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St. Petersburg Times (02/Jul/1987) - Bud Cort takes over 'Bates Motel'



Bud Cort takes over 'Bates Motel'

LOS ANGELES — Now that Norman Bates has checked out, according to Bud Cort, the Bates Motel has undergone a psychic exorcism that has turned it into "a place of rest and contemplation."

Cort, best known for his starring role in the cult hit feature film Harold and Maude, stars as a likable misfit named Alex West, who inherits the haunted motel from the mad killer of Psycho fame.

The 2-hour TV movie, Bates Motel, which NBC will broadcast Sunday at 9 p.m. locally on WXFL-Ch. 8, is also a pilot for a possible series.

"This would not be a series about the 'victim of the week,'" Cort said in an interview. "The hotel becomes a place for redemption, a place for a second chance. The karma of the original Psycho debacle is shattered by events in our film. It's restored to a place of rest and contemplation. There is now something magical about the place that gives people a chance to reflect on their lives and go back into the world renewed."

Cort, attired in black and white and with blond hair offset by a black beard, stroked his tiny black and white Boston terrier. The effect, heightened by his low voice and the light illuminating his light blue eyes, created an other-worldy aura. It seemed fitting for his characterization as Alex.

If Bates Motel should become a series, Cort said he sees it as a drama that would be both psychological and amusing. "Hopefully, we'll say something original," he said. "I told my agent I'd like to play a character who grows. I wouldn't want to play someone who simply says, 'Welcome to the motel.'"

As a youth, Alex killed his abusive father and was committed to a mental institution where Norman Bates took him under his wing but "instilled in him only good qualities," Cort said. "He wants to be a part of the community. I call him a 'holy fool.' He's in the eye of the storm but magically seems to find an escape. He has an angel on his shoulders."

Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960, has become a classic. The black-and-white film was scarier than most Hitchcock pictures, and the shower scene in which Janet Leigh was slashed to death by an unseen intruder has become a film classic.

Anthony Perkins starred as Norman in the original and in a 1983 sequel. Norman appears briefly in the TV film before he dies, but he is played by Kurt Paul. The story line in Bates Motel ignores the film sequel.

Richard Rothstein, director and executive producer, wrote the Bates Motel especially for Cort.

Cort's first film was MASH in 1970. Director Robert Altman was so impressed by Cort's work in the small role that he cast him as the title character Brewster McCloud, a young man who believed he could fly.

But it was Harold and Maude in 1971 that brought him fame. He starred as a repressed young man with a death fixation who has an affair with an 80-year-old woman, played by Ruth Gordon.