In `Hour,' Goose hits big screen in a big way

January 13, 2003|By Kevin Cowherd

OH, WHAT A weekend it was: escalating nuclear tensions with North Korea, a looming war with Iraq, more grim news about the economy. Yet overshadowing them all, of course, was the big-screen debut of Tony Siragusa.

Yes, the popular ex-Raven now appears in a theater near you in The 25th Hour, the new Spike Lee film that stars Edward Norton as a drug dealer with 24 hours left before he goes off to the slammer to do serious time.

Siragusa plays Kostya Novotny, a hulking Ukrainian leg-breaker who helps Norton's character, Monty Brogan, collect his drug money.

By the way, if you thought the Goose looked big in his days as a Raven, you should see him now.

Now he's a walking grain silo.

Whatever he's been doing since his retirement from pro football, it sure hasn't included closing a menu and saying: "Waiter, just a salad."

But who cares how big he is?

The question that is first and foremost on the minds of American moviegoers from coast to coast is: How's his acting?

And the answer is: Well, not bad.

At least, not bad if you can get past the cheesy Russian accent, which sounds like a Jersey guy trying to imitate Yakov Smirnoff.

Anyway, Spike Lee must have liked Siragusa's acting, because the big lug actually appears in the very first scene -- even before the opening credits!

Yes, no sooner have you settled into your seats and watched the requisite 27 trailers and commercials for Coke and the U.S. Air Force than -- boom, there's Ed Norton and the Goose climbing out of a '70s muscle car.

I can't tell you how unsettling this is to a Baltimore sports fan. It's like going to see Oklahoma! on Broadway, and the minute the curtain opens, there's Albert Belle.

In that first scene, Norton and Siragusa come upon an injured, bleeding dog that's obviously been beaten and left to die in the street.

Norton wants to help the poor mutt, even though it snarls and lunges at him.

"I'm trying to help you, you little ----!" Norton says to the dog.

And it's shortly after that the Goose, looking properly incredulous, delivers the immortal line: "He tries to bite your face off!"

Now that's acting, baby.

Actually, in the three scenes in which he appears, Siragusa seems relaxed and confident, not at all stiff and mechanical, as you'd expect a rookie actor to be.

Look, if William Shatner can make a living in this business for 30 years, Siragusa can start shopping for a Beverly Hills mansion right now.

According to the press kit for The 25th Hour, Siragusa was wandering the aisles of a Home Depot when Spike Lee reached him on his cell phone and asked if he'd be interested in playing Kostya.

Siragusa had never acted before, except for a stint on the HBO series Arliss, and worried that he might not be able to pull off the role.

"I didn't want to mess anything up because he believed in me," Siragusa is quoted as saying. "He said: `You're a natural -- you've got to go out there, you can do it.' I didn't want to let him down, and I don't think I did."

In a sense, Siragusa is a natural.

After all, Kostya walks around in loud silk shirts with open collars and lots of jewelry around his neck, which is the standard off-field uniform for today's NFL player.

And Kostya's main job is to hang around sleazy bars and nightclubs and look menacing, which many pro football players also do just about every weekend.

Still, Siragusa seems serious about breaking into acting -- when I wrote about him for The Sun last year, he said his dream was to appear on The Sopranos, which seemed like a great fit for a blue-collar North Jersey guy.

And according to the press kit, Siragusa credits Norton with imparting some valuable tips.

"For example, don't look into the camera -- that was a big one," the Goose said Norton told him. "But the toughest thing is to remember what you do each time -- to remember exactly how you move. Because when they cut and they move to a different area or a different angle, you have to do the same thing and remember where your head was and all this other stuff was."

It would have been nice to talk to Siragusa directly and get his thoughts on how he feels now that the movie has opened, what kind of feedback he's received, what other acting projects he's involved in.

But apparently you have a better chance of getting through to the pope these days than to the Goose.

The Ravens said they didn't have his number and referred me to his big-shot agent at the William Morris Agency in New York. But the big shot agent apparently wasn't returning phone calls, at least not my phone calls.

Anyway, I won't spoil things by telling you what happens to Kostya in the film, except to say that he gets on the bad side of Russian mobsters, which is never a good thing for your health.

It tends to wreak havoc on your silk shirts, too.

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