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Why Is Jason Patric Still An “Outsider”?

January 21, 2014

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Twenty years ago when I was writing for Entertainment Weekly, we published a cover story with the line, “Why Isn’t Jason Patric a Star Yet?” Even more pointedly, the piece—penned by future EW head honcho Jess Cagle—asked “Who the hell is Jason Patric?” and answered, “with only marginal argument, Hollywood’s best actor under 30.”  I’m not sure that was true, but he was inarguably the most pretentious: To play his lead role in the legendary Western flop Geronimo: An American Legend, for which he was being featured, Patric explained, “I have to find the brown part of me, and the black part, and the white part that yellows at the edge…You sequence them…and that sequence makes its own sort of music.”

It was the beautiful music he made with Julia Roberts, who pulled a runaway-bride act and ditched Kiefer Sutherland at the altar in favor of Patric in the summer of 1991, that had briefly made Patric a household name. He had ditched his surname, Miller, to distance himself from his father, That Championship Season playwright/The Exorcist actor Jason Miller. His relationship to his maternal grandfather, Jackie Gleason, was even more distant. Patric didn’t want the media attention; he wanted to be known for his work (well, some of it—he dissed Solarbabies and The Lost Boys), and he’d given impressive performances as a punch-drunk ex-boxer in After Dark, My Sweet and a smack-addicted undercover cop in Rush. “I hate doing interviews and stuff like that,” he told EW. “I also hate people who say they hate doing interviews. It’s all self-promotion. Five percent is the movie and the rest is people selling themselves, in their living rooms, smiling, with their personal life…Celebrity is an occupation unto itself, one which, frankly, I don’t want to be a part of.”

imagesHis wish soon came true: His celebrity ship sailed with the disastrous decision to replace Keanu Reeves in the water-logged ocean-liner sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control. Sandra Bullock’s career hit the rocks as well—Hope didn’t Float, Practical was less-than-Magical, Forces of Nature blew and movie audiences remained Gun Shy—but she recovered a few years later with the winning Miss Congeniality. The title of Patric’s next role proved prophetic: He went Incognito, earning little attention for The Alamo (which no one remembered), Walker Payne, Expired and Downloading Nancy. True, he won a few minor critics’ awards for convincingly embodying a creep in Neil LaBute’s Your Friends and Neighbors and he attempted to recpature some of the gritty grandeur of Rush with Narc, but most of his movies could be summed up by the title of his 2010 bomb The Losers.

Now Patric’s back with another aptly monikered flick: The Outsider. That perfectly describes his standing in the Hollywood community these days. Although he’s given top billing for the film’s U.S. release (it’s already available on VOD and hits theaters on Feb. 7), the painfully generic movie’s true star is British hooligan Craig Fairbrass, a kind of poor man’s Jason Statham—with whom he costarred in The Bank Job, one of the few Fairbrass films American audiences are likely to have seen, along with Sly Stallone’s Cliffhanger. Fairbrass and director Brian A. Miller cowrote the script, about an English tough guy who travels to L.A. to find his missing daughter and crosses a burnt-out L.A. cop (Patric, phoning it in) and a crime boss (James Caan, faxing it in).

Will Patric ever get his mojo back? Not likely. I saw him on Broadway a few years ago in a revival of That Championship Season (opposite the once-cuckolded Sutherland, ironically, as well as the vastly superior Brian Cox, Chris Noth and Jim Gaffigan), and Patric gave easily the worst performance in the ensemble, overplaying the bitter drunkard; it almost felt like he was flipping off his late father. And his next film sounds like a virtual remake of The Outsider: The Prince concerns a crime boss who’s searching for his missing teenage daughter. It’s also directed by Miller (Brian A., that is, not Jason) and costars Bruce Willis, John Cusack and 50 Cent—at least two of whom seem to have given up trying to be serious actors a decade or so ago. Forget The Lost Boys: Jason Patric has become a lost man.

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