Saturday, November 25, 2006

Peter Weller, historian?

I spent far too much time today watching The History Channel. They had on the Engineering an Empire series about the engineering feats of various empires throughout history (they ran episodes about the ancient Greeks, Alexander the Great, the Aztecs, the Mayans, and Carthage). Then they ran the 2005 episode of Rome: Engineering an Empire. The host of the series, except for the Rome part, was actor Peter Weller.

Peter Weller was the lead in one of my favourite films, the campy cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He also starred in the first two Robocop movies, and acclaimed movies like Naked Lunch and Mighty Aphrodite. According to Wikipedia he has been in over fifty films and television series. He's not an A-list actor, but he is still respected and recognizable.

I figured he was just another paid actor acting as host of a cable television series. He did come across as pretty well informed, though. Not just informed, he seemed genuinely interested in the subject matter. There was something about his delivery. It seemed less like he memorized the script and more like he knew the subject and was simply explaining it to the camera. The language he used, which could have been scripted (probably was) made him come across as intelligent. You can usually tell when the host is just a reader, and when the host is... a smart reader. He made a comment at one point that where he talked about I think it was Carthage in terms of "back when I hadn't even heard of them". I attributed this to him being a Hollywood type who first heard the word "Carthage" when he read the episode's script.

Then we get to Rome: Engineering an Empire. He is not hosting it. Oh, well. I like him, both his delivery and his voice, but it was no big deal. I watched the episode, anyway. I was listening to it while reading something on the laptop when I heard Weller's voice. Oh, he is hosting this! I looked up. That's when the surprise hit me. He was dressed in a suit. Beneath him was the caption "Peter Weller, Syracuse University". He wasn't hosting... he was one of the experts!

According to Wikipedia, Weller went to the University of North Texas for theatre. At some point after starting his acting career, he got his Masters Degree in Roman and Renaissance Art from Syracuse University. He was an expert! This suddenly explained a lot. He apparently does a lecture series about Hollywood and the Roman Empire. The Carthage comment wasn't about when he was reading the script, it was when he was getting his degree.

I shouldn't be as surprised at this as I am. Hollywood actors come in all shapes and sizes, so it shouldn't shock me that they range in intelligence from Jessica Simpson to, well, Peter Weller. I did sort of wonder what he'd been up to recently when I saw him hosting the first episode. I guess he hasn't been sitting around waiting for scripts to cross his desk!

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