Sharon Knolle Freelance Writer

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Sept. 29, 1997

Rollo Tomasi: An Unusual Suspect

In the parlance of L.A. Confidential, Rollo Tomasi is a K.A.--known associate--of gangsters, hookers, and corrupt cops. And soon he may also be keeping company with a guy named Oscar. Not since the specter of Keyser Soze loomed over movie screens two years ago has a character this shadowy played such a pivotal role in a twisty plot.

In adapting James Ellroy's sprawling crime novel for the screen, Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland compressed an eight-year timeframe into three months, redistributed choice dialogue, and judiciously dropped storylines and characters. Tomasi is one of the few elements they added--a figure conjured by a young boy that takes on enormous significance as the movie progresses. Says Hanson, "We wanted a name that would seem to be the figment of a child's imagination, something more colorful than an adult would come up with. Brian just popped out with 'Rollo Tomasi!'"

Appropriately enough, the plot thickens with another link between Soze and Tomasi: actor Kevin Spacey is a K.A. of both oddly monikered men. After winning an Academy Award for his role as Soze's "associate" in The Usual Suspects, the actor stars in L.A. Confidential as a jaded cop who learns a moral lesson from Tomasi. Hanson says that if it weren't for Spacey, Tomasi might not have survived the journey from script to screen. "When we were rehearsing," he recalls, "there was a day when I brought it up: should we have a name that called less attention to itself, that wasn't quite as unusual? Kevin said, 'No, it's the very fact that it's so unusual that makes it so good.'"

You heard it here first--off the record, on the Q.T., and strictly hush-hush. — Sharon Knolle

Copyright ©1997. ABC NEWS Enterprises, Inc.