Rapaport Is a Fish out of Seltzer in La

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YOU CAN take a boy out of New York, but can you take New York out of the boy?

It's not easy, says actor Michael Rapaport, arguing his point in thick Brooklynese.

"Even Woody Allen, who's as intellectual as they come - you can always tell he's from Brooklyn," suggests Rapaport, who plays a naive young boxer in Allen's movie, "Mighty Aphrodite."

Feeling like a fish out of seltzer in Los Angeles - where he's been living for five years - Rapaport says he can't wait to move back East.

"Don't even get me started about L.A.!" he warns.

The native New Yorker, age 25, insists his repertoire is not limited to the "dese," "dems" and "doze" he picked up attending school in Brooklyn - where the self-proclaimed "rambunctious motor-mouth" was transferred after being expelled from various classrooms in Manhattan.

When the role calls for it, the actor loses the telltale dialect and the rough edges, as he did last year in John Singleton's "Higher Learning," in which he played a misguided student-turned-neo-Nazi from the Midwest.

"When we were shooting `Higher Learning,' " Rapaport recalls, "I had to keep away from people on the set because the less I talked to people as Michael, the easier it was to keep a Midwestern accent."

He maintains the New York accent for Ted Demme's "Beautiful Girls," co-starring Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman, which will open in December.

But he drops it again for "The Pallbearer," due out in January, with David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow and Barbara Hershey.

"I'm glad I'll have a chance to let people hear me speak differently again," Rapaport says, noting that his sometimes-unpolished speech can be a stigma - as when a journalist dubbed him "king of the dumb white guys."

"None of my characters has been dumb," Rapaport protests, although he allows that in "Mighty Aphrodite," his Kevin "might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. …