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RODERICK MANN

A Gentleman And A Drac

December 07, 1985|RODERICK MANN

"If friends of mine see my name above this picture and go to see it, they'll probably sit there wondering 'Where the hell is Gossett? We don't see him.' " Louis Gossett Jr. has a point. Except for his height--he stands 6 feet, 4 inches--there is absolutely nothing recognizable about him in the new Wolfgang Petersen movie, "Enemy Mine" (opening Dec. 20). You can't even see his real eyes.

In this film by the celebrated director of "Das Boot," Gossett, who won an Oscar for "An Officer and a Gentleman," plays a Drac--an aggressive alien from another planet who gets stuck in outer space with an earthman (Dennis Quaid) and has to learn to get along with him. And for the movie, he sports a face even a mother might have difficulty loving. It's the look of a giant, scaly lizard suffering from gum trouble.

But if the makeup was murder to wear--and it was; the contact-lens snake eyes left his own eyes blood red every night--he had one consolation: He had never made so much money on a project in his life.

The movie began shooting in Iceland in April, 1984, under the direction of Richard Loncraine. After some months Loncraine was replaced by Petersen, who scrapped what had been shot and went off to scout new locations off the African coast. Quaid and Gossett stayed on salary. And shooting didn't start again until last December.

"Neither of us was complaining," said Gossett with a chuckle. Now he's crossing his fingers that this highly unusual film--it all takes place on a remote planet in space--will stimulate the enthusiasm of critics and audiences.

He'd hoped that after winning his Oscar, his price would soar and terrific projects would come his way. That didn't happen. "I thought I'd be able to write my own ticket," he said. "I was very disappointed."

But with "Enemy Mine" and his starring role in the coming Tri-Star film "Iron Eagle," directed by Sidney Furie, he is optimistic again.

"It's taken 32 years," he said with a laugh, "but now I feel I'm getting somewhere."

ENCOURAGEMENT: For seven years the stylish actress Michele Lee has been locked into the long-running CBS series "Knots Landing." This year, however, she gave up her hiatus to star, along with Ben Gazzara and Loni Anderson, in the remake of Joe Mankiewicz's Oscar-winning movie "A Letter to Three Wives," playing the role originated by Ann Sothern.

Sothern herself guest-stars in this NBC-TV movie (to air Dec. 16) and although she never commented on Lee's work during shooting, when the film was privately shown to them last month she let out a yell at one point: "Atta girl, Michele!"

Said Lee this week: "During shooting, someone asked me if I felt funny with her around while I was filming. I said I didn't--and that was true. So when she let out that yell in the darkened theater, I was really touched."

Lee, who before coming to California starred on Broadway in such musicals as "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "See-Saw," says she still thinks of herself as a theater person.

"Of course, New York actors think all of us who've gone over to television have sold out," she said. "Particularly when they learn how much money we're making. But I still get calls from people like Marvin Hamlisch, wondering when I'm going to be free to work in the theater again. That's encouraging."

Because she's been with "Knots Landing" for so long, she says, a lot of people don't even realize she can sing. But they remember back East, and today she flies to Washington to sing at the eighth annual Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday. Among the honorees are Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, and for them--and to them--she'll sing "Almost Like Being in Love" from "Brigadoon."

SYMBOLS: At last count the flamboyant Mr. T of "The A-Team" owned a collection of 400 necklaces, seven ankle chains, nine rings and seven earrings--valued at $250,000.

This jewelry, he claims, represents what he is--a high-priced slave. "The gold chains" he says, "are symbolic of my shackles."

FAR TO GO: British director Michael Powell ("The Red Shoes"), who recently turned 80 and whose last post was as a sort of producer emeritus at Francis Coppola's Hollywood studio, is now at work on his autobiography.

He's finding it slow going: "Thus far I've written 400,000 words, and I'm not even up to 1950."

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