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SUMMER SNEAKS

Cutting a figure in the big leagues

May 04, 2008|Lesley O'Toole | Special to The Times

Romany MALCO began a recent scorching Saturday at his "Love Guru" costar Jessica Alba's home and promptly attracted a rabid vehicular entourage. He had drawn the attention of the paparazzi -- but not for his own star power. The photographers had mistaken his passenger, Taryn Dakha, for Alba -- with good reason; she's her stunt double -- while not even noticing Hollywood's scene-swiping new comedy dynamo at the wheel.

If comedy remains king on the big screen, "The Love Guru," which opens June 20, will put Malco firmly in the royal court. Mike Myers' first film proper since 2003's "The Cat in the Hat," "Guru" reunites him with Verne Troyer ("Austin Powers' " Mini Me) and Justin Timberlake ("Shrek the Third"), who this time sports bulging underpants. Malco plays Darren Roanoke, a high school sweetie-toting hockey star who believes his own hype, strays with a supermodel and loses his gal to nemesis Jacques Grande (Timberlake). Guru Pitka (Myers) is summoned by the team owner (Alba) when her star's game goes off as a result.

Malco enjoyed making the film. Timberlake, he says, is "cool as hell. He's a superstar not by accident." Ditto Myers. But beyond that, the experience actually influenced his life and his future. "I met my fiancee on this film," he says of Dakha. "I'm a really philosophical guy, and I feel the universe does everything on purpose. But the first lesson I learned from Mike is follow your intuition and protect your art with your life."

The film also led to a new passion for Malco, who will be 40 in a few months but still looks 30.

It's 100-plus degrees in the Valley, though not inside the ice rink where the actor glides along in full hockey gear beside a visitor. "This is life-changing," announces the guy who'd never even been on skates six months ago (he came close as the non-skating choreographer in "Blades of Glory") but who now plays hockey obsessively. "There's a camaraderie with men who aren't affected by the industry. It's a good balance. And this exercise! I've lost 13 pounds, and when your legs get really skinny everything else looks so much bigger. Plus, I'm horny all the time."

Starring as Conrad Shepard on TV's "Weeds," this Brooklyn-born son of Trinidadian parents doled out more than green packages to Mary-Louise Parker's Nancy Botwin, although he has not returned to the show this season. "I don't know if my character was supposed to be as significant as he became, but there was unquestionably a chemistry with that woman!"

There was a different chemistry with Steve Carell's 40-year-old virgin, colorfully called out by Malco's sexually frank motor-mouth, Jay. The 2005 role did for Malco what "Weeds" apparently could not. "The minute I auditioned for Judd Apatow, it all kind of changed," he says. Indeed, on this day he is riding the opening weekend success of "Baby Mama," in which he adds comic edge to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's gentler humor.

But even as his profile grows, Malco seeks balance; he's at once conflicted and focused. "I love my job, but the bummer is the transparency." His refuge? Kayak fishing and horseback riding on his 65-acre farm in Brazil.

"My only master plan is to marry my fiancee and have some damn kids. I don't think I've had time to establish a pattern or be labeled as anything other than the funny black guy. But I'll take that."

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