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Feature: Thomas Gibson, good guy

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter
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LOS ANGELES, May 30 (UPI) -- Thomas Gibson sheds his "Dharma & Greg" nice guy image to pay a troubled police officer in the new TV movie "Evil Never Dies."

As Greg to Jenna Elfman's Dharma, Gibson played a nice, conservative boy who fell in love with a transcendently goofy free spirit -- and somehow made the most of the political, cultural and social differences between them and their families. As a disgraced police detective working security at a college in the new TBS movie "Evil Never Dies," he turns in a grittier performance.

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After losing his wife to a serial murderer, the detective loses his career. Five years later, while working at a prestigious college, he learns that the murderer has been brought back to life by a bizarre professor and his mousy -- but lovely -- assistant (Katherine Heigl).

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The killer -- as murderous in his new life as he was in his first life -- is sort of a Frankenstein's monster with a grudge to go with his penchant for homicide.

The entire proceeding is preposterous, and Gibson is a good sport about being at the center of it -- especially in view of the production's relatively compressed four-week rehearsal and shooting schedule in Australia.

"It is the most frustrating experience," he said, "because all you have time to do is wing it and you've got to move on."

Preproduction was limited to four days for the actors, and Gibson said only about 80 percent of the cast were able to get to Australia in time for a day's rehearsal that consisted mainly of reading the script around a table.

"You rehearse a little bit and come up with at least a framework, but you don't know what breadth of experience everybody has," he said. "You hope that everybody does their work."

Gibson said that on "Evil Never Dies," everybody did their work.

This project was a radically different experience for Gibson than "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999) -- Stanley Kubrick's last feature, in which he appeared briefly.

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"Stanley had this reputation for doing take after take," he said. "My scene is very small. He did 30 some odd takes of the shot that got me into the room."

Some actors might find that kind of repetitiveness tedious, but Gibson said it was liberating.

"By the fourth or fifth take, I had gotten over the 'Oh my god, it's a Stanley Kubrick movie,'" he said, "and got around to doing a little bit of acting."

Although Gibson received his widest exposure for "Dharma & Greg" on ABC, he said he occasionally is recognized for his work in features and cable TV miniseries.

"I will talk to people who say they loved 'Tales of the City' or 'Far and Away' or 'Love and Human Remains' or 'Barcelona,'" he said. "That's actually how I got 'Eyes Wide Shut.' Stanley was a big fan of 'Barcelona.'"

Gibson's resume also includes stretches on the CBS medical drama "Chicago Hope" and the daytime dramas "Another World" and "As the World Turns."

He's still lining up his next project, and pursuing a notion he's been working on for a few years -- to do Shakespeare for TV with friends from his New York theater days who are, like Gibson, classically trained and reasonably well known to the public.

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He'd like to do the project for cable, and then release it as educational materials for schools.

"If you actually saw your favorite movie star who is also a great classical actor doing 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'Macbeth' or 'Taming of the Shrew,' it would be a great thing and a great thing for kids to get interested in language," he said.

Getting the project actually made, however, could be problematic.

"I've had lots of interest from every actor I've spoken to," said Gibson, "and lukewarm interest from people who are trying to produce hits for TV."

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