NEW YORK -- James Marshall is not really a morose kind of guy.
He laughs a lot, smiles even more. And he's in love.
The young actor, who first gained fame as the sullen, sensitive James Hurley in television's "Twin Peaks," is playing a sullen, sensitive boxer from Connecticut in the new film "Gladiator." The movie is about the underground world of illegal boxing in Chicago and the ghetto youth that it exploits.
In real life, Mr. Marshall -- born in Queens and raised in New Jersey -- is a pretty upbeat guy, flushed with his fast-paced career and a new marriage. During a recent interview, Mr. Marshall, sitting at the edge of a bed in a hotel suite as his wife, Ana, listens nearby, talks about his new film and career.
Unshaven and slightly loopy from lack of sleep, the 25-year-old Mr. Marshall speaks with humor about his super-sensitive persona. "I mean I don't walk around going . . ." and here Mr. Marshall gives a zombied stare, a wicked parody of his lost-soul characters.
Mr. Marshall is also not the least bit testy about the hype that presents him as this year's new James Dean.
"Comparisons are cool," he says. "It's a little flattering, but it's also a little silly because everybody's their own person. But they say that James Dean thing about everybody new.
"It's like everyone wants to categorize you as this and that until you've made your own mark."
"Gladiator" director Rowdy Herrington says that Mr. Marshall has "a tremendous look and a great face. And this is a business of faces."
Mr. Marshall says that the image of being "morose and stuff" comes not from what he's like personally but from what is called for in the characters that he plays.
PD "In 'Twin Peaks,' they wouldn't let me do anything but that," he
says. "I tried to do some things different. I would say, 'Hey, let's do this and open him up here.' [The character] was getting boring. But they wouldn't let me."
In "Gladiator," Mr. Marshall says his character was originally more open, human and funny -- especially in scenes with co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. ("Boyz N the Hood") -- but that most of that was left on the cutting-room floor.
"What was finally used was me being very downbeat," says Mr. Marshall, somewhat disappointed. But he justifies the quietude of the character by saying that a kid from Connecticut who is transferred to a predominantly black ghetto would not naturally be all that outgoing.