- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

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In the new film "15 Minutes, " Kelsey Grammer departs from his beloved television character, Frasier Crane. The 46-year-old actor portrays an urbane, charming but unethical journalist who broadcasts footage of a friend´s murder at the hands of two Russian serial killers.

Written and directed by John Herzfeld and co-starring Robert De Niro and Edward Burns, "15 Minutes" is an unpredictable and bloody police thriller that careens at a manic clip. The polite, soft-spoken Mr. Grammer recently discussed the film in a chic Manhattan hotel suite.

Q: Your character in this movie, the host of a tabloid television program, is truly reprehensible. Are you editorializing with this performance?

A: I didn´t attempt to characterize the entire media as something inhuman, but it seems the media´s response is a little surprising. I think the media has too much power, and my character has too much power. He takes his mandate from the viewers as license to create stories, even where there are none. That´s where his boundaries break down.

Q: No revenge against the media?

A: Absolutely not. I´m not above recognizing a little poetic justice. But I would still defend this guy´s actions based upon his belief system. He has an obligation to impart this story to the public.

Q: Do you think the media is indecent?

A: I think the jury has been in on that for a long time. Dwight Eisenhower could bewail the loss of decency. I think we´re well past that. (laughs)

Q: Did you base your character on anyone in particular?

A: No, I really drew on the general tradition of the anchorman, from the most respected to the least.

Q: Is this character, also a sophisticated media professional, anything like Frasier?

A: I won´t play a Frasier-like character. I´ve been offered that many times through the years. I´m not so desperate for a film career that I´m willing to ruin my life as an actor.

Q: Do you still enjoy Frasier as a character?

A: It´s a joy. He is the most fascinating, wonderful non-person I know. He is a projection of me, I suppose. I try to make him universal. He suffers from day to day in the hopes that he´ll find somebody. His belief system is constantly challenged. His efforts are constantly thwarted. He is human, and that´s why he´s still around. Frasier has a big heart. We both share a passion for life.

Q: And what do you share with your other television character, Sideshow Bob from "The Simpsons?"

A: A love of evil. (chortles)

Q: "15 Minutes" references Andy Warhol´s quip about how everyone will be famous for 15 minutes in the future. What was your first brush with fame?

A: When I was a young boy, I attended Leonard Bernstein´s televised children´s concerts. And once in a while, they would cut to someone in the audience. On one occasion, they flashed on me. I saw it for a split second. Since then, the idea of a life in the public eye is something surreal to me. Fame once seemed like a good word, but it´s actually a four-letter word. I´ve lost the right to privacy. I can handle it, but my wife was savagely abused by the press.

Q: What still thrills you about fame?

A: When someone comes up to me and says they were in the hospital for six months and the only hope they had was watching my show. That´s pretty incredible.

Q: Are you ever in awe of other celebrities?

A: I always say "wow" when I get to work with someone whose work I respect, like Robert De Niro. Oddly enough, there aren´t that many good actors. Being on television does not mean you´re an actor. There are plenty of people who prove that every day.

Q: Do you ever watch so-called reality shows like "Survivor?"

A: No. Real people are not as interesting to me as actors. I like to watch art taking place rather than just behavior.

Q: What´s your hobby?

A: Horseback riding. I bought a new property two years ago that had 14 horses. I wanted to get rid of them, but my wife started to work on me. Now, I´m riding and jumping. I´ve had a lot of fun.

Q: Didn´t you attend the Bush inaugural?

A: Yes, I´m a Republican. My conservatism is based on the idea that individuals are entitled to their choice without government interference. It is my hope, as it was with President Clinton, that Bush will be the best president that ever lived.

Q: Actors need to observe people. Does being famous make that more difficult?

A: In Europe, I can do that. The U.K. is a little shaky. Belgium, now I can go there.


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