Stephen Dorff is recalling the time Oliver Stone tried to fob him off. Stone was casting “World Trade Center”, looking for an actor to play the cop who finds Nicolas Cage buried alive in the rubble. Dorff wanted the part, but Stone wouldn’t give it to him. “He said, ‘Stephen, I like you, you’re a good actor, but you don’t look like a cop. You’re too cute.’” The actor was outraged. “Oliver,” he countered, “what are you talking about, man? I look like this now cos I’m not playing the part! If you give me the part, I’m gonna look completely different, I’m gonna sound completely different. That’s my job. Are you telling me that I can’t do my job?”
Dorff’s impassioned plea earned him a second audition. “So I really went for it,” the actor recalls. “I grew a moustache, got the Long Island accent down, and Oliver gave me the part. But the movie’s so dark – you can’t even tell it’s me!” He laughs: “But it was a turning point. I worked hard and I totally disappeared into the role. And I said to myself then, ‘I’ve gotta get back into this.’ Forget about taking a pay cheque to play a villain, I’ve done it. It’s dead. It’s boring. And I don’t wanna do it any more.’”
At just 37, Stephen Dorff is about to make his first comeback. His TV career began in the mid-80s, his film career in the mid-90s, when his artistic decline began almost immediately. No matter that he was the smart, sexy star of youth-orientated movies like the Beatles biopic Backbeat or co-starred with such heavyweights as Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine in Blood And Wine, by 1996 he was already in grade-Z genre fare with titles like Space Truckers and Quantum Project. Two years after that, he almost sealed his fate by playing the bad guy in vampire thriller Blade; it killed his career almost stone dead, and for a full decade – in which the only high point was a berserk John Waters comedy, Cecil B Demented – it seemed he’d never get a serious role again.
With Sofia Coppola’s new film Somewhere, however, Dorff is getting a second chance, much like the character he plays. More than a little similar to Coppola’s breakout film Lost In Translation, Somewhere is about a hotel, a girl and a father figure, although this time the father figure really is the girl’s father. Not that you’d know it. Played with heartbreaking sincerity by Dorff, Johnny Marco is a suburban lost boy wrapped up in a Hollywood star persona. He drinks too much, pops pills, screws any woman with a pulse, and has next to no interest in his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). But when his estranged partner leaves the preternaturally grown-up Cleo with him for a long weekend, Marco’s dormant conscience starts to stir.
Like Marco, Dorff comes with a lot of baggage, but he’s also very hard to resist. His pretty-boy, leading man face now bears a few more interesting character-actor lines, and his body language is alpha male but loose and friendly. He slouches in his seat, squints like Columbo when he’s thinking, and makes a lot of eye contact.
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