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THEATER

Just Try to Shut Him Up

John Leguizamo speaks his mind: on stage (in his one-man 'Freak' show), offstage--heck, even when he can't talk.

May 31, 1998|Patrick Pacheco | Patrick Pacheco is a regular contributor to Calendar from New York

Q: You do a pretty good woman, especially the character based on your mom. Did you always have that sort of ease, for the lack of a better term, with your female side? It's given hope to a lot of gay men that you might be bisexual.

A: Thank them for the offer. I take it in great pride. If I was gay, I would be the gayest man alive. When I did "Mambo Mouth" and the female character, Manny the fanny [a transvestite], I went downtown to the Meat market and interviewed (very corny, I had a pad and everything and a tape recorder) and would talk to them and ask them about their lives and this and that. And I went home, and I would try to imitate what they told me.

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Q: Your ease with gay issues is unusual, especially for a Latino. Did this come from your gay, theater-loving uncle who is one of the very few positive images in "Freak"?

A: Yeah, you learn that gay people don't affect your straightness. If you're straight, then how is some other person's preference going to endanger you? It's so damn stupid. And most gay people are super intelligent and creative and contributors to our culture and collective psyche. And I learned that from my Uncle Sanny who gave me a chance to rechannel my self-destructiveness into something which brought me success and power.

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Q: In future theatrical ventures, will you continue to use personal adventures and traumas? Are we likely to hear about your brief marriage and divorce? Your relationships with women in your life right now?

A: Aha! That is the future. I'm going to write the most incredible movie I have ever been in for myself. Like I did with my one-man shows. From off-off-off -Broadway to Broadway to film. That's my next quest, my next challenge.

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Q: Among your future projects for your production company is the development of a film script by Frank Whaley called "Pleasant View Avenue" and the bio-pic of Mexican bandleader Juan Garcia Esquivel, a musical touchstone of the '60s. What's the appeal of those stories for you?

A: Frank Whaley's script touched me where I live. The story of two little brothers I could relate to with messed-up parents on their way to becoming damaged goods. Could have been my story. And his writing is something I could never approach for precise simplicity. So that's the kind of things we're going to do. Things we feel passionate about. Be it cartoons, TV, independent, big budget. Passion is the criteria.

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"Freak," Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St., New York. Ends July 4. (212) 239-6200.

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