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So, Mike, Any Truth to All Those Stories? : Movies: Myers, the star of 'Wayne's World' and 'So I Married an Axe Murderer,' says it's his commitment to the work, not ego, that's created a 'he's-hard-to-work-with' rap.

July 26, 1993|JOE RHODES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Mike Myers has a noticeable tic, a tendency to tap his fingers, the speed of the drumbeats accelerating in direct proportion to the degree of discomfort he's feeling. His fingers, at the moment, are moving like a hummingbird's wings.

Sitting in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he's spent the day promoting his second feature film, "So I Married an Axe Murderer," Myers has just been asked about the unflattering stories that have been circulating about him for months.

Stories have been printed about screaming matches with directors and producers that marred the making of "Axe Murderer," which opens Friday. It was also reported, and later denied by both, that Myers and Dana Carvey were at odds during the making of "Wayne's World," the 1992 mega-hit that catapulted Myers from the ensemble security blanket of "Saturday Night Live" into the glaring scrutiny that goes with being a movie star.

So, Myers is asked, why is Hollywood saying his ego is out of control?

"It's because I won the lottery," Myers says, referring to his sudden leap of fame. "There are always two questions when anybody wins the lottery: 'Is he a nice guy?' and 'Is he gonna quit his job?' "

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Myers has no intention of quitting his job, planning to return to the "Saturday Night Live" cast after "Wayne's World II" wraps around Labor Day. But the "nice guy" question seems less cut-and-dried, particularly in light of recent remarks by "Wayne's World" director Penelope Spheeris, who told The Times the reason she chose not to direct the sequel was because "I just didn't have a good experience with Mike."

And "Axe Murderer" director Thomas Schlamme, while saying that some reports of conflicts on the San Francisco set between him and Myers have been exaggerated, admits that "Mike is a difficult personality."

"He was under a lot of pressure and had a lot of commitment and passion about what he wanted to do and sometimes that made it very difficult to work," Schlamme says. "But the bottom line was that both Mike and I were trying to make the best movie possible and in the end I think that's all that really matters.

"I'm not trying to sugarcoat this. I'm not trying to tell you that every morning we were hugging and dancing and having the best time of our lives. This was a very hard movie to make. But the notion that after Mike did 'Wayne's World' he turned into this demon has been blown out of proportion.

"Mike told me a very telling thing one time in the heat of a passionate discussion, which could have been described as an argument. He said, 'And the other thing is, people think that I've changed. The fact of it is, I've always been like this.' "

"Like this," according to crew members, means a willingness on Myers' part to argue loud, long and vehemently about any point he believes will affect his appearance on screen, whether it's dialogue, direction or the positioning of props. Those high-intensity arguments were frequent during the filming of "Axe Murderer," making Myers a less-than-popular figure on the set.

"I'm very passionate about my work. I care a lot," says Myers, who acknowledges there were disagreements during filming, but insists that he, Schlamme and producer Robert Fried agreed "90% of the time."

"We're talking about sensitive, passionate people arguing the last 10%," he continues. "We were all very passionate. Some people misinterpreted my passion as insanity.

"I pose this question. If somebody is passionate only about being better and it's done in a non-abusive way, but there's a disagreement, then it's up to them to interpret that as being difficult or being collaborative. In my opinion, that's collaborative. There was a very high level of honesty and openness on that set. If people interpret that as being difficult, then I can't do anything about that.

"And, in a weird way, what people think of me once I've made my feelings known is kind of none of my business."

Producer Fried, while also downplaying the amount of discord on the set, says he believes that Myers was under particularly intense pressure because he was not only the above-the-title star (playing two roles: an aspiring beat poet who's afraid of marriage and his crusty 60-year-old Scottish father), but had also undertaken major revisions of the script. "The logistics were very difficult for him," Fried says. "It's hard to write and star at the same time."

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