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INT: Michael Vartan

May. 12, 2005by:

Actor Michael Vartan is best known for playing Agent Vaughn in the acclaimed TV spy drama "Alias". This week he switches gears as he stars alongside Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda in the romantic comedy MONSTER-IN-LAW, opening this Friday. Though hes most famous for his TV work, French-born Vartan is no stranger to the big screen. Previous credits include roles in NEVER BEEN KISSED, ONE HOUR PHOTO and THE PALLBEARER. It was on the latter film's set that he first met producer J.J. Abrams, the man who would later give him is big break with "Alias".

Vartan stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week to talk about his experience making MONSTER-IN-LAW. Though Id rather eat glass than spend ten minutes in a room with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez, Vartan had nothing but good things to say about his co-stars. Hes a better man than I. Check it out.


What attracted you to the project?

To be perfectly honest, it was Jane (Fonda) and Jennifer (Lopez). I read the script and it was one of the few romantic comedies that Ive read that I actually laughed. Cause a lot of times, romantic comedies are sweet and funny, but theyre never good until they hire fun actors to sort of bring the characters to life. This script was actually really funny, but ultimately it was the opportunity to work with Jane and Jennifer. Who could turn that down? I would have dressed up in a cucumber suit if they wanted me to.

Did you have to jump through hoops to get the role?

Not really. The director, Robert (Luketic) was a big promoter of mine. I met Jennifer to make sure that we didnt hate each otherit was a pretty smooth and non-stressful situation except when I got the part, I thought, Oh shit! Im gonna have to work with Jane and Jennifer now. (laughs)

Were you surprised at the amount of paparazzi that surrounded Jennifer Lopez?

I think shes so used to it now thatI was surprised at how calm she is about it. I guess she just understands its part of, you know, its the flipside of being that famous. There were a couple of times, thought they were so aggressive, I thought, Are these guys kidding? Of course people want to know and everyone digs into everyones private life, whatever. But there were times where I really felt like going over and just knocking a guy out.

What were they doing?

She was getting into her car and they were literally smashing themselves against the car with their lenses. And there were L.A. police on motorcycles there and they acted as if the cops werent even there, trying to get past them. It was just like, What the fuck are you guys doing? For a picture? Well, I guess if it sells for a quarter million, I have a couple of snapshots. (laughs) No. But like I said, shes used to it. But the thing that really impressed me about her was, when you get to know her on a personal lever, how down-to-earth she is. I dont know how she is in press conferences or interviews if I was her, I wouldnt tell anyone anything because theres been so much crap written about her and misquotes and invented stuff. I was lucky to get to know her as a person, and Im here to tell you that shes wonderful.

What was it like working with your director, Robert Luketic?

Great guy. To me, one of the qualities of a director is someone who can have a vision for his movie and direct the movie and direct the actors and all actors are so different. Whether its me, Jane or Jennifer, we all have our different way that we like to be talked to. For instance, I like line readings. Just tell me exactly how you want me to say the line. Im not offended; lets just get it on. Other people like to be more in the character. Robert was very good at finding how everyone liked to be talked to and he was very good at sort of being the chess master, and doing that with such a fun atmosphere on the set. Granted, we werent shooting an intense drama. It was easy to have a good time. Between takes we could kind of relax and laugh. To me thats the most important quality a director can have is if hes a nice guy, hes already won half the battle, because the whole set enjoys going to work and it creates a good atmosphere.

Was it important for you to play a character thats different from the one you play on Alias?

Yeah. Again, this movie was a great opportunity for me its the biggest film Ive been a part of and working with Jane and Jennifer, plus the exposure. But ultimately, the parts that I want to play are much darker and the kind of roles that I guess people dont really see me as being right for me yet, hopefully. But we all have a dark side and Vaughn--

He has a dark side.

No. Its TV. There are no dark moments TV, unless its on HBO and you can say fuck. (laughs) Its true. Ive noticed its amazing how much that one word truly affects things. And you wouldnt think about it and you wouldnt think its a big deal, cause its just one little four-letter word that is bleeped every time we say it. But it has a huge impact on the reality of scenes sometimes. Cause I know that when were doing scenes on Alias and someones mad at someone, Damnit Sidney! Its just not the same.

So you say F*ck on the DVD blooper reel.

Are you kidding? Thats all I say on the blooper reel. (laughs) I usually say that word when Im in the middle of a take that I dont like and I dont want them to use, so I just say f*ck and they have to cut. Thats how you protect yourself.

How important is it for you to keep one foot in the small screen and one in the big screen?

Its not important at all. I will go where the wind takes me. Ive been very lucky to be on a show that somehow has a cool factor, just based on the guest stars weve been lucky enough to work with. Cause you never really knowwe make the show and we like it, but you dont know if people like it or they dont. The ratings are weird its such an archaic system anyway but when you get people like Angela Bassett and Ethan Hawke and Ricky Gervais, these people must like the show. Theres gotta be some sort of cool factor about the show for these people to want to do it. I know that if Id just won a Golden Globe, I wouldnt go onwell, I wont say, but there are certain shows you know that as an actor whos just won a Golden Globe or been nominated for an Oscar, you wouldnt (do). So thats really flattering. But to get back to your question, which I havent answered at all, if its good, its good. I think the crossover now it happens all the time, whereas 10-15 years ago you were either a TV actor or a film actor.

Are you surprised at how successful "Alias" has been?

Thats the great thing and sort of the downfall of the show is that not that theres a downfall but its so hard to maintain that. I mean the pilot, to this day is one of the best hours of television that Ive ever seen. It was just so new and so different and that role was so fantastic. And Jennifer (Garner) just out of the box found that character immediately. Its hard to maintain that. Last year season three was the toughest on all of us.

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