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Jim Holmes makes his mark

The star of many commercials is ready to try to move to more substantial roles

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If everyone gets 15 minutes of fame, Jim Holmes is taking his 30 seconds at a time.

Thanks to three words his IRS auditor character sarcastically spouts to Chris Elliott in a Tostitos commercial — ”I smell refund!” — Holmes, 38, has landed a spate of clever spots. And his diverse oeuvre — Visa, AT&T, Diet 7UP, Federal Express — has given him celebrity status among the couch potato set. ”I had a woman come up to me in a 7-Eleven and say, ‘Thank you, you bring me a lot of joy!’ ” he laughs. ”It was bizarre.”

So how does Holmes log so much ad time? ”I look like somebody’s neighbor or the guy that works in accounting,” he notes. And he used to carry about as much clout. ”I did a Jack in the Box commercial,” he recalls, ”and the director kept saying, ‘Love the food, Jim! Love the food!’ We literally did a hundred takes, and I was like, ‘I need a spit bucket, I can’t eat all this stuff.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, love the food!’ Then they brought out these nugget things. I took one bite and turned green.” But now it’s other actors who are green — with envy. ”I hear a lot of ‘What, do you have an armored truck to just back up to the money?”’

Well, not just yet. But the Columbia, S.C.-born actor is hoping that his commercial success will vault him to movie stardom. He’s had small film parts (Cops and Robbersons) and TV guest spots (NYPD Blue), and has just shot a meatier role for an indie feature based on the play Girly Magazine Party, ”sort of a Spinal Tap spoof on Hugh Hefner.” Until a starring role beckons, he’s content to work in the, uh, short film — with some restrictions. ”I never do the warm fuzzy spots like Gallo wine,” he says. ”I just couldn’t pick up the bottle and say, ‘White Grenache has a delightful bouquet,’ without making some smart-ass retort. This isn’t Shakespeare, you know?”