Serial Slacker

Hackers Star Matthew Lillard Confronts his Demons, or Should We Say Dragons?

By Aeraj Ahmed

Since making his debut as the superstraight, wide-eyed brother of Ricki Lake in John Water's SERIAL MOM, up-and-coming teen heartthrob Matthew Lillard has been skateboarding his way down an increasingly wacky career path. In the Drew Barrymore-starrer MAD LOVE, Lillard had a supporting role as Chris O'Donnell's best friend -- a character so hyper, you wanted to feed him a dose of Ritalin. In HACKERS, it's the scenery that Lillard is gleefully chewing, playing a character called Cereal Killer who gesticulates wildly while sounding off in skate-punk Valley-speak.

In interview mode, the lanky Lillard is just as talkative -- so enthusiastically yacky, in fact, that at one point he loses the wad of gum he's chewing. (Not to worry; after an extended hands-and-knees search across the carpet, said gum is retrieved and replaced, without a second thought, into his mouth.) Since he's so happy to talk about almost anything, motion/picture threw caution to the wind and pulled no punches.

If you were an elite hacker, whose system would you hack and why?

I can tell you who I wouldn't hack. I would never hack a supermodel, because there'd be nothing of any interest to find. I wouldn't hack the President, because he's too humdrum and boring. I think I'd want to hack Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller), because he hates the idea of hacking and I'd want to get under his skin.

If someone hacked your system, what is the most surprising thing they would find out about you?

That I play Dungeons & Dragons. You look at me and you think, "He looks like a nice guy, pretty normal, pretty straightedged and, yet, he plays Dungeons & Dragons," which people usually give up around the seventh grade. But I have now continued into my 20s.

Have you ever been called a nerd?

I am the definition of a nerd! I play Dungeons & Dragons, for god's sake! The two go hand in hand.

How many times have you seen WARGAMES?

I've probably seen it twice, and then bits and pieces hundreds of times. Because WARGAMES is one of those movies where you sit down and watch Matthew Broderick and Dabney Coleman spar and you just get stuck in the middle of it. (mimicking the computer in WARGAMES) "Want to play a game, Joshua?"

Do you surf the Net and do you have any sites that you wouldn't be embarrassed to recommend to the public?

I don't surf the Net, but I do have a great online service. Down with AOL. Down with Prodigy. Delphi is A-number-1! How's that? Actually, I'm on NY Online, which is really young, ethnic, aggressive and hip.

How close is your character in HACKERS to your offscreen personality?

I guess I'm kinda kooky, and I sometimes go over the top; I have the same kind of energy that I brought to Cereal Killer. A lot of times, I'm the funny guy in my circle of friends. I don't know if you think I'm funny in HACKERS. Also, we both wear leather underwear. So that's what I bring to the character -- he has leather panties! (laughs hysterically)

What would you like to say to real-life hackers who don't buy your depiction of them?

I don't blame you! Any time a film tries to paint a portrait of a community, somebody is going to get p---ed off. But get over it. There are bigger problems in life.

Why should people see this movie?

Because the two leads are the most beautiful human beings on earth.

How would you describe your character in the film?

He's like a chipmunk on Ecstasy. He's buggin' out!

What would you like audiences to know about you?

I like telling people that I play Dungeons & Dragons. I want to start representing D&D players around the world. I know my publicist and my manager and my agent and my girlfriend are all going to be mortified that I said this. But, yes, I play Dungeons & Dragons and you can kiss my ---! It's the greatest game ever. It's a lot of fun. I feel like I've just come out of the closet.