Miguel Ferrer, Twin Peaks Nasty Guy, Goes Nuts for Broken Badges
updated 12/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST
"I don't know what it is that I do," says Ferrer, "but when I play a really bad guy, I'm able to bring some level of likability to it." For Peaks freaks, his rapid-fire, absurdly deadpan sarcasm was a relief from the Zen-goofy Agent Cooper (Kyle Mac-Lachlan). "This was one of the great marriages of the right actor meeting the right words," says Peaks co-producer Mark Frost. "Miguel kind of leaped off the screen."
Albert may seem like another of Peaks's inspired jokes on classic TV—a parody of Dragnet's, Jack Webb?—but Ferrer's performance was actually inspired by an old Beverly Hills high school friend, Gavin DeBecker. "He has always had an absolutely devastating wit," Ferrer says of De-Becker, 36, today a celebrity in his own right as a Hollywood security expert. "He's amazingly smart, and he can slice people to pieces before they've even realized they've been destroyed."
DeBecker says the young Ferrer "was like he is now, funny and enjoyable." But whatever Ferrer's image at school, home life was rougher. Jose Ferrer married Rosemary Clooney in 1953; eight years and five children later, they broke up because of career tensions and, according to Clooney's court testimony, Jose's womanizing. "I didn't know what was happening to their relationship," says Ferrer. "I just knew that my dad was away on one hell of a long movie—for two years."
His parents remarried in 1964, then broke up again in 1967, when he was 13. A year later Clooney had a breakdown, brought on by an addiction to pills. "Nobody wanted to hire her again," Ferrer says. "We were broke, living in Beverly Hills. But my grandmother [Clooney's mother, Marie, who died in 1973] kept the family together. She performed a Herculean task in keeping us kids fed and clothed and on our way to school every day."
For her part, Clooney remembers that Miguel, the oldest child, matured fast: "I found myself saying, 'Stop acting like a child!' when he was 5." He was a born actor, she says. "He loved costumes. He'd go to preschool as Superman or Zorro."
Later on, another friend from adolescence, actor Bill (Lost in Space) Mumy, got Ferrer into acting and out of drumming (at age 20, Miguel had played backup on Who member Keith Moon's disastrous solo album, Two Sides of the Moon) with a small part on the series Sunshine in 1975. If Ferrer, who bypassed college, was a bit intimidated following in Dad's footsteps, he was reassured by his parents' attitude. "They had a clear sense of their jobs," he says. "They never assumed they were curing cancer."
Nor does the younger Ferrer have any pretensions to being Pierre Curie. Professionally he has often been cast as what he calls the "leather-jacketed scumbag" of the week in such TV shows as T.J. Hooker and Hill Street Blues (although his big break came as a well-tailored scumbag in the movie RoboCop). When not acting, he loves collecting comic books and, teaming with Mumy, creating them. The pair came up with The Comet Man, about an alien-friendly astrophysicist; Marvel Comics publishes it. When not plotting his hero's trajectory, Ferrer and girlfriend Kelly Snyder, a 29-year-old film editor, like to roar around Los Angeles on motorcycles (he has a 1948 Harley). But, she sighs, he's no hot rod when it comes to marriage. "I have a major interest in starting a family, but he hasn't asked me," she says. Ferrer doesn't rule out marriage, "but it isn't something I'm dying to do." Nor is he dying to talk about a previous marriage, except to say that his ex won a valuable comic book in the settlement.
But it no longer matters how many comic books Ferrer loses. "If everything else falls apart and I'm broke," he says, "in 20 years I'll still be able to do Twin Peaks conventions."
Tom Gliatto, Michael Alexander in Vancouver