At 5 a.m. the day the Academy Award nominations were announced, David Paymer was glued to the tube in his Santa Monica, Calif., bedroom. ”I was preparing myself for a failure day,” says the actor, who had read in newspaper columns that his portrayal of Stan, Billy Crystal’s brother in Mr. Saturday Night, might earn him a nod. ”The first one they announced was Jaye Davidson. Then it was Hackman, Nicholson, Pacino. There was one slot left and I just didn’t think I would fit in there.”
Much to Paymer’s surprise, the fifth spot was his, and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. ”It’s been everyone, from people I haven’t seen since the second grade to big-shot producers, but one of the first people to call me was Billy,” says Paymer, 38, who also appeared with Crystal in City Slickers. ”I feel a little funny that I am the only nomination from everyone in the movie. It’s a little surreal.”
And a little ironic considering that Stan, a comedian’s doormat/manager, has a career he describes in the film as ”following the elephant act with a shovel.” But even if the wrenching expression on Paymer’s face darkened the movie, his effective performance did land him two more major roles. In Searching for Bobby Fisher, due in October, Paymer plays a father who pushes his chess-whiz son too far. Right now he is filming Heart and Souls, in which he plays a ghostly bus driver collecting souls on Earth.
In the meantime, Paymer has one reservation about following in the footsteps of his Oscar-winning City Slickers costar. ”Last year we had Jack Palance as supporting actor and now it’s me,” he says. ”But no one-arm push-ups for this guy!”