"Playing the Heavy"
In the movie Ed Wood, Ed washes up in a Hollywood bar for a miraculous chat with his idel, Orson Welles. The audience is about as amazed as Ed, trying to figure out whether that corpulent gentleman is actually Welles or a Forrest Gump-style computer simulation of him. That it's Vincent D'Onofrio wouldn't be on the tips of many tongues. In his two most startling performances, here and (what seems an actor's lifetime ago) in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, he inhabits the roles so throughly you can't take your eyes off his body, much less remember his name. For Jacket, his first film, he gained forty pounds to play a hapless marine recruit, his newly fatted ass quivering with each fresh assault. (Sarge to Vince: "I will gouge out your eyeballs and skull-fuck you.") D'Onofrio regained the weight to play Welles--forty pounds for one two-minute scene. "I didn't want anyone else to get the part," he says. "and that's what I figured I had to do to get it."
Raised in Brooklyn, D'Onofrio has that wary soft-spokenness we associate with an older generation of Itelian American actors willing to go to extremes. "Most Hollywood actors are lazy and boring and living in delusional worlds," he says. Even a D'Onofrio comedy is serious. In this year's The Ox and the Eye, he and Gregory Hines (talented and nondelusional, in his book) play disabled ex-jocks battling a white-water river. Easier to picture is his new Strange Days, a portrait of a nightmare L.A. patrolled by D'Onofrio, a nighmare L.A. cop.
"I don't want to sound arrogant," the actor says, "but when it comes to the work, I'm there for most anything." That would include the metaphysical hazards of mixing acting with real life in three collaborations with the exquisite Greta Scacchi, now an ex-love and the mother of his child. Fires Within and Desire made good date videos, but The Player was cynical gold-D'Onofrio, the failed screenwriter, ending up facedown in a puddle, and Greta and Tim Robbins living happily ever after. Alas, a fine charactor actor has to be prepared to take the fall, whether he's fat or not. -- JOSEPH HOOPER
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