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Toronto Star (04/Jul/1987) - Another new life for motel that haunted the '60s



Another new life for motel that haunted the '60s

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Now that Norman Bates has checked out, the Bates Motel has undergone a psychic exorcism that has turned it into "a place of rest and contemplation."

That's the description given by Bud Cort, best known for his starring role in the cult hit feature film Harold And Maude, who stars as a likable misfit named Alex West who inherits the haunted motel from the mad killer of Psycho fame.

Bates Motel, a two-hour TV movie which NBC will broadcast tomorrow (channels 2 and 57, at 9 p.m.), 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, dressed in black and white, 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 blue eyes, created an otherworldy 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'."

Killed his father

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, was one of the most popular and influential movies of the decade. The black-and-white film is genuinely scary and the shower scene in which Janet Leigh is slashed to death by an unseen intruder has become a film classic.

Anthony Perkins starred as Norman in the original and in Psycho II, 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 M* A* S* H in 1970. Director Robert Altman was so impressed by Cort's work in the small role that he cast him as the title character in Brewster McCloud, the story of 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.

Cort has not had a role to equal it since. Is he bothered that he is so closely identified with a film he made so long ago?

"You have to consider how many thousands of struggling actors can't get a break," he said. "I'm not going to disparage something that gives me an identity. It was one of the high points of my life and my career.

Hawaii holiday

"Ruth Gordon became one of my best friends. She was standoff-ish during the filming, but once we finished, she became one of the bastions of my private and professional existence."

Cort, refreshed by a vacation in Hawaii after completing the TV movie in May, is now preparing for his next project, a one-man show playing the late writer Truman Capote.

"The thing about Truman Capote is that after you get over the shock of his voice, you realize he was an extremely bright man and had a lot to say," Cort said in an on-target imitation of Capote's petulant, squeaky voice.

Cort is hoping to get the play, written by Larry Grobell, produced on Broadway.