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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- February 15, 1982
- Vol. 17
- No. 6
Hollywood Flips Over Craig Wasson, and He Seems Sort of Happy About It
Audiences, likewise, have warmed to the engaging, blond and blue-eyed Wasson, who has been laboring in semiobscurity for 10 years. His Ghost Story debut will not be forgotten soon: In the first scene he plunges nude from the 29th-floor window of a high-rise. "It might have surprised Ann's folks," he admits, "since it was their first full view of their son-in-law." Emotionally, he takes an even more daring leap in Four Friends, screenwriter Steve (Breaking A way) Tesich's semiautobiographical account of tumultuous 1960s America. Praising Friends as the "best film yet made about the '60s," the New York Times said that Craig's performance as the immigrant Danilo is "the beginning of a major film career." "When I read the script," Craig says, "I thought, 'I am the guy. Danilo is my emotional story.' "
He means that he knows what it's like to be an outsider. The elder of two sons (brother Scott, 25, is a carpenter) of a former traveling salesman and a music teacher, Craig was born in Ontario, Oreg. and raised in Idaho. When he was 12, his family moved from Boise to Eugene, Oreg., a college town, and, Craig recalls, "I entered a new culture." Pudginess and new acquaintances made puberty more painful than usual. "I pursued acting and guitar," he explains, "because I wanted to do something beautiful. If I couldn't be it, wanted to create it." He went out for football to win friends, but ended up only with a splayed nose. "Adolescence was a real drag—I was a late bloomer," he says with a laugh. "I don't know if I ever bloomed." He found his vocation in a high school production of Inherit the Wind. "I got a hell of a lot more applause acting than playing football," he remembers, "with a lot less pain."
An A student, Wasson won scholarships to Penn State and Stephens College in Missouri, but figured "life was a better education than a dorm." He toured a year with Godspell before settling in New York. On Dec. 23, 1973, cold and hungry, he was the only actor to respond to an open call for a bit part in All God's Chillun Got Wings, directed by George C. Scott. It played Broadway for a limited 90-day engagement. Scott hired Craig to understudy and score the incidental music for his next project, Death of a Salesman, co-starring Martin Sheen. Sheen invited Wasson to L.A. to work on the film Victim of Circumstances, though the title of the aborted movie best describes Craig's fate. "I worked four months and never got paid. I didn't have enough money to return to New York so I lost everything I owned," he says. "I'm glad it turned out that way, though, because otherwise I wouldn't have come out here and stayed." He shifted quickly from waiting tables into commercials (McDonald's), then guest spots on TV (Bob Newhart, Phyllis), and finally movies (The Boys in Company C, The Outsider and Go Tell the Spartans).
Craig's new success has brought a move from North Hollywood to a more expensive part of the San Fernando Valley. "It's our first grown-up house," says Craig, and Ann is busy decorating the three-bedroom home with antiques. "I pick out the pieces and Craig pays," she grins. (He also designed two stained-glass windows of soaring and nesting eagles for the living room.) He has already finished a role as a one-man band in the upcoming romantic comedy Second Thoughts, with Lucie Arnaz—and the three songs he wrote for it have revived dreams of a record deal: "Hey, the whole movie is one big demo tape."
For the moment the Wasson household is preoccupied by instruction in the Lamaze natural childbirth method. "I haven't missed work for a minute," says Ann. "I liberated her," says the father-to-be. "We bounce ideas off each other and have a complete partnership. We are one entity in our goals and commitments." Among those is to have "lots of kids," says Craig. "A career is the means, and the family is the end."
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