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Willard No Chump In 'Chump Change'

NBC 17
February 17, 2004
By Tim Lammers
Web Staff Editor

Perhaps the best way to describe Fred Willard's acting talents is to refer to three of his films, "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind" -- his movies are worth "waiting for," he always gives his "best" and they are "mighty" funny.

Chump Change Willard's fans are sure to delight once again in his amazing improvisational talents in the new DVD "Chump Change" (Miramax Home Entertainment): a comedy based on the true story of writer-director-star "Milwaukee Steve" Burroughs that skewers the process of getting a movie made in Tinseltown.

Among the many challenges are fair-weathered industry people he encounters along the way -- including Willard as a likable, but not-exactly-dependable manager.

"The character was a forerunner to my character I did in 'A Mighty Wind' -- he's kind of a wacky manager," Willard explained. "I have a lot of experience with them."

Willard then broke down for me the differences between an agent and manager.

"An agent's job is just to get you work and negotiate money," Willard said. "A manager is kind of nebulous -- they guide and advise you and I don't know if they're really needed. When you are starting out in the business, you listen to whatever anybody says and look for truth in that. You say, 'Well, he did this and he did that,' maybe I should take this advice. He must know something.' But when you look back, you realize most of them didn't know anything."

That's not to say that Willard thinks managers are evil -- well, sometimes.

"There are some very decent people out here -- when you're not doing well, everyone seems evil, but when you are doing well, everyone is nice and open," Willard said, laughing. "So it depends on how you look at things."

Looking at his gigs as far back as stints on television with "Fernwood 2Nite" and "Real People," to films like Christopher Guest's documentary style comedies and most recently, "American Wedding," there's not question Willard has a great handle on the acting trade.

But when it comes to sell the idea for a film like Milwaukee Steve in "Chump Change," Willard says he has faced the fire only once -- and that was enough.

"I wrote an idea for a TV movie hero several years ago that used Mickey Mantle as the hero," Willard recalled. "I had one meeting with some Disney executives and pitched the idea, and at the end they said 'Why Mickey Mantle?' I had a feeling they didn't exactly know who he was and I knew right away the cause was lost."

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