'SLC Punk' star Matthew Lillard will fight for gun control, but he won't give up violent film roles

By Liane Bonin
Updated April 26, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

As Americans discuss whether or not violent movies and music were a motivating force in the killings at Columbine High School, Hollywood actors are beginning to respond to the tragedy. Some of them — such as ”SLC Punk” costar Matthew Lillard — have decided to take action. ”I can’t be responsible for the impact the media has on children,” says Lillard, 29. ”But I can be responsible for trying to get guns off the street. I’ve decided to get involved with this organization, Pax. It’s committed to gun reform.”

Though Lillard is known for playing a creative killer in ”Scream,” he doesn’t see that as a contradiction with his off-screen cause. ”’Scream’ was blamed for four or five murders across the United States,” he says. ”And maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think a movie or song leads people to kill people. I think these people are messed up, and they use entertainment as the guise in which they go about committing murder.” He adds, ”I don’t know what it is that’s snapped in kids who go into schools and use guns. But I don’t think this is it. And I don’t think Hollywood’s going to change as a result of these theories.”

Lillard doesn’t plan to change, either, when it comes to accepting violent roles. ”My concern is not the morality of any piece,” he says. ”’Rambo 4′ comes across, I’ll do ‘Rambo 4.’ Maybe Susan Sarandon can deal with that issue, but I’m still in a struggle to make a successful career. I’m still a little selfish, I guess.”

Nonetheless, Lillard believes that he can set an appropriate example when he’s living his own life and not just acting in a fictional film: ”If I say something to a 10-year-old, it’s going to have so much more impact than a teacher. That’s so horrifying and embarrassing, but it’s still true. And it’s a power that celebrities wield whether they choose to accept it or not. I have no problem being a role model and taking that responsibility on my shoulders. I’ve got to do something.”