Close Your Eyes
May 2004
By Abbi Toushin

"ER" Doc Goran Visnjic steps into the Supernatural

Already a star in his native Croatia, Goran Visnjic — who headlines the supernatural thriller Close Your Eyes, currently in theaters — never expected to be such a success in the States. The actor, who fits the bill of being tall, dark and handsome, is most well known to American audiences as emergency room doctor Luka Kovac on the hit NBC medical drama "ER." Since moving to Los Angeles five years ago, Visnjic has perfected his English, toned down his accent and, in 2004, finds himself appearing on billboards throughout the city in support of his current acting endeavors.

Visnjic, who is dressed casually in denim jeans and a loose fitting, sky blue shirt on this warm, mid-March day in Beverly Hills, has not become a success by accident. The actor, whose other credits in the U.S. include roles in The Deep End and the USA television movie Spartacus, which aired last week, is definitely driven.

"Those two and a half months (when ‘ER’ is on hiatus) I don’t want to take off. I want to do another movie and I want to do something that is completely different from Luka’s character," says Visnjic, managing to make his nonstop work ethic even clearer.

Visnjic, however, doesn’t really like the idea of sticking to one particular genre when branching out from his television roots. Although he does admit to preferring the history genre by saying, "Since you were a kid, all of us playing knights on horses with the sword, liberating the princess — I love that genre basically," he now picks projects primarily based on the people and processes at work behind the scenes.

"I personally hate that there’s a lot of talk about Hollywood movies — independent movies, big budget, small budget — which is crazy. People talking about theatrical acting, TV acting, film acting. It’s only acting, there’s no difference," says Visnjic. "At the end of the day, a good script, good director, good people to work with, and I really don’t care what kind of genre it’s going to be."

One of Visnjic’s most recent decisions — which is proving to be a good one — was choosing to take the part of Dr. Michael Strother in Close Your Eyes. The film, based on the novel by Madison Smartt Bell and directed by Nick Willing (Photographing Fairies), follows a troubled hypnotherapist (Visnjic) who, after being dragged into a sketchy police investigation by detective Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson) via blackmail, falls into a dangerous situation involving both a serial kidnapper and lots of surprising supernatural elements.

"For the first time in my life I had an opportunity to play the lead in a supernatural thriller," says Visnjic, partially describing his reasons for taking the part. "Also, [it was] an opportunity to play a lead character in an English-speaking movie, which I hadn’t had before. I’ve only done it back home."

Aside from the fact that with Close Your Eyes Visnjic gets to headline an American film (and if you haven’t yet seen a billboard, he headlines Spartacus as well), he contends that he had another good reason for taking the well-rounded role. According to the actor, he loves the way the director, Willing, was able to mix genres. "The script was great because it starts as like, if you can call it [this], a normal thriller, and it turns out to be something completely weird," he says.

With his success in America constantly on the rise, there’s only one question left that’s fit to ask Visnjic. Being that his acting popularity is consistently growing in the States, is he considered a sort of national treasure back in his Croatian hometown?

"‘ER’ was the foreign number one TV show in my country before I came on the show. I worked a lot in my country so people knew who I [was] but, of course, [it’s different] once you end up on a TV show which is number one in the country. And Croatia is a small country. Only about five million people live there, and how many people live in Los Angeles? So we’re a proud bunch of people," says Visnjic, who concludes with a similar anecdote about when Croatian tennis player Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon back in 2001.

"Out of five million people existing in the country, half a million people actually greeted [Ivanisevic] in his hometown," says Visnjic. "So we take certain pride, like every small country," says Visnjic, beaming. "We love each other. People are proud, and I’m glad."

Close Your Eyes is currently in theaters.