To Jim Varney, Ernest P. Worrell contains a bit of every man

October 27, 1991|By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Jim Varney has said that there's a little of every man in his alter ego, the lovable goofball Ernest P. Worrell.

"And I do stress 'just a little,' " the actor said in a recent interview to promote his latest comedy, "Ernest Scared Stupid."

And in spite of what audiences might believe, there's more than Ernest in Jim Varney.

Mr. Varney and director John Cherry have helped make the character a mainstay in American culture. With more than 4,000 commercials on television and radio, it's tough not to have seen or heard Ernest at some time or another.

And when the folks at Disney noticed at a parade that the goofy redneck was garnering as much applause as their revered rodent, the company's Touchstone Pictures branch secured Ernest's adventures for the big screen.

"Ernest Goes to Camp," "Ernest Saves Christmas" and "Ernest Goes to Jail" (1987-1990) followed. And this month, Mr. Varney put Ernest into one of his favorite genres in "Ernest Scared Stupid."

"This was my first horror film . . . I loved it," Mr. Varney said. "As a kid, anything that gave me nightmares, I had to watch."

Mr. Varney, 41, also cites silent-screen comedians as one of his major influences growing up.

"I remember on Saturday morning when I was a kid -- you know, back when they had gas TV, we'd watch the old-time movies," he said. "They had a few cartoons, and then they'd show Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd."

Though Mr. Varney has been impersonating Ernest as long as he can remember, the chance to do something different might seem pretty appealing right now.

One coming non-Ernest project is "Wilder Napalm," a drama co-starring Dennis Quaid and Debra Winger.

Mr. Varney describes it as an "interesting project about two brothers who are fire starters from birth."

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