“All you need,” said Steve Guttenberg, “is the luck to find a producer with a little imagination, one who’ll give you a chance. For me, it was Dino.”
Dino De Laurentiis is the movie maker who picked Guttenberg--sometimes described as “the James Stewart of the ‘Police Academy’ set"--and starred him in the new romantic-thriller “Bedroom Window,” despite the initial doubts of executive producer Robert Towne and director Curtis Hanson.
They believed that nothing Guttenberg had done--"Diner,” the “Police Academy” series--suggested he was right for the role of a rising young Baltimore architect. Some critics still maintain they were right, but Guttenberg, 28, got his chance and the movie may prove a watershed for him.
Hair trimmed short, dressed by Giorgio Armani, the new, improved Guttenberg finds himself winning a whole new audience with this movie, people who would not have crossed a quiet street to see him in his earlier films.
“You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to make a film like ‘Bedroom Window,’ ” he said. “But it wasn’t offered me. The films I’ve done were the only kind I could get. It’s not easy to change people’s ideas of what you can best do.”
Sure that he was right, and that Guttenberg’s Everyman quality would bring credibility to the role, De Laurentiis invited Hanson and Towne to meet him in his mansion.
“We had drinks first in his den, which is the size of Bullock’s, and then moved on to dinner in a room that looked like the Superdome. I knew they weren’t sure about me--a lot of people in this town are skeptical of my ability to be a serious actor--but fortunately it all went well.”
The part in his pocket and Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth McGovern cast opposite him, Guttenberg reveled in his role of a man who, after making love to his boss’s wife, becomes involved in a web of suspicion after she witnesses an assault outside his window.
“Right from the start, I was convinced it was a good story,” said Guttenberg.
This is the first time, he said, that he has read all his reviews.
“I’ve never done that before--basically because when they’re good your head swells and when they’re bad it shrinks. And I don’t want to wind up with a lot of stretch marks. When a film is released you’re really vulnerable, you know. You walk in to a store to buy some pants and you’re convinced the salesman has just read the most terrible review about you.”
Clearly, a lot of young actors would be happy to have been in such hit movies as “Diner,” “Police Academy” and “Cocoon.” And Guttenberg said he is grateful for them.
“But they did give everyone the impression they were the only kind of movies I could do. Now, if enough people in the industry see ‘Bedroom Window,’ that will all change.”
So Guttenberg is keeping his hair trimmed these days, and if he’s not parading around in Armani suits, at least he looks trim and groomed.
When he was starting out 10 years ago, he faked his way onto a studio lot, commandeered an office and called casting agents recommending that they see “this talented actor.”
It got him going and he can still do a good job of selling himself. Perhaps because of it, he is now wary of the hard sell from others.
“It’s because Allan Carr is such a great salesman that I ended up in ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ (the 1980 disco-inspired bomb),” he said. “There I was in the ocean having a nice time and all of a sudden along came this huge Allan Carr wave and swept me away. I did that film for all the wrong reasons; I didn’t even read the script properly.”
Since making “Bedroom Window,” Guttenberg has finished “Surrender” with Michael Caine, directed by Jerry Belson.
He liked Caine.
“He’s such a stable person. He gardens, cooks, does all sorts of things to stop himself thinking about the next part.
“I listened to everything. Then I went home and planted some tulips. And you know something? He was right. When they came up, I felt quite a sense of achievement.”
Like every young actor, Steve Guttenberg is in a hurry to get there. He wants more and he wants it now.
“I talked to Michael about that too. He told me that when he was a struggling actor, he used to get terribly depressed to see how well someone like Robert Redford was doing. Then one day, some older actor reminded him of the tale of the tortoise and the hare. ‘Just keep going,’ he said. And that man was right. That’s what you’ve got to do.”