Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 41 years, 2,189 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Conjoined Twin Dies After Birth, Sister Remains in Critical Condition: 'I Believe in the Power of Prayer,' Says Mother
- Read the Cover Story:
Josh Duggar's Shocking Double Life
- Fabulous at 50! Sarah Jessica Parker Flaunts Toned Figure in One-Piece Swimsuit During Ibiza Getaway
- Missing South Carolina Teen Who Was Found Safe Charged with Filing False Police Report
- The Newest Back-to-School Must-Have for Teens? Cosmetic Surgery
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- July 17, 1989
- Vol. 32
- No. 3
Striking Out with Sigourney, Social Slimer Peter MacNicol Still Scores in Ghostbusters II
Even though MacNicol, 32, is short (5'7½" when a part requires him to stand up straight) and slight and surrounded by the big boys of comedy, he's impossible to miss. He's the one with the high-pitched voice spewing out fractured English in an accent no known country could produce. The one with the hairdo that looks as if it had just been plugged into an electrical outlet. The one who sidles up to resident Ghostbusterssexpot Sigourney Weaver to suggest, "Do you vant to go and hoff a brunch vit me?"
His star may be on the rise in Hollywood, but MacNicol, who played Meryl Streep's puppyish suitor Stingo in 1982's Sophie's Choice and portrayed a vulnerable Richard II in a 1987 New York Shakespeare Festival production, swears he'll stay down to earth. Standing in the booklined one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife, Marsue Cumming, 40, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Peter gazes at two pictures of galaxies from an astronomy book. He carried the illustrations to the premiere of Sophie's Choice. "Every once in a while I'd take them out from my coat pocket and look at them," MacNicol remembers. "Then I would think, 'Geez, it's just a little film.' "
This is not the gesture of a conventional actor. But then, MacNicol might be defined by his quirks. In his spare time, he plays the bagpipes. In conversation, he tosses out words like "ecto-skeleton." The vocabulary is a throwback to the time when, as the youngest of five children born to John, a Dallas executive turned Episcopal priest, and Barbara, a housewife, Peter decided he wanted to be a paleontologist.
That notion fossilized when McNicol discovered that math was required. Then, at age 9, he was recruited to take the part of a statue of St. Peter in a church play. "I remember trying to achieve a stonelike complexion with talcum powder," he says. "But when I stood up, the talc rose from me like a squall line and started moving over the front pews." Still the performance was received with such hilarity, he immediately decided to make acting his goal.
After graduating from high school—where MacNicol developed the "devastating wit" that has protected many a short guy from more muscular barbs—Peter went on to the University of Minnesota. "I played a lot of old men, with silver hair spray," he says. "I probably looked like a teenager who had been at Chernobyl." After a stint at Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater, he moved to New York in 1980—and a part in the Pulitzer-prize winning play Crimes of the Heart, in which he was spotted by a casting agent for Sophie's Choice.
MacNicol, though flattered, didn't think he was up to the role. Literally. The character was supposed to be more than 6' tall. "So I put those portable packs of tissues into my shoes, and I arrived at the audition 5'9"." For a callback, MacNicol padded his boots with a few more packs. Another callback, another few packs. "But my pants were cut for somebody 5'7½"," he says. "When I sat down to do a scene with Meryl, my hemline shot up to my knees. I looked like I was wearing lederhosen."
There was considerably less paperwork involved in the Ghostbusters II audition, but an equal amount of fancy footwork. According to MacNicol, the character as written "was one of those guys that 5,000 actors could play." In his audition, Peter gave Janosz a homeland (Carpathia) and an accent as thick as stuffed cabbage. To prepare for the role, MacNicol hung around a Romanian tourist agency and devoted considerable time to conjuring up Carpathia. "I envisioned our flag. It was a snake stepping on a man. Then I invented our national product. I thought maybe we make those little barrels that Saint Bernards wear."
But not one of Carpathia's quaint customs prepared MacNicol for being slimed. "Six times I wore that stuff. It doesn't wash off in the shower," he says. "It shifts. It's like some kind of oil slick that changes harbor. It left a pink residue. In Los Angeles, I thought, 'I'll bet they think I've had a bad Retin-A reaction.' "
Quite understandably, MacNicol's star turn in Ghostbusters II has brought "a very strange assortment" of offers. But right now he's considering his options and spending time with Marsue, who is executive director of the 52nd Street Project, a theater program for homeless children. Married 2½ years, MacNicol and Cumming met on a blind date during which the evening's chief diversion was a sharply contested game of Password. "She got me to say 'pneumatic,' " MacNicol remembers, "and we knew we had that kind of connection."
Even with the praise he has earned for Ghostbusters II("the funniest performance in this film," wrote the New York Times's Vincent Canby), MacNicol isn't absolutely sure he's in the right profession. "There's this need to be a tough hombre, which I'm just not," he says. On the other hand, "I'm not thinking paleontology."
—Joanne Kaufman, Victoria Balfour in New York
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!