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MOVIES : The New Land of Boz : Football wasn't big enough for Brian Bozworth, says sports agent Gary Wichard, but Hollywood is just the ticket

March 03, 1991|STEVE WEINSTEIN | Steve Weinstein is a regular contributor to Calendar.

For a while in the mid-'80s, Brian Bozworth was the most flamboyant, the most talked-about, the meanest, baddest college football player in the land. A linebacker for the always-powerful University of Oklahoma, he prowled the gridiron like the Terminator, poised to pulverize anyone dressed in the wrong color. He wore earrings, sported a blonde Mohawk and perfected a glare that would pierce armor. He pumped up his body with steroids, talked back to his coach, and scalded reporters' notebooks with his salty views of upcoming opponents.

Whether "The Boz," as he came to be known, was ever as good at football as he was at attracting attention is questionable, but in an era where style often ranks higher than substance, he pushed all the right buttons, and in the summer of 1987, he hit the jackpot. He signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks that made him the highest paid rookie in the history of professional football.

Was he worth it? Not on the field. He got beaten up so badly by those NFL guys that he limped away after just three injury-riddled seasons. But he still had his swaggering image, and where there's that, there's always Hollywood. Now, the Boz--with a continuing push from his friend, partner, agent and head cheerleader Gary Wichard--is about to emerge on the big screen. Coming soon to a theater near you: "Stone Cold," a $25 million biker-action movie--produced by Michael Douglas' Stone Group Pictures and distributed by Sony's Columbia Pictures--starring . . . Brian Bozworth.

"Brian became too big . . . for the world of football," says Wichard, whom Inside Sports magazine once dubbed "The Wizard of Hype in the Land Of Boz." "People weren't focusing on the game, they were focusing on his persona not living up to what his billing was. In football, we can't revise scripts. We can't have the hero make the big play every time. That's why I always had my eye on Hollywood. Everything I've done has been geared to having him transcend the world of sports and enter the world of films."

At 25, Bozworth is about to become "the biggest action film star in the world," Wichard predicts. Check that, the agent says, searching for the right hyperbole: "The biggest box office star, period."

How the 40-year-old Wichard, a former small college quarterback turned sports agent, managed to transform an eccentric, headline-hogging college football player into a millionaire NFL rookie and now a movie star is the stuff of the New American Dream: riches through notoriety.

Although Bozworth has the image, Wichard is actually the blow-harder of the duo. During interviews at his beachfront Santa Monica hotel, or hanging around on the movie set, Bozworth seems pretty low-keyed about the upwardly mobile twists and turns in his life. Far from the puffed-up lummox he is reputed to be, he is instead soft-spoken, open to criticism and speaks in complete sentences. Yeah, this is all great, he says--the money, the fame, the new career--but he'd really rather "be in Hawaii right now, just chillin' "That's my big thing," Bozworth says. "I enjoy being by myself and being quiet. I don't need to go out and get noticed and get my ego stroked. But Gary works hard at what he does and we made a commitment to each other to make each other successful. He does his part and I in turn do mine."

The making of "The Boz," the man recently honored as Action Star of Tomorrow by the National Assn. of Theater Owners, began when Wichard attended a University of Oklahoma football game and became mesmerized by No. 44 in Oklahoma's defensive alignment.

"I thought, 'This is one of those rare guys who can be larger than life,' " Wichard remembers. "Just the way he walked off the field, the way he pumped up the crowd. He was strutting his stuff. He was letting everyone know that he was in charge. It was an ego, a charisma that stars have. He had that thing like it was Richard Burton doing Hamlet and you're watching him all over the stage and you can't get your eyes off of him."

Wichard's dream was predicated on his belief that there was a glaring chasm in the world of action stars that Bozworth could bridge. All of Hollywood's big action heroes--Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, even Steven Seagal--are over 40, and everyone else who's hot--Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, James Spader, Charlie Sheen--look like boys to Wichard. "Even when he was 20 years old," Wichard says, "Brian had the body and the presence of a man."

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