Back in 1986, Bill Pullman played a Han Solo-type parody character in Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs.”
A quarter century later, Pullman is back playing yet another Harrison Ford character: Rusty Sabitch in a sequel to the 1990 movie “Presumed Innocent” on TNT Nov. 29 dubbed “Scott Turow’s Innocent.”
“I’ve inherited a few opportunities to pick up after Mr. Ford,” said Pullman, with a chuckle during a recent phone interview.
In the original movie (and 1987 best-selling book), Rusty was an attorney accused of a murder he did not commit. Now, 22 years later, he is now a judge accused of murdering his wife, the woman who had murdered his mistress in the first film. The new TNT film has some great actors besides Pullman: Marcia Gay Harden is his unstable wife. Alfred Molina is Pullman’s feisty attorney. And Richard Schiff plays the weary prosecutor who tries to pin a murder on Rusty again.
Pullman said he had never seen the original film until he received the script to this one. “I was confused when I first read the script,” he said. “I thought it was a remake of an earlier film. I didn’t know what to think about that. So then I read on imdb.com what the story was about.”
Parts of the script haunted and intrigued him. He liked how complicated Rusty’s character is. In the film, Pullman plays Rusty with a mix of restraint, sadness and inner anger covered by an odd, surface bonhomie. “It’s like a classic noir,” Pullman said. “There are a lot of very held actions, very intimate, very small exchanges of things.”
He also read Turow’s book as well as the script. “There weren’t a lot of significant changes” between the two, he said.
The character is far different from the nutty guy Pullman recently played on the recent Starz series “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” where he plays a Death Row inmate who survives because nobody on the show can die anymore. On that show, he becomes a messiah to many. “Innocent” is more “like a chamber piece or a small quintet,” Pullman said. “Just really pounding it hard with other good players.”
Though it seems improbable that Rusty would stay with his wife after knowing she was a murderer, Pullman reasons that “you probably know quite a few people who lived lives and marriages that were propped up, especially if one is wounded or injured or has a disease. There’s guilt and a sense of responsibility for the children.”
And Rusty gets drawn into an affair yet again despite knowing it was all wrong. “It’s like an undertow,” Pullman said. “People tend to work back in patterns.”
Shot in Canada, he said he noticed the producers of “Innocent” had a poster on the wall of a film 13 years earlier called “Guilty” starring… Bill Pullman. “And I played a judge!” he said.
One of Pullman’s biggest roles was as a kick-butt president in 1996’s action flick “Independence Day.” There have been rumblings of a sequel 15 years later. “It sounds like there have been a lot of different scenarios how to make it work,” he said. “It hasn’t been quite comfortable for everybody yet. And Will Smith has a busy schedule… I had a lot of good memories from that original film. I’d go back in it if they give me something to do.”
“Scott Turow’s Innocent,” 9 p.m. TNT, Nov. 29
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk