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“Passion of Mind”: William Fichtner Interview

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., May 10, 2000 — Playing some of the most diverse supporting roles has won William Fichtner the attention of many critics, but the actor was ready for something new — like a romantic leading role.

He’s got one in “Passion of Mind,” playing opposite Demi Moore, making her onscreen return after three years. She plays a woman who lives two lives at once — one Marie, a mother of two in France, the other as Marty, single literary agent in New York City. One of the lives is just a dream (it begins when she goes to sleep), but both existences are so real, she can’t figure out which one it is.

Fichtner plays Aaron, the caring man who falls in love with her in New York and begins a tentative, fumbling courtship with her. Trouble is, in Marie/Marty’s other life, she’s fallen for a writer (Stellan Skarsgård).

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“I like going places, and truly it’s a new place for me,” says Fitchner of taking a leading romantic part. “Clearly, I think, Aaron was taken with her, and then began kind of a relationship of not really knowing where to go. I always thought from the character’s point of view, she’s a woman who’s truly a couple of notches up the ladder from where he hangs out. So it was kind of an exciting thing that they started off easy and developed into something really honest.”

Fichtner got his own start as Moore did — in soap operas. He spent six seasons on “As the World Turns” before turning up in bit parts in “Malcolm X” and “Quiz Show.” He balanced this with a recurring role on the sitcom “Grace Under Fire” as Brett Butler’s love interest. The following year, however, Fichtner began getting steady work, appearing in four films in 1995: “Virtuosity,” “Reckless,” “Strange Days” and “Heat.”

Fichtner’s breakthrough is considered to be a small part in “Albino Alligator,” Kevin Spacey’s 1996 directorial debut, as a slurring sociopath. Since then, he’s continued to give strong supporting turns in “Contact” (as Jodie Foster’s blind colleague), “Armageddon” (as the asteroid-destroying mission leader) and “Go” (as an undercover narcotics officer). Despite his sizeable role in “Passion of Mind,” Fitchner doesn’t mind staying in the background, as long as the role is juicy enough.

“I’m not interested in trying to repeat myself,” Fichtner says. “Sometimes it’s just something there. … Oftentimes, my agent will give me a script and say, ‘Take a look at this role.’ And I’ll read it and say ‘No, that’s not the role. This is the role.’ ‘But that role’s half the size of this role.’ And I say I don’t care, I want this role.'”

Ficthner’s next film is “The Perfect Storm,” starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. “Passion of Mind” opens May 26.

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