Movie Article

Method Acting

The firefighters of ''Backdraft'' -- Three of the actors are actual members of the Chicago Fire Department

Cedric Young, Kevin M. Casey, and Richar Lexsee may have only small parts in Ron Howard's smoking summer drama, Backdraft, but they've spent years preparing for their roles. When they're not acting, the three are full-time members of the Chicago Fire Department.

According to Lexsee, the thespian-fire fighter career combination is more logical than one might think. ''You have so much time off as a fireman,'' he says. ''For every four days you work, you get five days off.'' And waiting for a part to come along can be a lot like sitting around the station waiting for a fire. But there, they agree, the similarities end. ''Fighting a fire leaves you no chance to think,'' says Lexsee. ''You just react. You're so pumped up. You want to save lives. It's not like acting. There's no 'cut.'''

Having performed in feature films, television, commercials, and local theater, the trio felt destined to be in Backdraft. ''I went up to the casting agent and said, 'I was made for this, baby. You know it,''' recalls Casey. ''I just destroyed them with my audition. I basically play myself,'' he adds, ''a Chicago fireman with a sense of humor.'' The three also doubled as informal consultants, helping director Howard keep things real. As did their spouses. ''Rebecca DeMornay came to my house because she plays a fireman's wives,'' says Casey, who has learned the proper Hollywood verb for meal-time meetings. ''We did the tea and crackers and everyone talked.''

And now Backdraft is the talk of Chicago firehouses. ''The guys at the department are glad this movie will show fire fighters in a positive light,'' says Young. ''It's not going to be some new Towering Inferno.''

Originally posted May 24, 1991 Published in issue #67 May 24, 1991 Order article reprints
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