WHO would have thought that looking like Paul Newman would give a man problems? For blonde, blue-eyed Ben Murphy it has been a curse--but also the road to fame.
It is said that Ben was chosen for the role of Thaddeus Jones in the "Alias Smith and Jones" TV series because he looked like Newman -- and Newman starred in the "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" film which "Smith and Jones" was based on.
"I met Paul Newman one day on the tennis court," says Ben. "I ran out onto the court where he was playing without knowing it was him. A friend then introduced me to him. I just froze up and didn't say a thing. All my life I'd been told I resembled him, but when I met him, I was petrified.
"I only objected to being told I looked like Newman, or anyone else for that matter, because it made me feel as though I were second rate. Mind you, I have great admiration and respect for Newman. He's truly one of Hollywood's finest actors."
The look-alike thing isn't so acute for Ben now that he has graduated from the good, bad guy in "Smith and Jones" to the good, good guy in "Griff" and has proven himself as an actor. Nevertheless he is a glutton for learning and pursues acting, singing and dancing lessons. It is this lifelong yearning for learning which earned him the title of a college "drop in" as opposed to the fame college "drop out."
Born in a small town in sleepy Jonesboro, Arkansas, U.S.A., Ben admits being bored with his life in that quiet community of fifteen thousand.
"While attending a men's Catholic college in Dubuque, Iowa, I started to search for something, not really knowing what it was," he says, "but I wanted it to be new and different. For one thing, I missed not having a lot of girls around. I remember one day it came to me. It was snowing and I thought to myself, there just has to be more to the world than what I was doing."
He then enrolled in five other universities, co-educational of course, before getting a degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois.
He wandered extensively in between colleges throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, trying to find his own niche in society.
"I picked up odd jobs to support myself while travelling. I've always been intrigued by those isolated roadside diners, and the characters who live and work in the middle of nowhere. From all these trips and encounters, I put together a diary describing these fascinating young people as they really were in their own environment."
It wasn't until Murphy became involved in student plays at the University of Illinois that he decided to become an actor.
"Through acting, I found a sense of security. I was able to portray different people in various situations, and suddenly I realised through this I could extend myself."
After graduation, he headed for the famed Pasadena Playhouse to sharpen his skills, and while there he was spotted by a prominent agent who sent Ben to see Mike Nichols, then casting for his new film "The Graduate." Murphy read for a small part and Nichols signed him.
A well-known American columnist once said that young Murphy had the face and the physique of a Roman God. In short he has everything that turns on girls -- his face is his fortune.
"Good looking? I take my face for granted. When you see it every morning, shaving in the mirror, you tend to see only the faults." A remark most ladies would disagree with.
"When I first started acting," he recalls, "I couldn't stand to look at myself on screen. I thought I looked awful and I was often disappointed in my performance.
"Now I've learned to be more objective. I can watch myself and not see the physical flaws. In fact, when I've delivered a strong scene, I'm proud of myself. If the scene could have been played better, I've learned an important lesson... Next time, it will be better."
Like many of Hollywood's athletic actors, the thirty-two year old star is a vegetarian. He eats only organically grown foods, raw fruits and vegetables. He drinks wheat germ oil by the pints and chases it down with a special mixture of organic apple juice.
He's a swimmer, a skier and enjoys horseback riding and tennis. In fact, he has easily adapted to the casual life-style of California and prefers wearing blue jeans, sandals, sport shirts, rarely wearing a tie.
When recently invited to an important formal function, Ben had to go to the Studio's wardrobe department to be fitted with an evening suit. "But like Cinderalla," he laughs, "I returned to my blue jeans at midnight.
"I don't own much clothing and I'm not one for going to parties. I'd rather spend my time taking a class, seeing a good movie or relaxing at home by the fireplace with a good book, or a few friends, or preferably with a girl, listening to romantic music.
"One of the problems with a lot of us is that we get all dressed up, go out on the town, drink, think we're having a great time and are so loaded by the time we get home, we can't remember what we've had such a good time doing. That's what I call doing nothing with your life."
So far a confirmed bachelor who likes his women, tall, blonde, and beautiful, Ben lives in a Hollywood apartment just minutes away from the studios where "Griff" is filmed.
"I definitely plan to remain a bachelor for the present. Recently, I've been getting involved in writing and have a number of script ideas for films. My next step will be to start developing my own production company to get these films off the ground.
"With all this activity going on in my life, it wouldn't be fair to get married and raise a family. There just wouldn't be time to spend with them. Besides, what about all my other women in my life?"
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