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TV Guide - April 18, 1998

On Top of The World

By Hilary DeVries


For somebody who has played a lot of sleazeballs--and arguably played them better than most--Peter Gallagher is one happy guy. "Jhaysus, Mary and Joseph," he cracks in a not half-bad brogue, bouncing around the passenger seat of an old helicopter grounded on a Burbank, California soundstage. "I thought you were supposed to be flying this thing," he shouts to the extra wrestling with the joystick in the pilot's seat, "not pleasuring it."

Peter in Brave New World - TV GuideA wave of appreciative laughter breaks across the warehouse set where shooting of NBC's Brave New World, the film adaptation of Aldous Huxley's futuristic classic starring Gallagher, Leonard Nimoy, Tim Guinee and Sally Kirkland, has found temporary respite in an ambitious month-long shoot dogged by El Nino dounpours. "We're indoors today," confides producer Michael Joyce, " and near bathrooms."

It's more than indoor plumbing that causes Gallagher to break into a bit of soft-shoe during a scene break. "We could talk," he says, thrusting a hand in the air and twirling across the floor with the practiced ease he first showed in Grease, 20 years ago on Broadway, "or we could just dance."

Ever since the New York theater actor hit pay dirt in Hollywood playing Andie McDowall's cooly philandering husband in the 1989 sleeper, sex, lies and videotape, Gallagher has glided from art-house films (Robert Altman's The Player) to big budget features (While You Were Sleeping) to TV-movies (The Caine Mutiny Court Martial) and back again. Now, as the start of Brave New World, the fourth TV film that he has made in 18 months, and with a lead role in a possible series slated for next fall, the 42 year old is poised for an even bigger profile on the small screen.

"I'm just into a big saying-yes period of my life," says Gallagher, casual but elegant in chinos and a polo shirt in the lobby of Hollywood's fabled Chateau Marmont hotel a few days after filming ended. Spend any time with Gallagher and you quickly realize that behind his eclectic credits is a journeyman actor blessed with a keen appreciation for his craft and a refreshing lack of ego. The Armonk, NY native, who graduated with an economics degree from Tufts Unifersity, is far happier talking about his golf game and his family back in New York City–he shares a West Side Manhattan co-op with his wife, producer Paula Harwood, and their son, Jamey, 7, and daughter, Kathryn,4–than his latest film or his new agents.

"I've been away from home for six weeks now, and our usual rule is two (weeks)," he says, pulling out some show-and-tell snapshots of his kids. "I said to my son on the phone last night, "I'm working on a plan where I can see you in the morning, at night, on weekends. But it might mean we have to move to L.A."

Like many a film actor now hitting midcareer, Gallagher is seeking opportunities in TV for personal as well as professional reasons. Although he remains best known for his film work, he has also had his share of disappointments, which include his first two films, the high-profile bombs, The Idolmaker and Summer Lovers, as wells as the recent failure To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Even the successful sex, lies and videotape led to his being typecast as a sexy sleaze. "There's always a new way to get gut-punched," says Gallagher.

Now Gallagher is seriously testing the TV series waters. He filmed a pilot two years ago, created by Diane English (Murphy Brown) that didn't make CBS's schedule. Earlier this year he turned in a much-noticed guest spot as a gay restaraunt owner on ABC's Homicide: Life on the Street. This spring, he is awaiting word on ABC's The Secret Lives of Men, a comedy about three divorced New Yorkers by Susan Harris (The Golden Girls).

"Everyone seems very high on it, but we'll see," says Gallagher with a shrug. "I've learned that you can't count on anything, but the fact is that movies are so odd these days, and you can't make a living just doing theater and independent films. At least with TV it's closer to the creative wellspring."

Certainly the opportunity to play Bernard Marx, the hero of Huxley's 1982 novel who wrestles with a dehumanized society, was not something Gallagher was likely to encounter at a film stuido. Although the rights to Brave New World had long been held by Universal Pictures, it wasn't until NBC scored ratings gold two years ago with Gulliver's Travels that the novel made the transition to the screen. "We see Brave New World as an event movie, like Gulliver and The Odyssey," says Lindy DeKoven, the head of NBC's movie division. "And landing Peter was a big 'get' for us."

As Bernard, the sexy hero who ultimately rejects a world based on hedonism and emotional detachment, Gallagher is back on relatively familiar territory. "I wasn't looking to play him as future boy," he explains, "but in the context of a world where a recognition of love, a willingness to commit to one other person was forbidden."

It's a lesson that Gallagher never had to learn. Although he's working as much as ever, his devotion to his family has only intensified as he wrestles with a new challenge, namely his mother's Alzheimer's disease. "That's a heartbreaker," he says quietly. "It's those examples of mortality ..."

"The last thing I want to be doing when I'm 60 is seeing if I can be the third guy from the left on The Return of F Troop," he adds, "So you keep scrambling and you find a way to keep enjoying it. Like I said, I'm in a great mood to say 'Yes.'"

Last Updated Saturday, May 12, 2001

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