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Culp Channels RFK

(c) TV Guide Online

November 28, 2000

By Rich Brown

Steven Culp says playing the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in the White House drama "Thirteen Days" was an intimidating prospect — especially given the long line of actors who had portrayed him in the past.

Culp, who co-stars with Kevin Costner and Bruce Greenwood in the pic (opening Dec. 20), tells TV Guide Online that he helped prepare for the role by watching tapes of Martin Sheen and other actors playing RFK. One performance in particular — Kevin Anderson in 1992's "Hoffa" — really blew Culp away. "I went, 'Oh God, he's the guy to beat,'" he says. "It scared me a little bit because I thought he really caught it."

At least one advantage that Culp has over many other Kennedy imitators is a strong physical resemblance, which helped land him a small role as RFK in the 1996 TV movie "Norma Jean and Marilyn". "I actually didn't tell them that I had [played Kennedy] before," he says of his audition with "Thirteen Days" co-producer Costner and director Roger Donaldson. "Sometimes that can work against you. I didn't find out until midway through filming that they knew that I had played Bobby before.

"Thank God that my looks worked in my favor," adds Culp. "So often, you're told 'you're not this enough or not that enough,' so, I thought these patrician looks of mine have paid off."

Donaldson took the physical resemblance yet a step further by insisting that Culp wear false teeth. Gary Archer, the man who designed Mike Meyers's choppers in "Austin Powers," was brought in to make the special pearly whites. To Culp's surprise, the mouthpiece actually helped him in capturing Kennedy's Boston accent. "There's this sort of high tonality to Bobby's voice, and as soon as I put in the teeth it made the opening different," he says. "It did something to my vocal aperture. I have to say, Roger was right!"

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