"The Face" is back, but not without mixed feelings.
Professional handsome guy Dirk Benedict, who played Face on The A Team in the '80s (as well as Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica), was here last week co-starring in Earth Storm, a TV movie for the U.S. Sci Fi channel. It breaks a nine-year TV hiatus for Benedict.
Credit his son George, 17, for talking him into it. "I said 'I miss acting, George. But if I resurrect my career, I'm going to have to spend time in L.A. with stupid producers saying things like 'Didn't you used to be blond?' And the next thing you know, we'll be having big conversations about my hair.'
"And George said 'Dad, your hair was your career.' "
Still impossibly good-looking at 60, Benedict's life changed in 1995 with a divorce in which he got custody of his boys, George and Roland (the latter a member of the under-18 Western American Olympic Soccer Team). He took them home to Montana where he raised them in a 900-square-foot log cabin, feeding them "beans, greens and vegetables" (Benedict contracted prostate cancer in his 20s and says he treated it with a macrobiotic diet -- an experience detailed in his book Confessions Of A Kamikaze Cowboy).
"People think I'm a macho guy because I smoke cigars and drink scotch," he says. "But for the last nine years I've been Mr. Mom. All my friends are soccer moms."
His comeback actually began last year in Germany after he appeared at a sci-fi convention in Bonn. "There was a writer-director there, 32 years old, who saw me and said 'That's who I want to be in my movie.' The movie was Goldene Zeiten by Peter Thorwath, a black comedy about a crooked celebrity/charity golf tournament where the celeb -- an '80s American TV star -- is replaced by a drunken German lookalike. Benedict plays both roles, and ended up having to learn 53 lines in German.
"It's the greatest part I ever played," he says. It motivated him to act again in Earth Storm, in which he co-stars with Stephen Baldwin in a tale of astronauts fixing the Moon after it gets cracked by a meteor impact. Ironically, the man who was Starbuck is Earth-bound in this film, playing a nasty, misguided government official.
Speaking of Starbuck, Benedict's soccer-mom status didn't protect him from accusations of chauvinism when the new Battlestar Galactica series started, with his old role given to a woman (Katee Sackhoff).
"People kept asking me about Starbuck being a girl and I finally wrote what I thought for a British magazine called Dreamwatch. It was called Starbuck: Lost In Castration, and a lot of people got really angry -- 'this chauvinist pig, this angry bitter old actor, how dare he?' It was about why you can't have a character like Starbuck in a show today -- a cigar-smoking, drinking, womanizing lovable scoundrel. The feminist movement got rid of those guys. In the war against masculinity, the only way that character could work was to make him a woman."
"Why do you think The A Team is not a film? The only way they could do it today is with four girls kicking ass.
"Dwight (Schultz, who played A Team's Howling Mad Murdoch) and I are doing a radio show in Montana. We're calling it 'Dirk and Dwight's one-man show.' I play piano, he sings, we do a few songs and we discuss the politics of The A Team -- how the liberal left went after us, how the National Education Association and teacher's unions tried to get us off the air.
"Yet all my fans today are 32-year-old guys who watched it with mom and dad. The teachers unions would love to have it back now instead of Paris Hilton having sex."
BORN: Dirk Niewoehner, March 1, 1945 in Helena, Montana
EDUCATION: Earned a B.A. in theatre from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington
FIRST FILM: Georgia, Georgia, 1972
FIRST TV SERIES: Chopper One, 1974
DIVORCED: With two teenage sons, George and Roland
ETC: Has written two books, Confesssions Of A Kamikaze Cowboy and And Then We Went Fishing
Wrote and directed a film, Cahoots, which is on the film festival circuit
TRIVIA: Benedict was not in the two-hour pilot for the series The A Team, but was hired after the series was picked up