Peter Gallagher

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US Magazine, December, 1997

Peter Gallagher

By: Al Weisel

Peter Gallagher is probably not the most obvious casting choice to play the Peter - US Magazinebrother of slapstick funnyman Bill Murray. Yet that's precisely Gallagher's role in The Man Who Knew Too Little, a comedy about an uptight American in London whose life is thrown into turmoil when his black-sheep sibling, played by Murray, makes an unannounced visit. In fact, many of the 42-year old actor's parts have been somewhat of a stretch -- and not just in the 1995 film While You Were Sleeping, in which Gallagher spent most of the movie stretched out in a coma. Take his most famous character, the lawyer who has an objection to commitment in Steven Soderbergh's seminal 1989 film sex, lies, and videotape. In real life, Gallagher is married to the woman he met when the two were freshmen in college, music-video producer Paula Harwood (with whom he has two children, James, 7, and Catherine, 4). And however well he may have portrayed an ambitious studio exec in 1992's The Player, the New-York based actor can be self-deprecating about his own career. "I managed to work for scale on a multi-million dollar movie," he says, making light of his cameo in 1994's The Hudsucker Proxy. "I'm the only one I know who can pull that off.

Do some people hate you because you're beautiful?

I still think of myself as this little kid with big glasses and enormous lips and eyebrows. A lot of women hated me after sex, lies and videotape. Once, I was in a store and the woman helping me said, "I feel like I know you." I said, "I'm an actor." She said, "No, that's not it." I said, "sex, lies, and videotape," and she said, "You bastard!"

How do you view your career?

Every 10 minutes or so it seems so-and-so is the next big thing. When you're young, it breaks your heart to be the one left out. You think, what do you have to do? I don't take it personally anymore. I'm not a household name, but I feel like I've been blessed to participate in movies --- sex, lies and videotape, The Player --- that will survive.

Are there any you hope don't survive?

When I was younger, I would have been up-tight about something like Summer Lovers. When I was doing it (in 1982), I was a very serious guy and thought I was committing every crime against art and nature.

I have to confess, that movies is a guilty pleasure of mine. How do you feel about it now?

I'm so glad I did it. Imagine going to a studio now and saying, "We're going to make this movie; There'll be a little nudity -- it'll be about this menage a trois -- but it's all going to be fine." It just wouldn't happen. It'd be like, "Who dies? Somebody's gotta die."

Have you had any moments in your career that could have been scenes in 'The Player'?

The very first thing a casting director ever said to me in L.A. was, "We sometimes have a problem with actors from Broadway, because they tend to be too broad." I'm thinking, is that why she thinks it's called Broadway?

What are your parents like?

My dad grew up in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. He went into outdoor advertising. My mom's parents were right off the boat from Ireland. She became a bacteriologist, helped develop penicillin during the war. Now she has Alzheimer's.

Oh, I'm sorry. Is she able to recognize you?

No. I say, "You know who I am? I'm your youngest son." But there are moments of connection. Once, I was thanking her for being my mother, and she just reached up, grabbed me by the face, looked in my eyes, and I knew she was there. My dad takes care of her, and it's tough on him, because he's deaf in one ear and can't hear out of the other, as he says. He adores my mother, and it's great to see tham hobbling down the sidewalk after all these years, when growing up you're thinking, would you two please leave each other so we can have a little peace and quiet?

How have you managed to stay happily married for so many years?

I'm really leery of talking about stuff like that, because it seems every time somebody mentions their marriage it always breaks up, and that would be awful. We've know each other for more than half our lives, and it would be such a tragedy if we didn't finish off the rest of it.

Tell me something funny that Bill Murray did while you were making 'The Man Who Knew Too Little.'

One time, we went to a driving range near King's Cross in London, and the guys next to us just couldn't connect with the ball. Bill drops everything and says to them, Give me a pound. I'm gonna give you a lesson." And he coaxed a pound out of one of the guys -- I don't think the guy knew who [Murray] was. And Bill proceeded to give them a golf lesson.

Last Updated Sat, May 12, 2001

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