PETER COYOTE - edging toward stardom


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"I'm 44 years old and I've lived about 17 lifetimes," maintains Peter Coyote, with only slight exaggeration. He has been a mime, a radical, a psychedelic gypsy and a politician, but his latest incarnation - as an actor - is undoubtedly his most successful. In a slew of films, from E.T., Cross Creek and Heartbreakers to the current Jagged Edge, he has garnered a quiet reputation as an actor of surprising versatility. Insiders often refer to him as a latter-day Robert Duvall, which excites even the unflappable Coyote: "That's the single most thrilling thing I've heard as an actor."

The road to such accolades has not been without a few detours. "The Grateful Dead paid for me, Ken Kesey and two Hell's Angels to go to London to see what the Beatles were really about, he recalls. He spent the next few years living in his truck on in communes and eventually took a job teaching acting to ghetto kids. He made a slow segue into politics after then-governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the California Arts Council. "And I had a kind of epiphany. I realized I didn't have to stay on the fringes. I wanted to measure myself on the big board."

He continues to measure up handsomely. Still, he keeps his home in Northern California, avoiding even a hint of Hollywood. "As a friend once told me," he says, "'Peter, don't buy your own poster.'"

[Written by Bruce Williamson]