Jason Patric happy to talk about acting, but not about Julia Roberts


It was like having an audience with the Pope. We waited, about 10 reporters, in a room at the Mark Hotel in New York. After a time, Jason Patric walked in, sat down for a short time at the speaker's table, got up and went out.

Was the interview already over? Is this all he was going to do, walk in, say nothing then leave?

No. He returned, and we didn't ask why he had come in, left, then returned. We didn't ask a lot of things about the man because it was one of those interviews in which the participating reporters knew what questions they were not supposed to ask.

We were not supposed to ask, for instance, about Julia Roberts. For those who don't read the front pages of the supermarket tabloids, Roberts was engaged to Kiefer Sutherland, broke the engagement and picked up with Patric.

When she did, the media gave the couple lots of coverage, so much so that you might logically conclude that Patric, who has done only a few films, was lifted to star status thanks to Roberts, who, for a time now, has been hot, hot, hot.

Well, Roberts wasn't even discussed during the interview. Someone did, in an earlier session, try to approach the subject obliquely, but it didn't work. "In your new movie," said the reporter, "you form an association with a young woman, just as you have formed one in real life..."

No go. Patrick wasn't about to be taken in. He sidestepped very neatly, and the reporter conceded.

Even Patric's lineage was not discussed. Apparently, the press felt that that, too, might offend the 25-year-old. His parentage, however, is quite impressive. Patric is the son of playwright-actor Jason Miller and actress Linda Miller, daughter of Jackie Gleason. There is also a Baltimore connection -- Miller and his wife (they are now divorced) worked at Center Stage when the group was located on Preston Street.

Patric wears a beard in his new movie, "Rush," which opens Friday. It's about two narcotic agents, a man and woman, who become so involved in their work that they become addicts. This, naturally, leads to tragedy, just as it did in the best-selling book by Kim Wozencraft, who, in real life, served time in jail.

L In person, Patric wore no beard and was terribly articulate:

"There are certain aspects of my personal life that have nothing to do with the movie," he said. "I like to keep the plate as clean as possible. Roles succeed on their own. It's important to carry as little baggage as possible into the theater. I try to draw from as pure a place as I can. It's about the character, not about me. I don't want to draw attention to myself."

He says he got the role because Lili Fini Zanuck, who directed the film, had seen him in "After Dark, My Sweet," one of the few movies he did before "Rush."

"It's a raw and uncompromising film," he said. "This kind of movie is not made that often. It is difficult to pull it off, but if you can, there is great satisfaction.

"All roles are a rush," he said. "You pull parts of yourself out, but you live with it. It's a dangerous thing when you reach that level of seduction and obsession, but if you are there, you want to stay there. Your instincts are tuned to the character, and these things are difficult to shed."

Was he difficult while doing the film?

"Well, to some, maybe, but I kept pretty much to myself," he said.

"I didn't do that much research with this singular man. I just tried to filter it through my own instrument and see what kind of music came out."

The conversation moved on to drugs.

"I grew up in New York and New Jersey and spent time in California, but no matter where you live and no matter what economic bracket you are in, drugs are there," he said.

"The movie makes no statement about them. This was a man, and drugs were a situation he was fighting. Say 'no' to what? Your childhood? Your job? I just wish Nancy Reagan had clarified that a bit."

The film is a first for Zanuck as a director, and Patric gave that some consideration. "I didn't know it at first," he said. "When I found out, I took myself away for a time, looked at it a bit, got to

know her and felt I could work with her."

He doesn't know what he will do next.

"I search out interesting things," he said. "I'd like to do something light, like 'Dr. Strangelove,' but I don't pick my films for their humor."

He wasn't happy with his work in "The Lost Boys." "I told them to send me home," he said. "I ended up looking like Captain America.

"After that, I sat back and waited for when I would could have input and control."

And stardom?

"If you're successful, it is inherent, but the other stuff is intrusive," he said. "I like to keep it as pure as I can."

Gregg Allman and Jennifer Jason Leigh are in the cast of "Rush."

"He was insecure," said Patric of Allman, "like all other actors, but he commited himself and pulled it off. I first met him in a bar. I felt star-struck.

"Jennifer and I work on different levels. I just tried not to step on her creative toes. If an actor is committed to his work, the chemistry will work."

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