With a trace of re­li­gion

Eric Close cred­its his faith for guid­ing him to the right path, writes Luaine Lee

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

ERIC Close could eas­ily have slipped from the straight and nar­row. But life took him in the other di­rec­tion. In fact, the star of Now and Again and With­out a Trace re­mem­bers he wanted to be a di­rec­tor but, again, fate in­ter­rupted his best-laid plans.

‘‘ I was a wild kid in high school,’’ he says.

‘‘ I liked to get crazy and be re­bel­lious and go to par­ties and do all that kind of stuff.

‘‘ I wasn’t a great stu­dent, and I think my mum hoped I would find some­thing. I played a lot of sports and we skied and were al­ways ex­posed to the arts. I think she thought this would keep me from go­ing to the dark side.’’

In the end, it was Close who found the right path.

‘‘ I made a com­mit­ment to be a Chris­tian and that was a ma­jor change be­cause I was go­ing down one road, hang­ing with the wrong crowd, and I hap­pened to be go­ing to a pri­vate Chris­tian school in San Diego,’’ he says.

‘‘ And I heard about this per­son, Je­sus of Nazareth, and what he was about.

‘‘ And I was drawn to that. I thought, ‘ That’s some­one I could fol­low as a leader’. I was 13, but I went off into my (wild) teenage years.’’

That lasted un­til he grad­u­ated from the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

‘‘ I knew I wanted to be an ac­tor, but I was on my own. I told my par­ents, ‘ You’ve taken care of me all my life, helped me through col­lege. You’ve been awe­some, but now it’s my turn to be my own man’.’’

Al­though we know him best as a good guy on his two TV se­ries, Close has also played se­rial killers and rapists.

Some­times he’s ques­tioned whether those jibe with his Chris­tian out­look.

In fact, in his lat­est role as a mar­ried man suf­fer­ing a midlife cri­sis in Unan­swered Prayers (based on Garth Brooks’ song), he ne­go­ti­ates some graphic love scenes, for which he used to feel guilty.

Now he says, ‘‘ I just feel that God gave me a cer­tain gift and that was to go out, do sto­ry­telling and be an ac­tor.

‘‘ And my re­spon­si­bil­ity with that gift is to do the best job pos­si­ble and to recre­ate real life.’’

The fa­ther of two daugh­ters aged 12 and 9, Close says strik­ing out on his own was a sort of Eric’s ex­cel­lent ad­ven­ture, con­stantly seek­ing jobs and au­di­tions.

He worked as a proof reader of le­gal doc­u­ments, a mar­ket re­searcher, an in­ad­e­quate bar­tender, waiter, the back­ground of a karaoke video and a bank teller.

While he was at the bank, he’d rush off to au­di­tions dur­ing his 45-minute lunch hour.

Close, 43, spent a year in Madrid study­ing, tak­ing a side trip to Budapest where his mother was born. He met an­other Amer­i­can at the air­port in Vi­enna who was also trav­el­ling to Budapest. They stayed in touch and when Close at­tended his friend’s wed­ding in Dal­las, he met his fu­ture wife Keri, a clin­i­cal so­cial worker.

‘‘ At that point I took a real, long hard look at my­self and said, ‘ Do I like the per­son I am?’ And I was start­ing to think about mar­riage and the type of per­son I’d want to be mar­ried to. Then I had to ask my­self, ‘ Would that per­son find me the kind of per­son they’d want to be mar­ried to? How would they feel about me? Would they like me? Would they think I was their ideal per­son?’ and I said, ‘ I don’t think so’.

‘‘ Then I met this guy who was do­ing a play and he in­vited me to his church, an African-Amer­i­can church in Al­tadena, and I had a great time there. It was very charis­matic and the mu­sic was fan­tas­tic and I felt loved there.’’

‘‘ And that started my jour­ney. I felt it gave me a pur­pose and a ground­ing in life and has di­rected a lot of my de­ci­sions.’’ With­out a Trace, Chan­nel 9, Sun­day, 10.30pm, W chan­nel (Fox­tel), week­nights, 11pm

YOU can tell a lot about a man by the car he drives. Take, for in­stance, Alex O’Lough­lin, Aus­tralia’s lat­est lead­ing-man ex­port and the star of the new Hawaii Five-O.

Not so long ago this NIDA grad­u­ate, by his own ad­mis­sion, was limp­ing around Los An­ge­les in a ‘‘ piece of shit car’’, hock­ing his stereo and work­ing for $15 an hour to pay his rent.

Cut to Waikiki’s hottest ho­tel The Edi­tion, where O’Lough­lin is sit­ting pretty (thank you, work gods) flash­ing a set of per­fectly ve­neered teeth you’d ex­pect from Cen­tral Cast­ing Den­tistry.

‘‘ I’m driv­ing a pretty nice car now and they pay me well,’’ he smiles, with just the right amount of Aussie hu­mil­ity. ‘‘ Life’s great and per­se­ver­ance pays off.’’

For this petrol head the wheels parked in his Honolulu drive­way these days aren’t nearly as im­por­tant as the jour­ney he’s taken to get here (for the record, he’s driv­ing a ’ 97 Land Rover De­fender).

Three years ago, when he was lift­ing bricks in lieu of pick­ing up act­ing work, his ride was more a health haz­ard than a boy’s toy.

‘‘ It was ei­ther a Jeep Chero­kee, that ex­ploded on me, or maybe a Gio Prism, the Amer­i­can equiv­a­lent of a Mit­subishi Colt. I think that ex­ploded on me, too. To be hon­est, I’m sur­prised I’m still here: the ve­hi­cles I’ve had should have killed me by now,’’ he says.

Now, driv­ing the re­boot of one of the most iconic US TV shows of all time, O’Lough­lin is still tak­ing his chances.

The 34-year-old has al­ready had two US tele­vi­sion se­ries, Three Rivers and Moon­light, fail in their first year. He ad­mits he was brac­ing him­self to strike out on the small screen, three times un­lucky.

De­spite the early suc­cess of the new Five-O (pulling a solid US au­di­ence of 14.2 mil­lion­plus on de­but in May), you get the feel­ing O’Lough­lin is not go­ing to leave them won­der­ing this time around.

‘‘ If those cars didn’t kill me, this show will,’’ he says, only half-jok­ing.

That’s the first thing you’ll no­tice about O’Lough­lin’s Steve McGarrett ver­sus the debonair orig­i­nal, Jack Lord: he gets phys­i­cal. And how.

Throw­ing him­self into the role, with the ac­tion amped up to the crash-bang stan­dards of TV view­ers to­day, this is McGarrett, full-throt­tle.

And as fe­male fans have come to ap­pre­ci­ate, he cer­tainly has the body for the job.

Al­though he re­cently showed off his sen­si­tive side on the big screen, op­po­site Jen­nifer Lopez in rom-com The Back-up Plan, it was O’Lough­lin’s po­ten­tial as an ac­tion hero that at­tracted the show’s ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Peter Lenkov.

‘‘ I’d met Alex a cou­ple of years ago on an­other project and felt that he could be a lead­ing man in the ac­tion genre but had never been tapped for that world,’’ Lenkov says. ‘‘ I needed some­one who didn’t bring a lot of bag­gage from other roles, some­one who wasn’t iden­ti­fi­able to an­other fran­chise, ei­ther TV or film, so he could go in and re­ally make McGarrett his own.’’

With no less than the state of Hawaii and Lenkov’s fa­ther, a diehard fan of the orig­i­nal, to im­press, O’Lough­lin was de­ter­mined not to let ex­pec­ta­tion weigh him down.

‘‘ I’ve al­ways had the at­ti­tude that if it all goes to s---, I can just go home and do some­thing else. You can’t think too much about that stuff (ex­pec­ta­tion). You just have to go for it, do your best and hope it’s not ter­ri­ble,’’ he says.

It’s any­thing but ter­ri­ble, with the chem­istry be­tween O’Lough­lin and his on-screen off­sider, Danny ‘‘ Danno’’ Wil­liams, played by the charm­ingly un­fil­tered Scott Caan, pow­er­ing the show.

The En­tourage reg­u­lar (and son of film star James Caan) may have pulled most of the plau­dits and a Golden Globe

Is­land crime: Alex O’Lough­lin and Scott Caan in

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