The everyman actor makes an impression as -- yet another -- duped husband in "Malice"

By Anne Thompson
Updated October 15, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

You’ve seen him before, since he’s made 19 films, though you probably don’t remember him. That’s because actor Bill Pullman, 39, always seems to be the second banana, the nice guy who gets dumped. Take Malice, in which Pullman plays a bemused college dean whose wife (Nicole Kidman) tangles with charismatic Alec Baldwin. Surely, though, the man can’t be as forgettable as his characters. On that assumption, we went in search of the hidden passion behind Pullman’s blah screen persona, and here’s what we found—in the actor’s own words.

Maybe his career history reveals forgotten dimensions. Let’s see: He was dumped by Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and Jodie Foster in Sommersby; married Bill Hurt’s dowdy sister in The Accidental Tourist; lost Bridget Fonda to Matt Dillon in Singles; erected vertical blinds for Kirstie Alley in Sibling Rivalry; and was killed by Holly Hunter in the Beth Henley play Control Freaks. ”With the big-studio commercial movies,” he explains, ”I take the parts the other guys turn down.”

Perhaps there’s a secret strategy behind his choice of roles. ”I’m a sucker for a director. Once I get in a room it doesn’t matter how boring the part is. I can’t turn that Lawrence Kasdan guy down. He wrote a small part in Wyatt Earp for me. I get killed.”

Could it be that he’s hiding the real rebel of his youth? ”Back in the playground, some of the guys were cool, they were strong on attitude. I wasn’t one of those guys. When I was in high school in the ’70s, I was one of those guys with a modified Beatle bang groomed just over the eyebrows, with little sweat pimples underneath.”

Aren’t there any skeletons in the family closet? ”I grew up one of seven kids in Hornell, N.Y. My father was a doctor.”

Maybe some kind of unconventional home life? ”I’ve been married for six years (to dancer Tamara Hurwitz) and have three kids (Maesa, 5; Jack, 4; Louis, 10 months).”

Any crazy stories about offscreen joie de vivre? ”I don’t go to parties.”

Well, hmm. Perchance he drives a cool car? ”A white ’73 Valiant. It isn’t even collectible. It looks like a squad car. It’s totally anonymous.”

With additional reporting by Casey Davidson