Actor takes on heroic role in HBO film 'The Infiltrator'

June 18, 1995|By R. D. Heldenfels | R. D. Heldenfels,Knight-Ridder News Service

Human beings project onto heroes, says actor Oliver Platt. "They think a person gets out of bed heroically. They brush their teeth heroically. But there is no such thing as a hero. There are just people who do heroic things."

Mr. Platt, a character player who recently has moved somewhat uneasily into leading roles, tackles an incidental hero in "The Infiltrator," a Home Box Office movie that will premiere at 8 p.m. June 24.

He plays Yaron Svoray, a real-life free-lance journalist who found his way inside a cabal of German neo-Nazis. With some crucial help from the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Mr. Svoray learned how widespread and successful such extremism had become internationally.

Adapted by Guy Andrews from Mr. Svoray's memoir "In Hitler's Shadow," and directed by John McKenzie ("The Long Good Friday"), "The Infiltrator" is an odd, often depressing tale. Mr. Svoray stumbles his way into the Nazis' camp, caught up with them in a police sweep after a brawl. He has to wrestle with the conflicting notions of dreadful beliefs and the believers who consider him a friend. And even when the Wiesenthal Center releases a report on Mr. Svoray's findings, the German %o authorities brush it off.

"At least this movie happened, and that is an end in itself," says Mr. Platt.

The movie is the second leading role in a row for Mr. Platt, following the big-screen "Funny Bones," in which he plays a young comic trying to get out of the shadow of his famous father.

Mr. Platt already has been declared "firmly on the A-list of Hollywood's supporting characters" by one movie reference ,X book. In 1993 alone, he was in three high-profile movies: "Indecent Proposal," "Benny & Joon" and "The Three Musketeers." Critic Roger Ebert singled out Mr. Platt, playing Porthos, as the only convincing musketeer in a cast that included Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland.

While lead roles would seem a logical next step, Mr. Platt said: "In my next two movies I'm very much a member of an ensemble. I don't want to be identified as someone who carries a movie. Hollywood is too brutal a business for that. . . . I have a couple of good friends who would be considered movie stars, and there is a tremendous amount of pressure."

Like many actors these days, Mr. Platt talks about wanting to support his family, pay his mortgage and "do good work."

But having been in movies big and small, he also believes people find the good work wherever it is. Sure, a big movie has people stopping you in the street to chat. But "Diggstown," a terrific comedy-drama about an elaborate boxing con, was a box-office disappointment. And still, Mr. Platt said, "People have stopped me to talk about that movie as much as any I've been in."

Of "Funny Bones," Mr. Platt said: "I'm completely confident that it will find an audience. I think it will do better in Europe than it did here. And the very thing that made "Funny Bones" impossible to market is what makes it a great movie."

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