Wonder boy...

Maguire's latest role reveals acting's newest 'Wonder Boy'

Updated 12:00 PM ET February 28, 2000

By Terry Tang Daily Bruin U. California-Los Angeles

(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Although author/professor Grady Tripp, the fallible hero of Paramount Pictures' "Wonder Boys," smokes pot, loves a woman who's not his wife and hasn't published a bestseller in seven years, he is still the greatest mentor young James Leer ever had.

In reality, rising actor Tobey Maguire, who plays the withdrawn but precocious college student to Michael Douglas's professor, also felt the time working with Douglas was well spent. Simply going to the set with Douglas every day provided a challenge.

"He had so many ideas, idea after idea and it was all I could do just to keep up," Maguire said in a telephone interview. "He also made me have a lot of fun because he was very engaging. If I was a little tired because I had a 6 a.m. call, he was there on-time, prepared and would pull me out of my sleepiness. If I was a little intimidated by a scene, he would just pick it up and help me right along."

"The Wonder Boys" will surely remind moviegoers and critics that Maguire is on his way to making Hollywood's A-list of actors.

With choice roles in films such as Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm," Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" and "Pleasantville," he has achieved a wonder boy status of his own.

Maguire, however, shows no signs of slowing down. It also helps that he's still onscreen as Homer Wells in "The Cider House Rules," which is up for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

While Maguire is ecstatic about the film's acknowledgment, he still isn't sure if he will hit the red carpet on Oscar night to cheer for "Cider House."

"I haven't given that much thought. If I knew, I'd let you know," Maguire said.

Besides Douglas, Maguire also gets to hold his own on the screen with Robert Downey Jr., who has been called one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Despite his personal struggles with drugs, Downey still maintains a great rapport with his acting colleagues. "I love Robert. He's fantastic, one of the quickest people. He's got a really sharp wit and he's really giving," said Maguire, who tries to keep in touch with Downey. "We'd hang out and play racquetball. I'd talk to him about my life and he'd be very helpful. He's just a great guy."

For "Wonder Boys," the actor knew he wanted to be a part of the movie as soon as he finished reading the character of James on paper.

"This script in particular was phenomenal. I think Steve Kloves wrote such a great, delicate script. It's just layered and the character was so attractive because he had so much stuff going on," Maguire said. "I thought he would be fun to play. He's got a lot of pain going on. I think he's a good kid."

While Maguire has made a career out of playing social misfits, he sees himself as a lot more outgoing than his character.

"I suppose in certain situations, I can be guarded. James and I are not that much alike though I relate to some of the things. He has trust problems. I can relate to some of that stuff," Maguire said. "He really has a tough time socially and really lives in his own, sort of imaginary, dramatic world. So, we're quite a bit different."

At 24, Maguire has certainly come a long way from a little kid who wanted to be either a cook, a fireman or a lawyer. He first got bitten by the acting bug when at 16, while he was acting in a school play and had gotten a part in a movie. "I was reading an acting book or two at that time, and I just started getting excited about it and saw that it was a place you could really learn for a long time and not get bored and maybe do well," Maguire said. "That's when I really made it my own."

Having the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of actors and filmmakers is certainly one reason why Maguire doesn't rue his decision to forego college. "I'm not gonna waste my time regretting what I've done in my life. Because if I had gone to college, I wouldn't have done other things with my life," Maguire explained. "So, certainly sometimes I feel the lack of that kind of formal education in my life. But I wouldn't trade what I've done with my life for anything."

What the actor does have is a free schedule. Since wrapping "Wonder Boys," Maguire hasn't read any scripts that have stirred his interests. "I'm just kind of looking. I wanted a break. So I consciously kind of took a break and I told my agent-manager, 'Hey, let's try to keep me out of it for a little while.' But I'm ready to go back to work now."

Finding more work shouldn't be a problem for this wonder boy.

(C) 2000 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE

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