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The aces of Spade

February 22, 2004

DAVID Spade tells MICHAEL BODEY how he handles difficult ex-child stars.

Once a child star, always a child star. American comedian David Spade still cups his forehead in his hand when recalling the frustrations dealing with a gaggle of former child stars. Spade stars in, and co-wrote, the comedy Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, a film in which a fair few washed-up actors and singers were needed for, well, legitimacy. And comedy.

Finding them was easy, convincing them to participate was another thing altogether.

"A lot who were younger stars just want nothing to do with it," Spade admits. "They don't even want to remind people they were on TV. A lot of them don't even want to bring it up, it's like admitting failure."

"It was like saying, 'Hey, we're doing a movie about a loser that used to be on TV and we want you to be his best friend because you guys were all losers together'. It's hard for them to say, 'Oh, and I play myself?' "

Spade plays Dickie Roberts, a child TV actor who, at 35, is now a valet still living like he's a star. After being told by director Rob Reiner that he couldn't act because he lacks real-life experience, Roberts decides to hire a family to help him relive his childhood.

Spade says he can relate to a tale in which everything disappears. Any actor would.

"Sure, I think with any job, any job that could go away one day is pretty tough. All these people getting laid off now in the computer companies, advertising, whatever, it's like everything – you want to be secure, you want to know it's there," he says.

"But [Hollywood's] such a fleeting, ridiculous business it makes no sense anyway. So it's hard to feel really good about it, and when you're a kid, it's weirder because it's such a surface business, they base it all on your looks and when that changes a little bit and you're not cute anymore they just go on to the next one."

And that can hurt anyone. Even so, some of the younger stars who have gone on to greater success in the industry, such as producer-directors Henry Winkler and Ron Howard, didn't want to be reminded of their past lives.

They wouldn't participate. Actually more child stars didn't want to participate in the film than did. "We got the key ones from talking to who was available, who was into it and who liked it the most and who made most sense," Spade says.

Unfortunately, all the lead has-beens in the movie are male. Spade wanted Tootie (Kim Fields) from The Facts Of Life but "Tootie had some bigger things to do".

Spade and co-writer Fred Wolf (who he also collaborated with on Joe Dirt and Black Sheep) even rewrote a role for Tootie's pal, Natalie (Mindy Cohn), but she reneged.

"It was hard because people were like, Emmanuel Lewis doesn't want to swear, with some people you can't mention their show, some people you can't mention their catchphrase and if you say their catchphrase it was an extra five grand. We were like, oy!"

Another demanded producer Adam Sandler be on set every time he was on camera. Then when more than 20 of them assembled for a song for the end credits, the egos landed. Some didn't want to stand in a certain place, others wouldn't stand next to someone else.

"They did get spoiled and they just have to back out of that. It's hard to go back to being anonymous and living everyday life," Spade says. "Even the parents are weird because they give them everything and sometimes dump them. That's everything going wrong, not only do you lose your money and your show, your parents don't like you because you're not famous."

Spade doesn't look like losing fame soon. The former stand-up has survived the curse of former Saturday Night Live stars and thrived as a TV and film comedian.

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star opened at the top of the US box office, and video and DVD sales of his last film, Joe Dirt, are so strong he's contemplating a sequel.

Meanwhile, he's leapt easily from the TV sitcom, Just Shoot Me!, to another, 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, just as he was looking to create his own show.

"I took [8 Simple Rules] on because it already has an audience, a base," Spade says. "They had good writers and good people. You're forfeiting being the star but I'd rather just be on a show that works."

The Daily Telegraph

This report was published at