John Goodman couldn't come to Disney World for the "Arachnophobia" press junket. Instead he was on a huge television screen, speaking to reporters in the Dolphin Hotel by satellite from London.
Goodman is the character actor of choice at the moment. He's generally considered the best thing about TV's "Roseanne," and he's managed to squeeze in an amazing number of movies over the past year.If you missed him last fall in "Sea of Love," perhaps you caught up with him at Christmas in Steven Spielberg's "Always." Then in February came Bette Midler's "Stella." And now he plays a "Rambo"-style exterminator, the comic relief character in "Arachnophobia."
In each of these films he was the best friend of the star. And in each he easily stole the show.
That may account for his being so busy. The reason Goodman can't be in Florida is because he's shooting a new film in London, his first starring role: "King Ralph I." Then he segues into "Barton Fink" for Joel and Ethan Coen, the writing-directing team that featured Goodman in "Raising Arizona."
After that he's back playing Roseanne Barr's husband for another TV season. And his 1991 movie schedule will include his playing Fred Flintstone in a live-action version of the cartoon show, then possibly a biography of Babe Ruth.
A drawback to all of this is having to speak frequently to the media. Goodman doesn't complain, but it's obvious he isn't comfortable talking with reporters. And this long-distance setup only makes things more awkward.
Tables have been equipped with microphones and interviewers must speak loudly and directly into their respective mikes or Goodman can't hear them. There's also a few-seconds delay on the satellite and often questions and answers step all over each other.
Though he's not particularly animated and tends not to elaborate on his answers, Goodman remains a professional. He puts up with the fourth estate and even manages to crack a couple of deadpan jokes along the way. But clearly he's not having fun.
Asked to describe his "Arachnophobia" character, Goodman says, "He's a professional exterminator. He hates bugs. I'm different."
Then he offers the rest of his answer as if he's a boring high school science professor: "They're a necessary part of our ecostructure. They provide a wonderful link in the food chain. They help our soil and our vegetables to grow."
Someone asks if he has a fear of spiders and Goodman says, "I don't have any phobias that I know of." He then starts frantically scratching himself.
Goodman's character in the film is a dullard who knows his job but seems oblivious to just about everything else. He speaks in a droning monotone and makes outrageous suggestions as if they are perfectly logical, to hilarious effect.
"I based the character on somebody I knew in high school and it kind of clicked with what was in the script, so I used him. It's a fun character and a good script." So who was this, specifically? "It's somebody I'd rather not reveal due to a fear of American litigation." Then, as if he's a sleazy lawyer, "Let's get some television star money!"
As for "King Ralph I," Goodman said, "It's about a Las Vegas lounge singer who, through an unfortunate series of accidents, becomes the king of England. It sounds like a wonderful bonus, but he finds out what a lonely and hard job it is.
"And it's different because I'm on all the time now, instead of working three days a week. It's a little different than I'm used to." He added that the film co-stars Peter O'Toole.
"Barton Fink" is a comedy about a New York playwright who goes to the West Coast to work for a movie studio as a screenwriter.
And then comes Fred Flintstone, which seems like a difficult character to transfer from cartoon to live-action.
"I'm a little concerned about hearing `Yabba-Dabba-Doo' for the rest of my life, but we'll have to see when it gets here. It sounds like it should be fun. Yeah, I'm nervous about it. We'll see." He said "The Flintstones" has no director or other cast-members as yet.
How far ahead has he committed his movie schedule? "I've had it committed for me. And I should be committed any day now.
"I think I'm booked through '92. One for sure is `The Flintstones.' Theother may be `Babe Ruth.' "
As for "Roseanne": "I'm locked in there for another four years." Is he happy about it? "Sure." And, in his estimation, will the show be on for another four years? "I don't know. That would be up to the American public, the people who watch the show. It depends. It's hard to say with television. What's hot one year may not be hot the next. I'm in for the ride, though."