Happy campers creating their vision: Bricklin, Klugman back together for "Minimum Wage’ | VailDaily.com

Happy campers creating their vision: Bricklin, Klugman back together for "Minimum Wage’

Wren Wertin
Vail Daily/Quentin HunstadBrian Klugman plays the part of Oscar in the Jonathan Bricklin film, "Minimum Wage."

The happy campers rekindled their friendship, both harboring the same dreams of success in Hollywood. They’re working together on “Minimum Wage,” a film written and directed by Bricklin, which wraps up filming in Eagle County today.

Bricklin imported all of the big guns he could name as friends for his project. Claiming 50-plus commercials, guest appearances on a myriad of TV shows, a regular spot on “Fraser” and a marked ability to realistically portray a vacuum salesman with a penchant for self gratification, Klugman seemed a natural fit.

“As an actor working on a TV show – “Fraser’ is a dream job,” he says about playing Kirby, the intern at Fraser’s radio station. “The writers are fantastic, the cast is so strong. They’re actors’ actors. You get your scripts and do your table reads, and next thing you know you’re laughing your ass off. This is the only TV show I’ve done where they get better when the producers get involved.”

Kirby seems slow, but underneath he’s quite aware of what’s going on around him. There have been instances when it’s looked like he was being played by Niles and Fraser, but in reality he’s undermining them.

“I like that I get to do a bit of physical comedy with him, too,” says the actor, who readily acknowledges his two left feet.

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Klugman (who has been seen about town sporting candy necklaces and bursting into Neil “The Jewish Elvis” Diamond songs) plays Oscar in “Minimum Wage.” Oscar isn’t the brightest of chaps, getting himself into gonadal trouble with a vacuum cleaner. Despite his obvious failures, Klugman plays Oscar with such a frank – almost fatalistic -quality, he becomes likable.

Klugman wanted to be an actor since he was a child, and was in a hurry to pursue it.

“I didn’t realize that college is a four-year chance to be a kid, starring in everything,” he says, laughing. “It’s not like that in the real world.”

He is perhaps not only referring to the expected difficulty of landing plum roles, but also to the trials of the auditioning process. According to Klugman, auditioning for commercials is by far the worst. They might turn on music and say something to the effect of: we want to see how you move – just dance.

“They’re rather soul-stealing and humiliating,” he says. “They make you really jump through hoops.”

The pay-off, of course, is the amount of money an actor can bank over the long term for one day’s work. For Klugman, commercials help pay the bills, but he’s more interested in having his own work produced.

He’s had a film shown at the International Short Shorts festival in Tokyo, “The Great Upside Down.” Described as “Waiting for Godot” on hallucinogens, the 10-minute film has been shaved down a bit.

“You have to learn not to fall in love with your own words,” he says.

His latest script was chosen for the Sundance Film Festival’s Writers’ Fellowship Program, where a team of professionals go through a writer’s script with a fine-toothed comb and give practical advice on how to improve it.

“It was like being in graduate school, working with these amazing minds,” he says. “Lee Sternthal, who wrote “Cool Hand Luke,’ was on the panel. He actually read my script.”

In addition to writing and acting, Klugman fills his days with painting and piano lessons.

“I’m very grateful,” he said. “My whole life is about artistic expression.”

His uncle Jack Klugman, best known for his role in “The Odd Couple,” gave him some sound advice.

“The only tool you have as an actor is selectivity,” he said.

Klugman acknowledges the truth of this statement: once you do something, it’s there for all time, be it good or bad.

“Poor Dustin Hoffman – “Ishtar’ is never going to go away,” he says. “And I’ve done some doozies. I won’t tell you what those are, because I don’t want people going out and renting them.”

One such title-less film was a horror flick. Playing a man whose eyes were burned out, he had prostheses in place of his eyeballs. They took so long to put in, he had to leave them in all day, rendering him helpless at eating or going to the bathroom by himself. He was the butt of every joke.

His seemingly electrified curly top of red hair is still cause for laughter, but that’s alright with Klugman.

“I’m not a cool guy,” he says. “And I don’t want to be.”

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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