With all the money in Hollywood, you'd think somebody could buy Deborah Kara Unger a pair of panties. But as Michael Douglas discovers when they scramble up a fire escape in The Game and as audiences already knew from her butt-baring turns in 1992's Whispers in the Dark and last year's Crash, Unger, 33, has gained a reputation for making do without her Underoos. ''It would be terrific to be in a movie where I get an entire wardrobe,'' she laughs. ''Usually, I show up for my fittings and it's like, 'Holy s---, time to stop chowing down on the pizza.' ''
The Game is likely to change all that. Playing duplicitous waitress Christine in the thriller, Unger proves she can be more than just ''the sex pillow.'' Like Sharon Stone, Unger has managed to act her way out of schlock (like Till There Was You and the third Highlander film) and into the big time. ''I love the idea that The Game is a movie with great actors that people will see and might like,'' she says.
Getting past her past wasn't easy. ''Deborah's test reel was a two-minute sex scene from Crash,'' Douglas recalls, ''and she didn't say anything. I thought it was a joke. Then we saw her in person and thought that she was just great.''
Douglas isn't the only one Unger impressed. She recently landed her first lead, as ''a crazed 30-year-old mom who does not want to be a grown-up,'' in The History of Luminous Motion an indie due in '98. It's payoff for years of not getting all the parts she wanted. ''I've auditioned with so many top actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Cruise, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro,'' she adds, ''I was starting to believe that the tests themselves were enough to get me through as an actor.''
Unger grew up in Vancouver, where her father is a gynecologist and her mother is a nuclear-disposal specialist. She began her career performing on telethons and went on to become the first Canadian accepted at Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art.
Now that she's attracting attention with The Game, Unger hopes she's seen as more than just a pantyless plaything: ''People say it's a guy movie. I tell them if it was, I'd be wearing a push-up bra with a dress that rips off perfectly as I flee down the street trying to escape gunfire, dogs, and rats.'' Well, there's always Highlander 4.
With additional reporting by Tricia Laine