With a trace of religion
Eric Close credits his faith for guiding him to the right path, writes Luaine Lee
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