A roundtable chat with Kevin Pollak of “Middle Men”

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A highly entertaining character actor, stand-up comic, and now also a screenwriter and Internet talk show host, Kevin Pollak will nevertheless remain forever in the shadow of three men. One is wise-guy crook Todd Hockney from Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer’s slambam 1995 debut, “The Usual Suspects” (currently at #24 of all-time most popular films on IMDb); the other two are, of course, William Shatner and Christopher Walken. So powerful are the Pollak impressions of these two men, I’d venture that when most of us attempt to impersonate either actor, we’re really not doing Shatner or Walken, we’re doing Pollak doing Shatner or Walken. (Though, personally, my extremely bad Christoper Walken is really a very bad impression of Kevin Spacey‘s Walken but, for all I know, Spacey got his from Pollak while shooting “Suspects.”). Indeed, I can remember a time when it seemed like nobody did Shatner and I’m pretty sure it was Pollak who kind of opened to door for all the other impressionists into the voice and mannerisms of the man Pollak calls “the Shat.”

Among the nearly 90 or more productions he’s been involved with as an actor, Kevin Pollak’s latest release is “Middle Men,” a black comedy-laced drama owing more than a little bit to Martin Scorsese. The film stars Luke Wilson as straight-arrow businessman Jack Harris who falls in with a pair of highly inventive cokeheads (Gabriel Macht and Giovanni Ribisi) and would be Internet porn kings during the late 1990s. The pair have developed the first really viable method for collecting money over the ‘net in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, things get massively complicated from there and Pollak turns up later in the film as an FBI agent who comes to Harris and his porn star girlfriend (Laura Ramsay) with a startling new reality. The film, co-written and directed by George Gallo, best known as the screenwriter of “Midnight Run,” is actually just part of an ongoing collaboration between the director and the actor-comic and now screenwriter.

As is often the case, I was one of a number of scribblers who were participating in a roundtable with Pollak during the “Middle Men” press day at L.A.’s Four Season’s hotel. Pollak arrived in a friendly but highly subdued mood. He was a late addition to the press day and obviously has been keeping very busy. Among many other projects, he had a new stand-up special ready premiering, and an increasingly popular podcast, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, with recent guests including Neal Patrick Harris and John Slattery of “Mad Men.”  Pollak frankly seemed a little tired at first, though going out of his way to be funny — because that’s what you expect from Pollak. Things perked up as it went.

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Hit and run

I’m a busy guy tonight, so let’s see how brief I can manage to be tonight with bits and pieces of movie news…

Ricky Gervais in * Ricky Gervais will be hosting the Golden Globes. I’m usually a one-award-show-yearly kind of a guy (and guess which show it is) but the fates and cool hosts like Gervais and Neal Patrick Harris are forcing me to actually watch more of the things.

* This post by Nikki Finke doesn’t really add much of anything new that I could see to a very good two week old L.A. Weekly piece about “coming out” PR specialist Howard Bragman, but it does underline the big changes that are surely coming in terms of how Hollywood, and the world, treats gay people.

* The Coen Brothers first ever real western — a new version of the not terribly critically or cinephile acclaimed 1969 John Wayne Oscar-winner, “True Grit” — may have a pretty high flying cast: Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are “in talks” to play bad guy and foil to Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn. Presumably Brolin is stepping into the role played by Robert Duvall, who was not quite famous a couple of years prior to “The Godfather,” while Damon will be playing the character first performed by my older sister’s all-time crush, singer-guitarist temporarily turned actor and TV variety host, Glen Campbell.

* A movie theater that serves samosas — that’s what I call movie going living, American Bollywood style.

Okay, that was pretty quick. Why can’t I do this every time?

  

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