"I'M AN '80s survivor," Lou Diamond Phillips tells me, recalling days when he shared headlines with members of the Brat Pack. "I was 24 when I made La Bamba. Pretty young, but fortunately old enough to have gotten a personal and moral code in place and a sense of who I am. A lot of other people were younger, and now we see them on E! True Hollywood Story all the time. It's kind of sad. And I know how much it spun my head, even at that age."

He made a big splash with his first three features -- Stand and Deliver, La Bamba, and Young Guns -- but soon, he was no longer the Next Big Thing, and the good roles dwindled. He also divided his focus among acting, writing, directing, playing music, and more. "I think I got very, very scattered. I realize now that acting has to take precedence."

His career has since been revitalized, thanks to a series of strong supporting roles in movies like Courage Under Fire and Brokedown Palace. In Bats, he plays the sheriff of a small Texas town dealing with a plague of hyper-intelligent bats.

"When I got the script, I had no illusions about it," he says. "It's a movie about bats coming out on Halloween. There are times in my career when I set out to make a film that's socially relevant, and there are other times when I just want to make a film that's gonna make people have a good time. This is one of those times."

The movie is a good time like all those '50s horror movies: gaping plot holes, hilarious dialogue, and impenetrable motivations (particularly the evil scientist's). Though digital bats are used, the close-up stuff is done with puppets and rubber bats. When pressed on the issue, Phillips admits, "I was immediately put into the mind of Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, wrestling with that big giant octopus. I thought, 'Oh my God! I'm a 37-year-old man, and this is what I'm doing for a living: I'm jerking around a big rubber bat, making it look like it's attacking me.' You feel like an idiot. There's 100 people standing around watching, and you're going, 'I'm a serious actor, man. I've been nominated for a Tony.' And here I am wrestling with a big rubber bat."

The movie is not all that scary, but Bats is a fun B-movie, perfect for a video night or a rowdy time at the multiplex. As for Lou Diamond Phillips, he'd be the first to tell you that he'll be around for the long haul.

Bats is now playing at the Cinerama, Pacific Place, and outlying theaters.

Lou Diamond Phillips' Resilient Career

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