At the end of last year I was doing a little public relations work in New York to promote my documentary “Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris”. Accompanying me on my round of interviews was a very nice young lady, an assistant who worked at the firm handling the p.r. She asked me what I was going to do next and I optimistically announced (I say optimistically because I had as yet not a whiff of the necessary financing) that Andy Garcia and I would soon be making a film called “City Island”. Then she asked who else was in it. I mentioned a young actor named Steven Strait who (I thought it necessary to explain) would soon be out in “10,000BC”…and that’s as far as I got. The reaction she had was galvanic, Beatles-like in its intensity. Words issued forth from this otherwise reserved and professional young woman in what can only be described as a gusher of gush: Can I meet him? What’s he like? He’s so hot. Wo, you know Steven Strait?” You get the idea.

What’s odd about this is that while Steven has made several impactful appearences in films, he is (to my mind) still at the very beginning of what promises to be a seriously high-profile career. The reaction of the publicity girl indicates to me that sometimes stars are simply meant to be. Indeed I’ve since heard similar reactions from a number of other people…okay, they’re usually women under the age of thirty but hey–who goes to see movies, right? Steven has a serious following that are there waiting to watch him explode into stardom. People felt this way about Brad Pitt around the time of “Thelma And Louise”. Since “Undiscovered” and “Sky High”, Steven’s recognizability factor has been remarkably high–“The Covenant” and “10,000BC” clearly boosted awareness of him more. It takes only one to put someone over the top–into the elysian fields of “being a greenlight”–i.e. an actor whose interest in a movie guarantees financing.

Do I wish this on him? Does he wish it for himself? I don’t know. Steven’s a Stella Adler trained theater actor who grew up in Greenwich Village. This is important merely because, by dint of coming from New York (and a quarter that’s always been associated with the arts) he has, I suspect, few illusions about urban glamour and excitement. Indeed, given his relatively young age, he’s already something of a settled homebody. (His wife is a terrific actress named Lynn Collins–that would be them next to these words. And while you’re at it see her as Portia in the Al Pacino/MIchael Radford “Merchant Of Venice”–well worth checking out). Also, coming from New York gives you–in LA–a guaranteed ten point higher IQ advantage. And they respect that.Back to his age for a moment: could I really have been twenty-two WHEN HE WAS BORN? Christ…

Back to the stars who can greenlight a movie; the way the system has wound up working places an unbelievable strain on a star actor–other people’s careers daily hang by a thread based on what you may or may not wish to do. No wonder Tom Cruise started dancing on couches. What I can tell you about Steven is that he is a remarkably intense and seriously trained actor with a dynamic film presence. He is also unbelievably open and friendly. So were that kind of a career to come to him, I have a feeling he’d handle it better than most. Recently we were talking–and talking and talking–and suddenly I heard myself say to him, “I feel like I could talk with you for hours”. He has no hidden areas or no trespassing signs. This is someone who, at a young age, has a clarity and directness of expression and a tremendous sense of good will toward humanity that most of us rarely develop–and many only after years of bizarre therapy treatments which have their own odd side effects (in my case a complete inability, when having a pleasant time, to wonder if the entire social exchange is, in fact, being secretly taped and examined by graduated psychology students. I don’t know. Does that sound weird?)

In “City Island”, Steven plays the role of a young con in prison who is inexplicably taken out of prison by one of the guards–excuse me, Corrections Officers (played by Andy Garcia) and brought into the CO’s home to live. Why? He doesn’t know. But we do. But the family doesn’t. But Andy’s character does. But enough spoilers. Plot your own movie. Or try to guess the plot of mine!

Here’s a Steven fansite. And below, check out Steven talking with Ellen DeGeneris about “10,000BC”.


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