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PALM LATITUDES

The Biz

June 30, 1991|Sheldon Teitelbaum | Edited by Mary McNamara

Magician Christopher Hart delivers a performance that film critics may characterize as dead from the wrist up. In Barry Sonnenfeld's pcoming feature version of "The Addams Family," he appears opposite Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd as a disembodied hand known affectionately as Thing.

"For this," says Hart, who performs regularly in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Los Angeles' Magic Castle, "I had to join SAG."

Hart, 30, is not complaining. Thing is a plum part, requiring more than mere manual dexterity. Hart has to hold down scenes with some of the best in the business. At his audition, he was called upon to create the kind of presence with his hand that some actors are hard pressed to establish with their entire bodies.

"They wanted to see a full range of emotions," recalls Hart, "including happiness, sadness, mischievousness and urgency. It was an acting role. I was asked to give Thing personality." In the first draft of the script, Thing's personality left a lot to be desired. "They had him running around with a mirror, sneaking peeks at the villainess's garter belt," Sonnenfeld says. "He matured with each draft, eventually becoming a full-fledged character."

Although it would be a coup, Hart fosters few illusions about his winning a supporting actor's Oscar at next year's Academy Awards. But he wants to "keep a hand in" the business, possibly in special effects.

"It's the next level up for a film magician. My mind works in terms of projecting effects to the audience," he says. "So I can readily understand what the effects people are going for."

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