Rick Steiner in Exxon

David Morse - The Crossing Guard

'Langoliers' co-star says he's doing just fine without L.A., thank you.

Author: Ellen Gray
Full Text: COPYRIGHT Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service 1995

PHILADELPHIA – To hear him tell it, David Morse really would rather be in Philadelphia.

The actor, who fled Los Angeles with his wife and three children after the January 1994 earthquake destroyed their Sherman Oaks home, claims to have left behind envious friends and colleagues.

"I think everyone feels captive by career out there,'' Morse said."Everyone I tell I've left, they've all expressed the sentiment, 'I wish we could leave.' ''

Morse, a Boston native, and his wife, Susan, chose Philadelphia because she'd grown up here. No regrets so far, he said.

"We are both so much happier being on this coast.''

And while his agents "weren't very happy'' about the move, things seem to be working out for the former "St. Elsewhere'' star, who said simply, "I'm doing OK.''

A role as the narrator-priest in a Broadway production of "On the Waterfront'' went south Sunday when the show closed after only one week, but Morse has been busy with a number of projects in the past year, including the ABC miniseries "The Langoliers,'' which airs Sunday and Monday.

In "The Langoliers,'' which is based on a Stephen King novella, Morse plays
an off-duty pilot who has to take over when the crew – and most of the passengers – disappear from the plane on which he's traveling.

At 41, the once-lanky actor has filled out enough to achieve the comfortingsolidity the role seems to demand, although viewers who remember the curly-haired Jack Morrison of St. Eligius may be startled by the close-cut style he favors now.

(For those still keeping score in last fall's medical wars, the former TV doc prefers "Chicago Hope'' to "ER.'')

Learning to play a pilot was one of the best things about filming "The Langoliers,'' Morse said.

"I got to spend time with the pilots,'' although ``for insurance reasons, I couldn't go up.''

"I learned to get an L-1011 started, which is really a big deal,'' he said.

Another plus was working with Patricia Wettig, a friend since the two were
in acting classes together in the late '70s. She later played his second wife in "St. Elsewhere.''

He recalls another aspect of the production less fondly.

"The shooting of it was really miserable,'' he said. "They shot the whole thing at a live airport'' in Bangor, Maine, at the busiest time of the year. The empty facility that greets viewers of "The Langoliers'' was anything but empty, he said.

"People were trying to get to their airplanes and they came in and found out there was a movie going on. It was interesting to them for about a minute and a half,'' he said. "Mark (Lindsay Chapman, who plays a fellow traveler) literally stepped on someone in the middle of a scene. Some old guy, who'd stopped to fix his luggage, Mark walked right over him.''

As for the langoliers themselves – think Pac-Men with teeth and you've got the picture – Morse and the other actors never saw them.

All the reaction shots were filmed with the actors staring off into space, their motivation provided by the director.

"He kept assuring us how scared we were all going to be,'' Morse said.

He got a chance to show a bit more subtlety in a recent episode of NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street,'' in which he played the cousin of Detective Bayliss (Kyle Secor). The character, arrested for what at first appears to be the justified killing of an intruder, is gradually revealed to be a bigot.

Since leaving Los Angeles, he's also found the time to do two movies, "The Crossing Guard,'' with Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston, and "Twelve Monkeys,'' a Brad Pitt-Bruce Willis sci-fi feature filmed earlier this year in Philadelphia.

In "The Crossing Guard,'' Morse plays an ex-convict who kills Nicholson's daughter. In "Twelve Monkeys,'' he's a doctor.

As for where he'll go next, Morse, like most actors, isn't sure.

"There is just so much that is out of control. I just keep looking for things I haven't done before, people to work with I respect,'' he said.

While ruling out, for now, another West Coast-based TV series – ``I don't want to leave my family'' – Morse left the door open, noting that several series are now shot in New York.

In an ideal world, he said, he'd love to be part of an ensemble a movie director uses over and over, as Woody Allen does. He's made two movies now with director Sean Penn – "The Crossing Guard'' and "The Indian Runner'' and wouldn't mind doing more.

Although any movie starring Nicholson and Huston might sound like a star vehicle, "Sean is really interested in the community those characters live in, and everybody is important to the story,'' he said.


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