Magazine article The New Yorker

Pulverizer

Magazine article The New Yorker

Pulverizer

Article excerpt

Pulverizer

Anthony Michael Hall

"Left arm straight, head down," Anthony Michael Hall murmured as he took his stance at the Chelsea Piers driving range. His 5-wood carved the air but only grazed the ball, which lolloped gently over the Astro-Turf toward the Hudson River. Hall glared after it. "First of all, plant your fucking feet!" he told himself. "Turn your hips. Be the ball!" When his next shot boinged sideways into the protective netting, he cracked up. "My mother taught me that, to laugh at yourself," he said. The actor, who goes by Michael, had arrived wearing an outfit that seemed to embody this precept: black suit, white sneakers, tomato-red T-shirt, Ninja Turtle-green backpack. "I'm not afraid of color," he explained. "It's my Italian side."

Hall, who in the eighties personified dewy, dorky youth in such John Hughes films as "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club," is now forty-nine. Beneath his sweetly beseeching air lie unruly impulses, so that he calls to mind a security blanket atop an unmade bed. Yet after a checkered career that included a stint on "Saturday Night Live," a drinking problem, a hit show called "The Dead Zone," and various tabloid tussles, Hall is dynamite in the satirical film "War Machine," now on Netflix. Brad Pitt stars as the cocksure general who commands the coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2009, a character based on Stanley McChrystal, and Hall co-stars as General Greg Pulver, a character based on McChrystal's pal Michael Flynn, lately famous as the ex-national-security adviser whose loyalties may have extended to Russia and Turkey. Though Pulver is the command center's director of intelligence, he neither collects nor exhibits any, being a lump of profane seething, loyal only to Brad Pitt.

Hall switched to a driver and began to work up a sweat. The vehemence of his swings broke the ball reloader, and he had to hunt down an attendant. "I'm just a big, dumb Irishman," he said apologetically as the man rebooted the system. "I'm at war with myself! No, not really. But sometimes!" He gave the tee a military salute, recognizing a valorous adversary, then hit a low but powerful slice. "There we go, baby!" he cried. "I think it was the wood. That's what she said. Oh! Boom! If that net wasn't there, the Lady Brett"--a yacht docked at the end of the pier--"would be in trouble! …

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