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WHEN A TEEN IDOL TRIES TO BREAK AWAY

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jason Bateman is prime teen idol material. The 21-year-old regular of NBC’s “The Hogan Family” is dreamboat cute, and teeny-boppers around the country tune into the popular sitcom every Monday evening at 8:30 to gaze at his baby blue eyes.

But Bateman doesn’t want to be a teen dream and has refused to become fodder for teen magazines.

“Two, three and four years ago, those magazines were pounding at my door,” Bateman said. “I constantly ran away from them. Still, they used existing art and took quotes and excerpts from other interviews, so there was some exposure in them. Being a teen-ager and on a situation comedy kind of puts you in that bracket, but I don’t feel like I am a Kirk Cameron or a Scott Baio. After this series makes its initial run, hopefully the transition to adult actor will be easy. I expect it to.”

Bateman took his first adult steps at 19 when the producers let him direct an episode of “The Hogan Family,” thus becoming the youngest person ever admitted to the Director’s Guild. Bateman also directed an episode this season.

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“I don’t know if I want do to any more episodes,” he said, between tosses of his football in his dressing room. “It’s a lot of extra work, and you can’t concentrate on your own acting bit. I’m real interested in growing as an actor. I would like to take the steam I have built up here and push toward doing some acting, as opposed to just performing (on a series).”

Bateman hopes his new feature film, “Sketches,” due for release later this year, will help him break out of the sitcom mold. He plays a young man with leukemia who drives across the country with two friends.

Despite acting since he was 10, Bateman insists that he had a normal childhood. The majority of his friends are former high school buddies. Though one of his good friends, he said, is an actress-big sister Justine, who played Mallory on the long-running series, “Family Ties.”

“On the whole, I pretty much dislike most actors,” he said. “This business can be kind of cheesy at times, and I am real thankful I have real people in my life.”

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These “real” people, Bateman said are “surfers-broke surfers who paint houses and build houses.”

And they all hang out at Bateman’s house. “I have a roommate now who is my best friend,” he said. “There’s a full court basketball in the living room and a pool table in the dining room, so it’s pretty nice. There’s a satellite dish on the roof and a 60-inch TV set. There’s poker nights on Tuesday. It’s a very normal 21-year-old life.”

When he’s not acting, Bateman participates in several sports, including auto racing. “I did the Long Beach Toyota Grand Prix two years ago and won it on my first year,” he said proudly. “I really enjoy and respect driving. It’s not something I have been recognized for, and it was a new experience. I jumped into it and got lucky.”

Bateman also jumped into golfing last year and after one lesson is shooting in the 90s. “It’s like car racing,” he said. “It’s just you and the ball. It was so aggravating because it was so difficult. I’m the type of guy who picks up sports like boom! I couldn’t get this one, and then I finally started to play it well. Now I am a member of a country club.”

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But he said don’t expect him to go Hollywood. “I’ve done my share of telethons. I just think it’s sort of a cliche to jump on this big trendy bandwagon and stand behind some thing that a lot of people don’t know anything about,” he said. “I have so many things better to do with my weekends, like playing basketbaal with my high school friends. It’s so much more important to me than running around with the paparazzi on Saturday or Sunday. Acting is my job, which I love and respect, but it’s not my lifestyle.”


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