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G’Day in L.A.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paul Hogan walks into the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, very much the antithesis of his famous screen character, Crocodile Dundee.

Slight, soft-spoken and shy, Hogan isn’t dressed in Mick Dundee’s necklace of crocodile teeth or the well-worn black hat. Hogan’s white-blond hair is neatly combed, and he’s dressed casually in a sport jacket and pants. He looks much younger than his 60 years.

The Australian actor has resurrected Crocodile Dundee after a 13-year hiatus for a new comedy adventure, “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles,” which opens Friday. In this outing, Sue (Linda Kozlowski--Hogan’s wife) is temporarily assigned to the L.A. bureau of her father’s newspaper after the original bureau chief dies under mysterious circumstances. Mick is going through a bit of a slow period in the outback town of Walkabout Creek. Because it’s illegal to hunt crocodiles now, Dundee wrestles them for the tourists. So Mick and their 9-year-old son, Mikey (Serge Cockburn), decide to accompany Sue to Los Angeles. Mick, ever the wide-eyed innocent, encounters the rich, famous and infamous in Los Angeles.

Hogan got his start in Australian TV in the early ‘70s as comic relief on “The Current Affair” and was soon given his own comedy series, “The Paul Hogan Show.” He became a recognizable face in the U.S. in the early ‘80s for his series of commercials for the Australian Tourist Commission when he encouraged Americans to visit his country so he could “slip another shrimp on the barbie.”

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The first “Crocodile Dundee” movie became the sleeper hit of 1986 and earned Hogan a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical as well as an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. The film went on to gross $360 million worldwide. Two years later, Hogan starred in “Crocodile Dundee II,” which took in $250 million internationally. Both movies also starred Kozlowski, whom Hogan married in 1990. Hogan has also appeared in such films as “Almost an Angel,” “Lightning Jack” and “Flipper.”

Question: How do you and Mick Dundee make it through customs with all those knives? Surely not in carry-on luggage.

Answer: I carry them back and forth, not for personal use, but for props. So you don’t bring them in carry-on. Of course, when I come through customs all the guys say, “We better look through his luggage, there might be a knife in there.” I have got them in my suitcase, but they never look [in there].

Q: You and Linda are married; why did you decide not to have Mick and Sue married after all these years?

A: The two guys [Matthew Berry and Eric Abrams] who wrote the plot thought of that. They had both been previously married and they didn’t want to rush. It is fairly common in that environment [in the outback] for people not to be married.

Q: Was this sequel to “Crocodile Dundee” percolating for a long time?

A: I wasn’t going to do a sequel for years, and then I saw Harrison Ford being interviewed two years ago. They asked him if he would do another Indiana Jones movie and he said, “In a second.” That started me thinking.

Q: I was surprised you didn’t write this one.

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A: The screenwriting thing--I am the victim of the coming strike. Suddenly, after 28 years I stopped being a writer and became a producer as far as [the Writers Guild of America is] concerned. The producer is the natural enemy of the writer. [The WGA] said, ‘You did write the screenplay and you wrote all the dialogue and the jokes, but you didn’t change the plot by more than 50%, so you can’t get a credit.’ Anyone who ever saw the first two movies will know who wrote whatever comes out of anyone’s mouth, but because I didn’t change the plot and I am the producer, I was not credited as a writer.

All the incidents that are in it and the people who are in it are based on real life. It is my take on L.A., but I am not the writer. It is one of the mysteries of the union.

Q: Why did you decide to have Mick visit L.A.?

A: After I moved out of L.A. a few years ago, I just thought about L.A. and I said I’ll take him to L.A. because not only is it a weird and wonderful place, it is the most publicly known place. I couldn’t do “Crocodile Dundee in Vladivostok” because we don’t know any Vladivostok jokes. But L.A. is earthquakes and freeways. It is the entertainment capital. Everyone knows about that.

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Q: At the beginning of the film, Mick seems a bit bored with his life in Walkabout Creek.

A: Yeah. And the world has changed. It’s gotten faster and more sophisticated, but he hasn’t. Someone said to me, he was like a creature of the ‘80s. He was never a creature of the ‘80s, he was a creature of the ‘50s--maybe. He was always in a time warp.

Q: This movie is a bit more politically correct than the other two in the fact Mick no longer kills crocodiles and has taught his son not to kill animals for sport.

A: Yeah, he’s not killing crocodiles anymore. He used to kill crocodiles for the skin, but the responsibility of having a child has made him a bit more politically correct.

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Q: Did it take long to get back into Mick’s boots after being away from the character for 13 years?

A: It was just a matter of putting my hat on. We gave him a new hat--the older one had sewn-up tear marks. We didn’t bother changing his clothes, and his mind-set never has changed. His world was always where he stood--in the middle of New York or Tokyo. It is not a difficult character to bring back. I own him. I think the only other franchise where the actor owns the character is Sylvester Stallone and Rocky.

Q: Is Mick based on someone you know?

A: He was the bushy version of a character I did on television. [The original character] was an urban Australian. He was someone totally recognizable. There is one in every working-class pub. I started out that I was going to do him and then I decided to make him more of a bushy character.

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There was a real-life Crocodile Dundee or supposed to be. He just died in a gunfight with the police. This is a guy who became like Crocodile Dundee after the movie came out. He lived in the outback, had a book out and was a genuine bush character and then he really turned into Crocodile Dundee after the movie. The media [in Australia] determined that he was the one I had based the character on. It didn’t matter that I had never met him or talked to him. They decided that he was the real one. This guy had a bit of a [messed-up] life as the “real” Crocodile Dundee. He ended up on drugs, beat up his wife and died in a gunfight with the police. He killed a cop. I thought, how much proof do you want that he is not the real Crocodile Dundee?

Q: So are you already planning a fourth installment of “Crocodile Dundee”?

A: I am not planning a next one. I can’t say “never” because I said “never” for five years after the last one.

I am lazy. It’s so funny. I get a fair bit of flak in Australia. They say this movie is an attempt to revive my sagging career. In fact, I don’t have a career. It’s not sagging because it doesn’t exist. I virtually semiretired after the first “Crocodile Dundee.” I sort of work if I see something really interesting or looks like fun to do now and again and then I disappear. I will after this movie. You won’t see me at openings or premieres or you won’t read my golf score in the paper. I will just vanish off the face of the Earth.

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I live a very good life. I don’t talk about it too much because it is annoying for people who work for a living. I had real jobs. I worked in the blue-collar industry until I was 30. I worked on the Harbor Bridge in Sydney. I went to work on the bus and the train for the first six or eight years of [my working] life. So you will never hear me whining that my limo is running late.


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