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Kozlowski Snaps Back

February 21, 1988|RODERICK MANN

Linda Kozlowski is alive and well and living in a small rented house in Studio City.

Linda who ?

Think hard. You saw " 'Crocodile' Dundee"--right?--that lightweight piece of Australian nonsense that went right through the box-office roof. Kozlowski is the actress who played straight man--straight woman?--to Paul Hogan's wryly humorous crocodile hunter.

Now you've got it.

But what happened to her? " 'Crocodile' Dundee" was almost 18 months ago. Paul Hogan keeps cropping up in those come-to-Australia TV commercials when he's not busy counting his money from the hit (as its biggest investor, he walked away with a reported $40 million).

But Kozlowski--recommended for the movie by Dustin Hoffman, who admired her work in his Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman" and who garnered good reviews for the picture--just seemed to disappear.

Usually an actress who has been in a movie that easily tops the $100-million mark crops up again all too quickly. Why not Kozlowski?

"Because I've been choosy," she said the other day, relaxing in her living room, which features a 7-foot wooden crocodile she brought back from New Guinea. "After ' "Crocodile" Dundee,' I turned down lots of stuff, most of it where I'd play the girlfriend of some funny man. If you don't believe me, look over there"--she pointed to a basket beside the fireplace.

Sure enough, beneath the Duraflame logs was a pile of scripts.

"I use them for kindling, to get the fire started," she said. "That's about all they're good for. I was getting very depressed, but finally something good did come along--'Pass the Ammo.' That's been a long time coming out, but now there's a release date."

"Pass the Ammo," a black comedy about TV evangelists directed by David Beaird and starring Kozlowski, Tim Curry, Annie Potts and Bill Paxton, is set for release March 4.

Two months later, she will be seen in " 'Crocodile' Dundee 2," in which she reprises her role as Sue Charlton, the New York journalist who gets romantically involved with "Crocodile" Mick Dundee.

When Hogan was asked about a sequel after the opening of the first movie, he said: "If we can't come up with a story that's even better than this one, I won't do it. I don't have to."

Has he?

"I think so and so does he," said Kozlowski. "He thinks it will do even better business than the first one. It's funnier, for one thing, and there's a better plot. But he's still the same innocent guy in the story."

Hogan, of course, must have been surprised by the huge success of the first movie?

"He wasn't," said Kozlowski. "Not at all. He was sure it was going to be a huge hit. Just after it opened, we'd hear people in the industry forecasting what they thought it would do, and he would just mutter to me under his breath, 'Five times that.' "

So will there be a " 'Crocodile' 3"?

"No," she said. "However well this new one does, he says that's it. He doesn't want to do a third and I believe him."

Because " 'Crocodile' Dundee" came out in Australia before it opened here, Kozlowski found herself in the odd position of being feted and fussed over Down Under while she was still a total unknown here. "It was a bit like being Cinderella," she said. "In Australia, I'd be riding about in limos, whereas here I was still running around in my old Toyota trying to see casting directors."

Even when the movie did hit big here, she still didn't get much attention. It was, after all, Hogan's movie. Without him, most critics agreed, the picture would have been unremarkable.

"But I'll tell you where I was a big star," she said with a chuckle. "In Fairfield, Conn., where I grew up. My parents, Stanley and Helen Kozlowski, still live there, and when the movie opened they saw it again and again.

"What's funny is the local paper never referred to me as 'Linda,' always as 'Stanley's daughter.' It was 'Stanley's daughter says this . . .' and 'Stanley's daughter says that. . . .' "

Kozlowski, 29, attended Juilliard before getting her first stage role in "How It All Began" at the New York Public Theatre in 1981. Her big break came when she landed a 15-month run in the revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" in 1984. Encouraged by Dustin Hoffman, she moved to Los Angeles, stayed at his Malibu home as a guest for a while and then got the offer to do " 'Crocodile' Dundee."

Now, Kozlowski is delighted that her 18 months of relative obscurity are coming to an end.

"But it's still so hard finding scripts," she said with another glance at the basket by the fireplace. "It seems to me most writers are still indulging their fantasies when they write about women. In almost all those scripts, the girl is 27, beautiful, with a great career and dying to have sex. She's a Playboy version of what they think a girl should be.

"Can't you just see those writers sitting there at their typewriters, conjuring up their fantasies? I wish I had the chance to fling the scripts back at them and say: 'Nobody's like that. That girl only exists in your head.' But I know I'd be wasting my time."

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