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LEE,JASON Kissing a Fool

From profession skateboard rider to actor and would-be director - the co-star of Chasing Amy and the new romantic comedy Kissing a Fool tells PAUL FISCHER how and why.

It's hard to imagine that 10 years ago, Jason Lee was an accomplished professional skateboarder, then just 18, which garnered him some recognition with the youth of America. It's quite a leap from the skateboard to the movie camera, but now actor Lee, who was a hit as Banky in last year's much liked Chasing Amy, sees some parallels between the two. "The similarities for me would be the sense of achieving things that you want to achieve and working to achieve those; that's a universal concept in anything. There's also similarities as far as the kinds of people involved in both skateboarding and Hollywood. There are the cliques, there's what's cool and what's not cool, the popular versus the unpopular. As in high school."

Though it now seems that Lee has found his niche, and has taken on Hollywood full on, he says he has no regrets and does not miss the sporting life he left behind. "I don't miss it, which is good; I just sort of slowly got less and less interested in it and got more and more interested in acting."

"He was the guy who really got me started," on Kevin Smith

The dark-haired Lee began his career before the cameras in a Sonic Youth video and episodes of the Fox T.V. series M.A.N.T.I.S and Melrose Place. But Lee first came to attention playing the video game enthusiast Brodie in Kevin Smith's Mallrats (1995). There's no doubt that Smith, now a close friend, was the actor's first major mentor in the frenetic world of movie acting. "He was the guy who really got me started, and he said he'll help me with anything I want to do, a great thing to say to anybody, which means he really cares about me." He reteamed with Kevin Smith to play Banky, the comic book artist pal of Ben Affleck in Chasing Amy (1997), and Smith has pledged to executive produce a film that Lee has written and wants to direct, Seymour Sycamore and Margaret Orange.

In the meantime, Lee has broken out of the Kevin Smith mould - albeit temporarily- as co-star of his first studio film, the off-beat romantic comedy Kissing a Fool. In the film, David Schwimmer (from TV's Friends), plays a womanising sportscaster named Max Abbitt who thinks he has finally found The One in book editor Samantha Andrews (Mili Avital); Lee plays Max's best friend Jay Murphy, a sensitive writer who has spent a year moping over the end of a relationship while turning it into his first novel. The premise finds sensitive Jay struggling with insecure Max's request that he test Samantha's fidelity by trying to seduce her, leading to all sorts of wild hijinks and complications.

"I loved the challenge of simply doing a different kind of comedy." on Kissing a Fool

Lee couldn't ask for a more distinctive role than this, the opposite to the abrasive character he played in Chasing Amy. Yet he admits that there are elements of both characters in the actor. "I guess there are things I would do that Bankie does, in that I get kinda loud sometimes and I'm often pretty outspoken. But at the same time, I have my polite side, like Jay, but at the same time I wouldn't write a book about a lost love, and spend a whole year sulking over it. To me, that's kind of insane and looks ridiculous."

Commenting on what it was that appealed to the actor about Kissing a Fool, Lee says that "a lot of it had to do with wanting to work with a new group of people and to how I would do as an actor working with a different director in a different kind of comedy." He says he's happy with the end results. "I thought I did well, which I owe to Kevin Smith, because I did two of his films and they can become pretty difficult as there is so much expected of the actors and a lot of rehearsing. So I was able to apply a lot of that, since I only had one week of rehearsals, and had only met the director once, and didn't know any of the other actors. All of that was a totally new thing for me. So I felt good knowing that I was able to pull that off and survive that whole experience." As for the film, comparing it with other romantic comedies, Lee admits "that when going into it, I thought it would be like all the others, films that I personally tend to avoid. But I was pleasantly surprised, and I loved the challenge of simply doing a different kind of comedy."

"I'm very excited about it." on Dogma

Having now tried his hand at the independent route, and the smallish studio movie, Lee says he wants to go for "much bigger movies, and I think the next one could be it." Lee is referring to his third outing with Kevin Smith. "The movie is Dogma, and it's Kevin's most ambitious film." The movie's somewhat bizarre storyline revolves around the great grand niece of Jesus Christ who is enlisted to prevent two angels from re-entering Heaven and thus undoing the fabric of the universe. Along the way, she is aided by two prophets, Jay and Silent Bob. With the help of Rufus, the 13th Apostle, they must stop those who stand in their way and prevent the angels from entering Heaven. "This is really going to be a big movie, and I'm very excited about it."


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