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SHIRTING THE ISSUE : Alexander Godunov Makes His Presence Known in Classically Handsome Shirts

July 17, 1988|Mary Rourke | Mary Rourke is a Times staff writer

WHEN ALEXANDER GODUNOV walks into a room, people stop talking, but it isn't because of his outfit. The man has presence. And he likes to play with it. He'll stand disarmingly close and look directly into your eyes, but later you find out that he does that to everybody. Or he'll concentrate so intensely that you'd swear he never learned to smile. Then out of nowhere, he'll crack a joke, often about himself. All this would come across no matter what he was wearing. He has a sort of uniform: white sneakers, tailored pants and conservative shirts that would be bland except for one thing: He often unbuttons them halfway to his waist to reveal a Russian cross on a gold chain. "The perfect shirt is the one that fits you," he says. "I don't mean that it's the right size. It has to make you feel comfortable." Sometimes he buys 40 at a time, all alike. "Otherwise I can't find them when I want them," he explains. To find even one he wants, he goes through dozens. While other men are trying out oversize or bold-patterned styles, Godunov wears only man-tailored shirts. He left the "poetic" look behind when he defected from the Soviet Union and the Bolshoi Ballet nine years ago. "Acting is more interesting and challenging to me now," he says. His latest role came to him at a Hollywood party. "I bumped into a producer and he asked, 'Would you like to play a bad guy?' I said, 'Why not?' " It's called "Die Hard," and Godunov plays a terrorist. It's different from previous roles as an Amish farmer in "Witness" or as the straight man to Shelley Long in "The Money Pit." "It's important for an actor to change, and the audience wants to see change," he says. Trying new things means that ballet is now part of Godunov's past. But he still does the exercises, obviously. Grooming: Eric Barnard/Cloutier; styling: Joanna Dendel

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