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Local Heroes
'Varsity Blues' and the Fame Game

It's apt having a teen heartthrob like "Dawson's Creek's" James Van Der Beek play a high-school football hero. In a Texas small town, like the one where his new movie "Varsity Blues" is set, the football players are treated like movie stars. The entire town shows up at games to cheer them on. Their pictures are posted on billboards. And the local girls present their rear ends to the football stars for autographing.

"There are definite parallels to my real life," Van Der Beek admits. He talks about a personal appearance he made in Seattle, touting "Dawson's Creek," where a group of teenagers started a demonstration even before he stepped in front of the curtain. The series hadn't aired yet, so the audience was reacting to hype more than anything else. "No one knew who we were and because of the situation the girls were screaming anyway," says Van Der Beek. "We could have been a couple of microphone stands."

Van Der Beek's co-star, the Academy-Award-winning vet Jon Voight, naturally has a different take on fame. He shot to movie stardom 30 years ago in "Midnight Cowboy," and he won his Oscar in 1978 for "Coming Home." Recently, he has been lauded for his character roles in movies as disparate as "Enemy of the State" and "The Rainmaker." ("We were in awe of him," says Van Der Beek. "It was like taking a master class in acting.")

Strangely enough, though, the movie Voight remembers best is the 1997 thriller "Anaconda." "Of all the movies I have made, the one I can't justify is 'Anaconda,'" says Voight. "But ironically it is the only movie where I can remember every word. I could film the scenes right now. They stick to me like some poison goob."

-- Sean Doorly
(Written for Premiere Magazine Online)