When Paul Hogan first released " 'Crocodile' Dundee" in the United States four years ago, audiences told him it was "Capra-esque."
The Australian actor didn't know whether that was a compliment or an insult.
"Later I figured it out, of course," Mr. Hogan said recently. "Frank Capra was the voice of the people when he directed 'Meet John Doe' and 'It's a Wonderful Life' and all the others. What a compliment! But at the time I looked it up in the dictionary and couldn't find it, and I was completely baffled."
Since then, Mr. Hogan starred in and wrote 1988's " 'Crocodile' Dundee 2," which was almost as successful as the original. And opening in theaters today is "Almost an Angel," which is not another "Crocodile" movie but is nonetheless "Capra-esque." The movie is a populist comedy about a reformed criminal who thinks he's an angel and clumsily goes about performing good deeds.
"The idea just appealed to me," said the mild-mannered actor, who first made an impression with commercials for the Australian Tourist Commission, in which the catch-phrase, "I'll slip another shrimp on the 'barbie' for you," became instantly recognizable.
"And," he added significantly, "I wanted to make a film that could in
no way be mistaken for " 'Crocodile" Dundee 3.'
"The 'Crocodile' Dundee movies are over. There are no more stories left to tell. Both films were successful, and they should be allowed to end on a successful note."
In releasing "Almost an Angel," Mr. Hogan does not seem too concerned with duplicating the huge success of " 'Crocodile' Dundee." He said he has "seen the moist eyes at the end of the film during preview showings, and that's a good enough sign for me."
In any event, he scored a coup by casting Charlton Heston in a cameo role -- as God.
"I offered the script [to Mr. Heston]. He liked it. He agreed to do the scene. It turned out to be very simple, but I was determined to get him."
Elias Koteas, whose most prominent previous role was as a wacky vigilante in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," makes a noteworthy impression in "Almost an Angel" as a paraplegic whom Terry befriends.
"We started off by testing lots of actors in wheelchairs," Mr. Hogan said. "But none of them had the right spark. Elias has the right spark, but he's also an everyday sort of guy, which is just what we wanted. I get sick of all these movies where the guy in a wheelchair is determined to be some sort of Olympic champion.
Not every guy in a wheelchair is a superhero at heart. Most of them are just ordinary guys, trying to get through the day with dignity, and that's what Elias projects."
Mr. Hogan seems like an affable "mate" who would willingly add a shrimp to the "barbie" for any guest.
"I am definitely mild-mannered," he said. "Critics can say whatever they want about this movie, and I won't get mad . . .
"The things that make me mad are things that waste lives, like the Middle East situation, the drug scene and drive-by shootings. In Los Angeles, they no longer refer to them as 'drive-by shootings.' They've become so commonplace that they've been shortened to 'drive-bys.' The newscasters say something like, 'There were four drive-bys today.' And that just makes me furious."