Goodman hit the right note with Fred

May 27, 1994|By Cindy Pearlman | Cindy Pearlman,Special to The Sun

It took just one night for John Goodman to get the yell down.

He didn't want it to be a wimpy bellow. He had to find the right pitch -- the right note of desperation mixed with frustration.

"About 3 in the morning one day I yelled my first 'WILMA!' " Mr. Goodman says with obvious pride. "I knew it sounded right. I sort of sounded like Dr. John."

It was then that Mr. Goodman knew he was a natural Fred Flintstone. Although if one mentions that he seems to have been born to play the role, he gets a tad upset.

"People keep asking if I always knew I would play Fred Flintstone," he says. "Who thinks about this stuff? Like I was a 5-year-old kid looking in the mirror, thinking, 'You know, someday I'll be Fred'."

Yabba-dabba-do-it. That's what his fans and his family told him, though not exactly in those words.

So he did. And that's why Mr. Goodman was at the Universal Studios theme park in sunny Florida recently.

The "Flintstones" Bedrock set has been moved to the park to serve as an attraction this summer, and Mr. Goodman was in the midst of giving a visitor a personal tour of the Flintstones' house.

A quick trip to the kitchen reveals some fake dinosaur eggs cooking on the stove.

"Cave guys get hungry," the actor says, rolling his eyes.

So far, no Dino. Mr. Goodman lets out a sigh of relief.

The prehistoric pet in the film was a puppet enhanced by some computer wizardry.

"It's pretty gross when Dino licks Fred," Mr. Goodman confides. "That's not real dog slobber. It's this combination of K-Y jelly and lots of other junk. Real nice on the skin."

Sounds like filming "The Flintstones" may have been more difficult than filming "Roseanne."

Mr. Goodman, ever the savvy interview subject, isn't getting into that one. The actor's promotional blitz for "The Flintstones" began a few days after Roseanne Arnold broke up with her husband Tom for the second time. So naturally, there are questions for Mr. Goodman about his television co-star.

"I'm sure this will affect Roseanne in some way," Mr. Goodman says of the split. "I hope Roseanne is all right. I haven't had a call from her. We don't discuss our personal lives."

His relationship with Elizabeth Taylor -- who plays Fred Flintstone's not-so-charming mother-in-law -- followed a similar path.

What did the two talk about when the cameras weren't rolling?

"We talked about old movies," says Mr. Goodman, who is obviously a fan of La Liz. "She is just so beautiful. The hardest thing in the movie for me is when Fred has to call her a 'dried-up fossil.' "

The set wasn't always easy for her. Mr. Goodman reports that Ms. Taylor wasn't feeling well during much of the time.

"Her hip and back really hurt during the making of the movie," he says. "But you would never know it. She was really fun."

In addition to being a Taylor fan, Mr. Goodman says he was an early fan of "The Flintstones" TV series. "I was this kid who would miss Cub Scout just to stay home and watch the show," he says.

But that didn't mean he automatically wanted to take part in the big-screen version.

When he was offered the role of Fred by Steven Spielberg (whose production company, Amblin Entertainment, developed the film), Mr. Goodman said he would have to think it over.

"I mean, I wonder if I'll be doing much Shakespeare after this role," Mr. Goodman says, explaining his initial hesitation.

"My other concern is my daughter. I just hope when she gets old enough to go to school the other kids aren't like, 'Is your mom Wilma?' "

Mr. Goodman knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of Flintstone-related taunts.

In the past, when people told him he would make a great Fred Flintstone, he didn't take it as a compliment. In fact, he sometimes responded by asking, "Would you like a faceful of fist?"

Mr. Goodman, after all, is an award-winning actor who began his career on stage. In 1985 he made it to Broadway, playing the part of Huck Finn's father in the musical "Big River."

On screen he has played everyone from Babe Ruth (in 1992's "The Babe") to a psychotic salesman (in 1991's "Barton Fink").

Of course he lightens up weekly as Dan Conner in the hit series "Roseanne," which has earned him three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe award and tons of fans.

"I have one more year on my 'Roseanne' contract," he says. "I always told myself that at seven years that would be it. But every day on that show is a ball. We're like kids in a class who can't quite behave themselves."

Life on "The Flintstones" set was a lot of fun too -- most of the time.

"We did a big dance scene at Cavern on the Green with the B.C.-52s. I had walking pneumonia at the time," Mr. Goodman says. "I was filming 'Roseanne' and 'Flintstones' at the same time and was just running myself ragged."

And how did Mr. Goodman perfect the "Yabba-dabba-doo" cry?

"I just practiced, practiced, practiced until I got it right," he says. "You wind up on the 'Yabba' part and just let it rip."

At home with his wife and 3 1/2 -year-old daughter Molly, Mr. Goodman just lets it rest.

To help keep stress at bay, he walks three miles a day and works out.

"I feel really good. I stay away from stuff that upsets me, like the tabloids. I used to care, but now it affects my wife and my mother."

And how will he feel if the tabloids report that he wears suede dresses?

"I'm really a slacks guy," he says. "But they didn't have Sansabelt in the Stone Age."

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