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Peter Berg / Writer/director

November 29, 1998|STEVE HOCHMAN

Comedies don't get much darker than "Very Bad Things," the writing-directing debut from Peter Berg. Featuring Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater and others, it's about a bachelor party marred by, well, very bad things, and launches Berg, 35, into the world of twisted auteurism as he leaves CBS' "Chicago Hope" after this season.

THE MORAL IS: "I feel pretentious talking about messages or morals. First and foremost, my interest is in entertainment, though I do see ["Very Bad Things"] as a tale of karma that does deal with morality. People are held accountable for their sins."

INTO THE DARK: "The point where I feel the bar was raised--or lowered, depending on point of view--was when I saw [the Coen brothers'] 'Blood Simple.' That was my first sense of a new willingness to push things further perhaps than had been expected by the industry."

AUTEURS: "The ability to truly create and execute their own vision is what I admire in directors. Spike Lee is still inspiring. Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Boogie Nights' was extraordinary. Neil LaBute, Ben Stiller, the Farrelly brothers, Don Roos who did 'The Opposite of Sex,' any of these aggressive writer-directors are all ones to watch."

NON-AUTEURS: "If you look at the films made for more than $25 million, very few seem to be made by writer-directors. That's where you get into committees. Look at Mimi Leder and Michael Bay--solid filmmakers, but they're not writing their own stories. They're hired guns. Very accurate shooters, but hired guns."

SCREEN TIME: "One thing about making 'Very Bad Things' was finding actors I think are underutilized, like Jeremy Piven and Leland Orser, who were itching to get a break. There are many brilliant actors slugging it out every day in three-line roles in episodes of 'NYPD Blue,' 'ER' or 'The X-Files.' "

CLINICAL MATTERS: "I'm creating a TV show for ABC about Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. It's not for me to act in, but I had a thought that there could be a pretty interesting show about this world, discussed it with some people and all of a sudden I'm locked in a ward on Floor 19 interviewing serial killers."

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