The cable host dishes about his dream job and making a B movie with Billy Bob Thornton

By Liane Bonin
Updated June 06, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
Courtesy E!

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Maybe it was just one Jerry Springer clip too many. ”Talk Soup” host Hal Sparks recently announced that he’s leaving the cult TV show (8 p.m., weeknights on E!) after less than a year on the job. EW Online spoke with the 30 year old actor about ”Talk,” his next move, and quantum physics (no kidding).

EW Online: John Henson left ”Talk Soup” for a development deal with ABC. Got any sitcoms up your sleeve?
Hal Sparks: Well, I’M in development. I’m as developed as I’m going to get right now.

You’ve already lined up your next job, starring in an independent feature, ”Stages.” What dream projects would you like to pursue?
I envision the movies I want to do as ”Beverly Hills Cop” with fighting. I’d swap out the gunplay and replace it with really good, well choreographed fighting. Something like [the 1984 comedy] ”The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.” That movie is very me. I actually do have a quantum physics background, I’m trained in the martial arts, and I play guitar. The hardest thing is that I can do everything. The question is, What do you pare that down to?

What about a talk show of your own?
I really don’t have any aspirations for that. If I had a show, it would be more ”do” than ”talk.” More like ”Crocodile Hunter.” Wrasslin’ wild animals is a skill I picked up dating in Kentucky. Just kidding! But I’m more of a film actor, a performer, that’s all.

How well do you think you filled the shoes of the previous hosts, Henson and Greg Kinnear?
Getting the job was like getting pushed out into traffic: a swift kick in the butt and then cars are whizzing by. But the response was overwhelmingly positive from the beginning, even though everyone was preparing me for the worst. There were definitely fans of John who hated me for no reason. I guess the weird part is when people compared me to Greg. Greg is, in appearance, older, more distinguished, more of a host, whereas I have this quirky, almost high school energy. I think I have a lot more in common with him than with John. I take it as a huge compliment.

Looking back, what mistakes did you make?
There were some things that I let escape my lips that I’ve regretted later. We once referred to Rip Taylor as a has-been — one of those things that, in the moment, I didn’t feel was a fight I could win. Afterward, I felt really bad. I’m aware that TV can hurt people as well as help. I ran into Louie Anderson a while back, and we had made a fat joke about him. It wasn’t anything he wouldn’t had said himself, but he fixated on it and ribbed me a little. Each time something like that happened, it made me really consider what I’m saying.

You have your own website,, but many of your fans have posted additional sites in your honor. Are you bracing yourself for the fake nude pinups?
I can’t control the nudity that may be on the Internet, but if they put my head on Courteney Cox’s nude body — which is actually the body of a Romanian Playmate — I can’t help that. But I can enjoy it like the rest of America.

You appeared in the 1989 B movie ”Chopper Chicks in Zombietown” with Billy Bob Thornton. What was that like?
I only saw him once. He was sitting in the makeup chair, really quiet, and I remember thinking he didn’t strike me as very smart. I was 18 and full of piss and vinegar, and he seemed like a decent actor. I was there just for the money, but I couldn’t figure out why he was there, playing the romantic lead in this weird movie. But apparently he was looking in the mirror and saying, ”I’ve got to do something or I’m going to be a B movie actor forever.” So I guess I can say, ”Hey, I was there for a very small part of the making of ‘Slingblade.”’

A lot of people have referred to you as an overnight success thanks to ”Talk Soup.” Any truth to that?
I’ve had four first breaks. When I was in high school, I had a kids’ game show that ran for two years, but that didn’t do it. ”Chopper Chicks” certainly didn’t do it. I had a recurring part on [the 1995 series] ”Nightstand.” I’ve been at this for a decade. I even auditioned for ”Talk Soup” for five years. First I auditioned for it when John got it, but I had hair down to my butt and I didn’t look very E!. About a year and a half ago I cut my hair and they brought me in, but John decided to stay another year. When I came in last year, I was a little fed up, honestly. So when they gave me a lot of rules to follow, I basically broke every one of them, because I had decided to make myself laugh and ruin the whole thing. But that attitude is literally what got me the job.

What’s been the biggest perk of being a ”Talk Soup” host?
I have a little bit of a crush on Sophie Marceau, and now that I’ve been on TV, I could probably walk up to her and I wouldn’t get a drink thrown in my face. Instead I’d get, ”Uh, excuse me, you’re on basic cable.” So that’s a step up.

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