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Actor Stern Prefers Journeyman Status


The differences between working actor and star are enormous, but there is at least one performer who prefers journeyman status to stardom.

He is Daniel Stern, 33, who plays one of the bungling burglars in the current smash hit "Home Alone."

Tall, gangly and youthful, the 6-foot-4 Stern has played top supporting roles in 30 movies in the past 11 years--more films than Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman combined.

But most moviegoers would have difficulty putting the name with the face, and Stern wouldn't have it any other way.

His first picture was "Breaking Away," after which he appeared in "Diner," "Stardust Memories," "Blue Thunder," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "The Milagro Beanfield War" and "Coupe De Ville," to name a few.

The titles probably won't jog memories in identifying the rangy actor with the curly red hair and blue eyes. The important thing is that people who make movies know very well who he is and bid avidly for his talents.

Stern earns a fraction of what they pay major stars these days, but he doesn't give finances top priority.

To begin with, he prefers the longevity of character acting to the risky business of stardom. Too often a supernova today is a black hole tomorrow.

"The big thing is being able to play so many roles, three or more a year," he said in an interview.

"And I don't worry about a public image that might interfere with a part I want to play. I don't have an image. People snap their fingers when they see me, but they don't identify me with any role. I'm not beholden to a pre-conditioned public.

"I can't tell my agent I won't play a heavy in a kid movie because it doesn't fit my persona. I play good guys, bad guys, psychos, everything.

"Stars are concerned with billing. I don't have that kind of ego in a business raging with self-importance. It doesn't matter how I'm billed. The work is what counts, not the credit."

He also is free of the burden of carrying a picture. Critics and studio chiefs don't blame him if a movie fails.

Warren Beatty catches hell for a disaster like "Ishtar," and Jack Nicholson takes it on the chin for the failure of "Two Jakes."

"Sometimes I'd like to bear that responsibility," said the personable Stern, who grew up in the Washington area and now lives in Northern California with his wife and three children.

"Stars usually play roles that are the most fun to act. When I read a script starring an A Team young leading man like Tom Berenger or Kevin Costner, I'm looking at a lesser role.

"Stars have an advantage using a familiar persona to bring power to their roles. On the other hand, the audience doesn't have a preconception of how I will play my character.

"I tried playing leads in low-budget pictures," Stern said. "They weren't the best scripts. When I saw the pictures, I felt there was just too much of me. I got sick of seeing myself.

"With a better script and a better director, I might have been able to score more points.

"Not being a star has allowed me to work with some great directors: Woody Allen, John Badham, Peter Yates, John Schlesinger, Barry Levinson and Robert Redford. That's an exciting part of being a working actor."

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