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Doggett determination

Source: Cleveland
Year: November 2001
Russian Version

A fateful accident on Lake Erie inspired former Clevelander Robert Patrick to find a home in Hollywood and on "The X-Files".

For Robert Patrick, star of Fox's "The X-Files" the journey to fame and fortune began in Lake Erie one summer day in 1984. The 26-year-old college dropout - then employed as a waiter at the now-defunct Glass Garden restaurant in Westlake - had left an East Side yacht club on a colleague's 30-foot Dragonslayer with his 20-year-old brother Lewis and three co-worker for a few hours of sailing. Without warning, the weather turned threatening. Suddently Robert found himself trying to bail water out of the hull with a cooler while 15-foot swells washed over the boat. Then the unthinkable happened: the boat capsized and sank three mile off the shores of Cleveland.

"Lewis got wrapped in the sail line and literally went down with the boat," Robert recalls by the telephone form his Hollywood Hills home. "All he remembers about it is that he saw the tip of the sail mast going down belong him. Somehow,he got his legs free of the line and he swam toward the light. I'll never forget it. He just shot out of the water like a dolphin, screaming for air."

The five men grabbed anything floating on the water's surface. "One of the guys had a 5-gallon plastic pickle bucket that he trapped air in and put underneath his chin," Robert remembers. They held onto one another, trying to saty together. When Robert noticed that the group was drifting away from the distant downtown skyline, he pointed out that he was the only one wearing a life vest and announced that he was swimming to shore for help.

Approximately 3 1/2 hours later, exhausted, he reached a marina. The Coast Guard was called and the others rescued. Robert emerged a changed man,

During those terrifying hours alone in the water, he begano to regret that he'd spent more time talking about becoming an actor than actually pursuing the dream, so much sothat his co-workers no longer took his I'm-going-to-California-to-be-a-star declaration seriously.

"I started swimming, and I said, 'if I make it, I'm on my way to Hollywood'," Robert says "I just kept telling myself, 'I'm not going to sit around and waste my life anymore.' "

Seventeen years later, there's little question that Robert Patrick has kept every promise he made to himself that day. After appearing in a slew of films - many of them low-budget, straight.to.cable productions in which he played the villain - the 43-year-old now stars in his second season on Fox's popular sci-fi/paranormal drama, playing FBI special agent John Doggett to Gillian Anderson's agent Dana Scully.

But despite the recent success, Robert remains a straight-talking, self-effacing Midwsterner, a T-shirt-and-jeans kind of guy who derives great joy from riding his Harley-Davidson FXDWG2 and occasionally worries that he's talking too much about himself during an interview.

His brother Lew, now a financial planner based in Westlake, says Robert doesn't trust Los Angeles business managers and prefers to keep his funds in Cleveland banks. And although the actor and his wife Barbara employ both a maid and a nanny to help with the domestic duties, his mother reports that her son still vacuums and spends almost every moment he's not working in the company of his 4-year-old daughter, Austin, and 1-year-ol son, Samuel.

The "X-Files" star still marvels at how he landed a major role on an Emmy-winning television series with no professional training, experience or connections. But according to the show's executive producer, Frnak Spotnitz, no drama class or acting coach can teach what Robert brings to the screen.

"A star has a quality that is no easily defined, but it's something that makes you want to watch that person when he's on screen," Spotnitz says. "Your eyes just naturally go to that person. Robert has that quality."

Robert Patrick first stepped onto a stage in his native Marietta, Ga., as the lead in a third-grade production of "Peter- Pan".

"He was a little ham," his mother, Nadine says of the oldest of her five children. "He would pretend he had a microphone. He would pretend he had a guitar. You just knew this kid love entertaining." But by the time his father Bob, a banker, moved the family from Dayton to Detroit in 1974, Robert was infinitely more interested in athletics - specifically baseball, football and wrestling - than acting. He was both an offensive fullback and defensive linebacker on the varsity football team at Farmington High School in the affluent Motor City suburb of Farmington Hills.

Lew says his brother was the typical jock, a "big-man-on-campus type of guy" who was homecoming king his senior year, "always very confident in his abilities, very outgoing, very personable."

Bob and Nadine use the adjectives "hard-working" and "driven" to describe a son who shoveled snow out of a shopping-center parking lot to make a buck. But younger brother Richard Patrick - better known as the 33-year-old leader of the rock froup Filter - remembers a drag-racing rebel who used to burn down the clutch and tires in their father's Mustang and got into so many fistfights that he was almost expelled from shool. Robert's popularity in high school was hard-won - as the new kid, he was constantly tauned and teased.

"They'd call him the Buckeye, and he hated that," Richard recalls. "He was like, 'Don't call me a f---ing Buckeye', and he would come up and just deck 'em in the face. They made him the homecoming king because he fought his way up to it."

When Bob accepted the post of chief financial officer at Society National Bank (now KeyBank) in August 1976, Robert remained behind to finish his senior year in Farmington Hills while the rest of the family settled into their new Bay Village home. The following year, Robert went to Bowling Green State University, intent on continuing his football career. After a week as a walk-on, he left summer workouts, shocked at the number and severity of injuries suffered by some of his older teammates. He realized that he didn't love the game enough to sacrifice his health so wholeheartedly. "That was when I bombed out of school", says Robert, who didn't return for his sophomore year.

The would-be football star entered a period he calls "the lost years", the events of which mirror the experiences of countless young adults who can't decide what to do with thir lives. The first months were spent living with his parents, working in the Union Commerce Bank mailroom, and bouncing from Lorain County Community College to Cuyahoga Community College.

Only the drama classes he signed up for held his interest. "I wondered what it wuold be like to be an actor," he says. Robert took his mother's suggestion that he put his good looks to work and contacted Cleveland's David & Lee Model Management, a move that resulted in print work for local department stores and a Tv commercial for Scandinavian Health Clubs. Then, in typical actor fashion, he took a job as a waiter at the Glass Garden and rented a "bachelor's pad" within walking distance of the restaurant. "It was kind of like doing a performance for people", he says of the gig. The self-described "pretty shy guy" went on to assemble a string of girlfriends and indulge in a single life he still won't talk about.

"I did a lot of stuff that I don't know if I really want to publicize," Robert says. "I experimented with a lot of things. Waiters are notorious hell-raisers."

Two month after the misadventure on Lake Erie, Robert paked up his Mercury Capri and drove cross-country. "I was listening to Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' incessantly," he remembers. Despite his lack of emplyment and references, and elderly landlady taken with his slight Southern accent rented him a furnished apartment in a Koreatown brownstone.

"I could see the Hollywood sign from my window, and I just thought I was on top of the world," Robert says of his modest circumstances.

Three months after arriving in California, he landed the role of a jointsmoking beatnik in "Go" a play producted by a co-worker in a downtown Los Angeles bar. It was there that he met his future wife, Barbara Hooper, who was also reading ofr a part. Next came the role of the vicious psychopath in Roger Corman's low-budget bicker flick, "Warlords from Hell" - a part the fledgling actor won by clearing the director's desk,grabbing the other actor by the shirt, ripping it, and throwing him down.

"I think they were terrified not to give it to me," he says. Robert appeared in a string of other corman action films, including the futuristic western "Equalizer 2000" and a comedy, "Hollywood Boulevard II(the Sequel!)." Like Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro and Clint Eastwood before him, Robert says he learned his craft in what he calls "the Roger Corman school of acting."

The actor graduated to major motion picutre in 1990, when he was chosen to play a terroris in "Di Hard 2". To get the role, he sacrificed his Elvis-style pompadour.

"Renny Harlin asked, 'Will you cut your hair?'" Robert remembers, imitating the Finnish director's accent. "I said, 'Sure, man, no seat. I'll shave my head for you'. He said, 'All right, you got it!' I didn't even know what I got. I backed out of that office and I was about ready to start crying. I got in my truck and sat there bawling for a while on the 20th Century Fox lot. I was like, 'Jesus, I just got a job!' I was so thankful."

Robert used a portion of the money he earned -"more money than I'd ever been paid in my life" - to buy an engagement ring for Barbara, with whom he'd been living since 1985. They married in November 1990.

"A large part of Robert's success, he owes to Barbara," his father, Bob, declares. "There were times when she held two jobs just to help [him], so he could spend his time trying to get acting jobs."

But Robert's biggest professional break came when he beat out rocker Billy Idol for the role of T-1000, the sinister cyborg in the 1991 blockbuster, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Ironically, the notoriety that resulted from his work on the film turned out to be a mixed blessing. So convincing was his depiction of the man he calls the "liquid metal guy" that casting directors couldn't imagine him as anything else.

"It was like I was wearing a scarlet letter," Robert remembers. "For about a ywar or so, I couldn't get work." The former Terminator was finally cast as a logger in the 1993 movie "Fire in the Sky," based on the sotry of five Arizona loggers who claim to have watched as one of their friends was kidnapped by aliens. "That guy was kind of warm and fuzzy in a weird way," Robert says. "He was panicked and he was stressed, but he was a regular person."

The actor gained weight and let his hair and beard grow in an attempt to change his image. The effort to redefine himself was furthered with a good-guy role in the 1997 release "cop Land" opposite Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, as well as in his portrayal of a compulsive gambler in three second-season epsiodes of HBO's "The Sopranos".

"That was a very pathetic character," Robert says. "Usually, I'm the one beating the hell out of somebody or slapping somebody around, not on the other end of it."

The experience on the series was so positive that Robert began contemplating work in television. His foray into the medium had previously been limited on the appearances in a Showtime "Outer Limits" episode and a segment of HBO's "Tales from the Crypt".

There were personal changes, too. Robert says he "sobered up" about six or seven years ago. "I used to drink a lot," he admits. "I used to partake in a few different things that I don't do anymore."

The birth of his first child made him less selfish, more concerned about his role as the breadwinner.

Had "Terminator 2" star Arnold Schwarzenegger known of Robert's struggle to redefine himself, he might have offered some assurance. Bob recounts a conversation he had with Schwarzenegger at the movie's premiere. "He said, 'Your son is going to be very big in this business'."

Like many people, Frank Spotnitz and "X-Files" creator/executive producer Chris Carter became aware of Robert Patrick when they saw him in "Terminator 2". Carter first met the actor in early 1999 during a casting meeting for the producer's short-lived Fox drama "Harsh Realm". "He's a person who's very easy to be in a room with - he's nice, funny, personable," Carter says. "He was somebody I knew I wanted to work with at some point."

The opportunity came in the middle of "The X-Files" seventh season, when Carter learned that David Duchovny, who plays agent Fox Mulder, wasn't planning to return for an eighth year. (He subsequently signed on for 11 episodes.) "The X-Files' dynamic required there to be someone else added to the show," Carter says. "I needed a character that was as different from the character of Mulder as possible to make it interesting, not just for the actor and for the audience but for the writers." The result was the creation of John Doggett, an FBI agent whom Spotnitz describes as "a man's man" and the antithesis to Mulder, who's "more intellectual, more of an outsider."

"Once we had formed that idea for the character in our heads," Spotnitz says, "the only actor who came in, truly, and was exactly that was Robert."

An "X-Files" fan, Robert was thrilled to win yet another role as a good guy. And a starring role at that. "I [had gotten] to a point in my career where I just felt like I was either supporting people or being the bad guy," he says. He admits that, like legions of other viewers, he's often befuddled by the sho's plots. "I'm confused by them and I make' em!" he says. "I have no idea sometimes what's going on."

That doesn't mean, however, that the actor shares Doggett's skepticism regarding the paranormal. His meeting with the men on whose experiences "fire in the Sky" was based convinced him otherwise.

"I don't [believe it] if it's all alien bwings," he says. "but I believe that my guys went through something horrific." Robert was more surprised by the negative reaction wxpressed by so many fans at his arrival on the show - even though he wasn't hired to fill their beloved Mulder's shoes - than he prospecto of an alien abduction. Those emotions, as Spotnitz points out, were incorporated into the series in fht form of agent Dana Scully' initial hostility toward Doggett. "To some degree, it was how we felt," Spotnitz says. "As producer of the show, it was like, 'What do you mean whe don't have David Duchovny? What do you mean we've got to bring in a new guy?' " Robert chose to deal with the pressure by simply focusing on his work - one major parallel he draws between himself and his character.

According to Carter, Gillian Anderson was "thrilled" at the prospect of working with the man chosen to play her new sidekick. Yet Spotnitz confirms there were worries that Robert and Anderson couldn't match the much-vaunted chemistry between Anderson and Duchovny.

Their worries, as it turns out, were unfounded.

"From the first day's dailies, we saw that they had a chemistry that was very appealing in a very different way... the feeling that I got and a lot of fans got watching the show last year was that Doggett cares deeply for Scully, beyond anything he's ever expressed to her," Spotnitz says. "That's something the actor just bring to the screen without the words necessarily being on the page."

As a result, Carter and Spotnitz divulge, the Doggett-Scully relationship will be a big part of this season's 20 episodes, as will the relationship between Doggett and fellow sophomore agent Monica Reyes, played by Annabeth Gish. "You've got a lot of unrequited love," Carter teases.

Actor Mitch Pileggi, who portrays FBI assistant director Walter Skinner, says any concerns he had about the newcomer were allayed during their first meeting on the set. "He came [here] with a great amount of energy, a desire to be here. It brought a freshness to the set."

There's no denying that Robert joined "The X-files" at what Carter was quoted as calling a 'crucial juncture'. Ratings had reporedly dropped 26 percent in the previous three years, although Carter notes that the show has been and continues to be Fox's top-rated drama. Carter and Spotnitz were balking at the idea of returning for an eighth season without Duchovny; Anderson was telling the press she was flat-out bored with the show. (Even with the infusion of new blood and Anderson signing on for a final season, Carter didn't decide to come bak and helm this season until July.) "Then it ended up being one of the most fun and fulfilling seasons we've ever done," Spotnitz says. "It was so challenging and so different from what the series had been before. I feel the same about this season."

Robert is banking tha true "X-Files" fans will continue to watch the show and hopes to settle in for a long run. But he's not preoccupied with what viewers think - he leaves sufring fan Web sites and e-mails to his assistant and his wife. "From what I heard, everybody's really happy with what's going on," he says. Without voicing it, Robert gives the impression that the end of the series, in his mind, certaily wouldn't be end of his career. He's spent the last couple of years working with an acting coach, exploring the outer limits of his own talent. One recent project in this year's "Spy Kids," a family movie in which he plays - yet again - the villain. But he's particularly proud of "A Texas Funeral," a picture he did with Martin Sheen, that received a standin ovation at last year's Venice Film Festival.

"I don't want to put any limitations on myself whatsoever," he says. "I want it all."

 

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