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Talking a 'Blue Streak': Lawrence's new film opens without him

September 17, 1999
Web posted at: 11:34 a.m. EDT (1534 GMT)

By Andy Culpepper
Turner Entertainment Report Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Is this any way to plug a film?

No Dave. No Jay. No Oprah. Not even Regis or Kathie Lee. Martin Lawrence is missing out on some serious face time.

The 34-year-old stand-up comedian and actor remains out of sight, resting in the Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village as "Blue Streak" opens around the country. Lawrence was released from an area hospital about a week ago. He'd been taken there on August 22 after he collapsed from heatstroke caused by jogging near his home.

Contacted late Thursday by phone, Lawrence's spokesperson says the actor is "making progress" but that he's "resting per doctor's instructions."

It's hardly the best way to kick off a new action comedy, particularly one as star-driven as this high-octane cops-and-robbers caper. There are no major co-stars to pick up the slack for the recuperating Lawrence, although cast members David Chappelle and Luke Wilson gamely turned out for the film's Los Angeles premiere on Monday night. So did Wilson's gal-pal Drew Barrymore. Lawrence's friend, basketball great Magic Johnson, was also on hand.

Reporters and photographers were there, too, waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor who seemed to have his life -- to re-work a Hollywood phrase -- in "turn around." After weathering so much negative publicity over the last several years, the Maryland native seemed to have his act together.

Just when things looked better

Two weeks prior to his jogging mishap, Lawrence sat down with reporters at a studio-sponsored publicity junket to talk about the film. At a similar event last April for "Life," co-starring with Eddie Murphy, Lawrence walked out of his interview room sharply at 5 p.m., leaving Murphy to handle remaining sessions alone. This time was different.

Andy Culpepper talks with Martin Lawrence
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Theatrical preview for "Blue Streak"
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It was a calm, reflective and positive man who talked about his film on this August afternoon. Laughter came easily for this guy who knew the buzz on his new film was good.

Two years earlier, Lawrence's headlines were anything but positive. In September 1997, the actor was sentenced to probation, pleading no contest to charges he hit another man during an altercation at a nightclub. That action followed an incident involving a concealed weapon at Burbank Airport.

If demons from his past still troubled Lawrence in August, they were nowhere to be seen as he joked and responded to questions about making "Blue Streak" -- a film full of stunts, car chases and sight gags -- including some patented physical high jinks from the comedian.

Picture Jerry Lewis with buckteeth and a really bad hair day, and you've got an approximation of the alter ego Lawrence creates for his character disguised as a pizza deliveryman to get himself past the desk officer at a police station. It's full slapstick, with little in the way of subtlety, and the mention of the scene causes Lawrence to break into a huge smile.

"That was Ghetto Buck. That was Ghetto Buck, yeah," Lawrence repeats himself, satisfaction etched on his face as he discusses his comic creation. And as he contemplates this laugh-grabbing incarnation, a thought occurs to the actor.

"If you notice, Ghetto Buck is a very likable guy. He's very humorous. He likes to dance. He's entertaining. He's not the diamond thief here." Lawrence plays a diamond thief in the film. And he pauses for effect before continuing.

"This man's got a perfect record."

The irony is unmistakable. And the question becomes unavoidable. The actor himself is so likable, so easy to talk to, and -- seemingly -- so forthcoming. It's something of a surprise, but Lawrence is savvy to the difference between image and reality.

"You have certain people in the press that write their own opinions, you know, but I don't harp on that," he offers. "And I work hard to let my work do all the talking, you know what I mean? And then when you meet me ... you judge me from that or whatever."

Take my record -- please

On the subject of newfound methods for dealing with fame and the pressures of work, Lawrence's voice changes somewhat. There's a shift in cadence and tone. "I stay strong and close to my family, and I talk to them, and I ask their opinion, and my friends," he says earnestly, "and we stick together."

Something in his manner invites a nod to the past: Given the circumstances surrounding his life in recent years, would he change anything if he could? Lawrence doesn't hesitate to answer.

"If I could do anything differently -- if I've done anything that may have hurt anyone that I didn't know about, because I'm not a malicious person, I'm not a deliberately-hurts-someone person. If I can correct something like that kind of stuff, then I probably would."

It comes off as a brave admission for a funnyman camped out in a hotel room, surrounded by lights and handlers, pitching a new movie.

As goes the expression, the show must go on. And it surely will as the curtain goes up on "Blue Streak."

But it may be a real shame Lawrence won't be taking on the talk shows. He's got a lot to talk about, it seems, in addition to that new film.

Review: 'Blue Streak' -- the yuk stops here Martin Lawrence 'stable' after apparent heat stroke
August 25, 1999
'Life' a hoot with Murphy and Lawrence around
April 19, 1999
Review: Eddie Murphy's 'Life' heartwarming, funny
April 16, 1999
With 'Nothing to Lose,' Martin Lawrence cleans up his act
July 16, 1997

Official 'Blue Streak' site
Sony Pictures Movies
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