Anthony Michael Hall talks of The Struggle, the decade-long odyssey during which he auditioned for everything and got only the occasional something. Some of it was primo stuff, a small role in a good adaptation of a great play (Six Degrees of Separation) or the chance to play Bill Gates or Whitey Ford or to star in Edward Scissorhands; much of it was forgettable junk, the choices you make when you have a career to maintain and bills to pay. He began acting when he was 8, in a play co-starring Steve Allen, and was famous by the time he was a teen for portraying John Hughes' alter ego in such movies as The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Sixteen Candles. Those of us in our mid 30s grew up with him, the dope who gave us hope we'd land the girl eventually, and he grew up and blew up in front of us; his has always been a "symbiotic relationship" with the audience, he says now, for better or for worse.
"I am not in the pros yet in terms of where I want to be within the industry and to have an impact like I think I want to have," Hall says, taking time during his Vegas vacation to promote the out-this-week DVDs for The Dead Zone, his USA Network series that begins its third season Sunday night. He's not only the star of the show, as the formerly comatose Johnny Smith cursed with the gift of being able to see into others' futures, but also co-producer of the series. "But what I do acknowledge is I have been blessed to have this opportunity to create a body of work and to be a part of some other stuff while growing up in the industry. There are very few people who not only have done that but also have survived it and done it well, and that's my aim, just to be respected as a great actor. The truth is, the saying that life is the journey and not the destination, that's where it's at. At a certain point that kicks in. I am 36, and you just learn that over time."
It could have been so much worse. There were a few missteps (1996's Exit in Red), a stop in rehab in the mid-'80s and the chance to show up in small roles and surprise people who thought him a one-hit wonder. The Dead Zone is perhaps the biggest surprise of all: Not only is the show pretty good, a sort of X-Files that's as much about the occasional wry laugh as it is the serialized suspense, but so, too, is Hall. He strips out the anguish that Christopher Walken brought to the 1983 movie and instead makes Johnny more likeable and familiar. "Because I have some maturity now--not much more, but more than I had when I was 15--it's much more enjoyable, too," he says. "I am more conscious of the effort. I'm putting more into it, and I've lived more, so I feel like I can add more to this role."
His past is not so far behind him, though: In the DVD set, which includes the entire second season, there's an episode co-starring Ally Sheedy as his best friend from high school, with whom he's reunited after years apart. The episode even contains a scene of them at a high school dance, but best of all is their commentary track. "There was some bullshit about she used to call me 'Milk and Cookies' when we did The Breakfast Club," Hall recalls now, "and she maybe did it once or twice, but I'd forgotten about it 20 years later, thank God. I'd have been fuckin' scarred and damaged if I hadn't. I don't know where it came from, but then, to her, I looked like Macaulay Culkin or whatever the hell I looked like to her then. It was cute to me, because then I had a huge crush on her. Now she's been married for 10 years, had a daughter. She's like a sister now."
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