow tip."
Over the years, Paula's seen Peter through his share of successes - among them a Tony-nominated performance in the 1986 revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night, and roles in the well-received TV movies The Murder of Mary Phagan and The Caine Mutiny, Court-Martial - and a few failures, such as the universally forgotten film Summer Lovers.
But his most unexpected success has been his off-screen role as father. "We never thought we'd want children," he says. "Then, like a ton of bricks, it hit us at the same time. Paula was seized with this over whelming feeling, and I'd gone absolutely sappy about the idea. It was a huge decision, but it's the best thing we ever did."
That's typical of Gallagher: When he finally decides to do something, he's committed one hundred percent. "I always get to places slower than others," he says, "but once there. I tend to thrive."