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Koteas has trouble separating his

life and work

By Luaine Lee, Scripps Howard News Service
January 20, 2004

Actor Elias Koteas is taking two years off, without really meaning to.  Best known as the war weary commander in "The Thin Red Line" and for his role as murderer Gary Gilmore in HBO's "A Shot in the Dark," Koteas says the trick in acting isn't what you do on stage, but what you do in life.

Now playing the DEA agent who leads a party to steal a $10 million stash of opium in USA Network's remake of "Traffic: The Miniseries," he's back in the groove.

"I believe that what goes off comes back," he says. "I find the more closed-off I am as a human being it reflects in the work. But there are some actors who can be totally closed-off and you can't approach them who are just open when you see them (work). For me, I have to live an honest life and have to live a certain way in order for me to come from it, because it's all about opening yourself up," he says.

"I've always lived in apartments and hotels, and when my dog died a couple years ago I thought, 'Well, home is where my dog was, now my dog's gone.' So I think my life was all over the place. So consequently it didn't attract work. I didn't want it. I needed to work on other things _ my life."

Koteas, 42, first gained attention when he starred in David Cronenberg's "Crush." Parts in "Harrison's Flowers," "The Adjuster," "Tucker," "Apt Pupil" followed.

He says he overcame his malaise by going back home to Montreal where he grew up in a tight, Greek community.

"I started reintroducing myself to my family without any agenda, just by being there. It's done wonders. What I'm now looking for is a place I can hang my hat _ buy a piece of land _ and some sort of grounding, because I get kind of mercurial, with the wind," he says.

"I live in Montreal in a house, had it since July, so it's empty. I have a TV and a bed and a cable modem. This apartment in New York is closing in February. It doesn't bug me. I feel grounded. I feel I could have this conversation with you and have a good attitude about this whole process because I don't feel ahhhhh, ahhhh. I guess having children, my mother says, brings meaning to your life."

Koteas divorced 12 years ago and has not remarried. He has no children and he's non-committal about whether he has anyone in his life now. "If I start feeling better about myself I might be able to allow somebody to love on me and love back and give. But right now there's people in my life that are giving me so much encouragement it's like beautiful air that's being blown into my life unexpectedly these past couple months. I feel, 'OK, that's great.'"

Try as he will, it's difficult for Koteas to separate himself from his work. "I'm only as happy as I am creatively fulfilled. That's how I've been. There's gotta be something else. I've got to find something else to find joy that could also add to the work," he says.




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