Big Ed Revisited

Eric "Big Ed" Edelstein is a big dude whose acting career in Hollywood has been a struggle, but the big guy can be seen in an Austin Powers movie, some TV shows and just finished filming a Wes Craven movie. However, his biggest and best influences come from his college alma mater: Gonzaga.

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GN: Last time we interviewed you, you had just finished a part in an Austin Powers movie. You've been busy ever since. Fill us in on the highlights of your career in Hollywood ever since your Austin Powers role.

EE: Right now I am in Morocco shooting "The Hills Have Eyes 2". I grew up loving Freddy Krueger so doing a Wes Craven movie is a total dream come true. I play a National Guardsman named Corporal Spitter Cole who is training for Afghanistan, and then our group gets attacked by mutants. Do I live? I can't give that away or I will get in trouble... But it is supposed to be released March 2nd across the country. I plan to be there opening night in Spokane if I can! I start my next movie on Monday. It is called "Good Man" with Jason Ritter and Charles Durning. I play Jason Ritter's best friend.

GN: Describe some highlights of your career as a comedian, and who are some of the most notable comedians whom you got to rub elbows with?

EE: Well I've guest starred on "Joey" with Matt LeBlanc, "The Comeback" with Lisa Kudrow and "Quintuplets" with Andy Richter. Matt LeBlanc was really cool and didn't act big time at all. Andy Richter was very nice as well. All that stuff is really amazing because moving down from Spokane I didn't expect any of this to ever really happen and it's crazy every time it does. Everyday in Morocco I just smiled and couldn't believe I was really there.

GN: It sounds like you have some exciting weeks lined up to be in Morocco to help make that scary Wes Craven movie. Knowing you can't spill all the beans, give us a Teaser about this sequel to the original which was just released this summer.

EE: Yeah, it was one of the best experiences of my life - up there with my Gonzaga time. We got to go through boot camp with the military and it was so fun but also really challenging. I mean, I'm always "The Big Guy" so I don't ever get to play a soldier or someone like that so it was fun. It was great to not play a bouncer or a security guard. My character is the screw-up of the group - imagine that. We filmed some very realistic fight scenes designed to look like Afghanistan as well. I even got to do two out of three of my own stunts. It was awesome. I can't give away anything or I will never work again! The other actors have all done a lot more than me and I learned a ton from them. Morocco is a 99% Muslim country and I was scared at first of how we would be received but everyone in Oarzazate where we filmed was unbelievably nice. They are greatful for all the business that Hollywood brings there now. They shoot a ton of movies there. It's funny we were shooting in Morocco and we were supposed to be in New Mexico. Wierd stuff.

GN: Word is former Zag (and Star Wars Wookie) Axel Dench stayed with you recently. What did he do and what did you two guys do in SoCal?

EE: He was down trying out for European teams and we had a great time. He ended up in a great situation in Australia. I hadn't seen him since college and it was so much fun catching up. Don't forget, he has had a better acting career than me. I would take "Star Wars" over "Joey" anyday. [Laughs] I've been blessed to have the best friends of my life from my days at Gonzaga and there's just such a bond there. When I would get down in this town about trying to break through I would think a lot about when Richie Frahm stayed with me, trying out for a bunch of European teams right after I moved down here. He got cut by a few and then had his face caved in on his last day but he just never, ever, even entertained the thought of giving up. He knew he would make it to the NBA. He just saw any adversity as part of the road to getting there. I tell him all the time I couldn't have stuck with it if it weren't for his example and I hope he believes me. I wear his GU practice shorts to big auditions for inspiration. Sounds corny but there are 800,000 actors down here and you need whatever help you can get. St. Rita doesn't hurt either!

GN: You were at a Zag game last winter down there. Tell us what you think of these newer GU teams compared to the teams at GU when you were a student. Any notable similarities and differences?

EE: Yeah. Everything has changed now. The new gym. All the new buildings around campus. The fact I can walk into any Foot Locker down here and get GU gear. It's insane. I remember the first time we saw a GU shirt at Northtown Mall and freaking out. When I was the Play-by-Play Announcer my first year the gym would be about 3/4 full and no one was watching us. By my Senior year there was no television deal yet so we would have a lot of people watching our broadcasts because tickets were so hard to come by. Now it's even more insane. I think that the program has done a good job of accepting the success and all the changes that it brings. I feel like I was blessed to be there before and during "The Gold Rush" because things can just never be the same after that. Now there's so much money involved and it could turn into a corporate mentality, but every time I come back I walk around the Athletic Department getting hugs from all the same people that were there when I was there. The coaching staff and the Athletic Department have done a great job. The players have changed drastically from the time I was there. They can get Nike All Americans right now. It's different. That being said, the guys I was around were just legends --Nilson, Floyd, Spink, Eaton, Lorenzo Rollins, Bakari Hendrix, Matt Kincaid, Frahm, Dench, Kevin Williams, Zach Gourde, Quentin Hall - just characters. It was loud and raucous. And [team manager] Aaron Hill was treated the same as Matt Santangelo. It was special. They were Zags and everyone who knows what a "Zag" is knows what I mean. It's an intangible quality that I can't quite explain but can point out immediately. I was a few beers deep after the Dickau game yelling at Sean Mallon that he was a Zag. And he is. And there are still plenty of Zags on this current team. Guys like Mallon, Pendo, Heytvelt, Pargo, Raivio, etc. would have fit in fine on those teams. That being said, no one still has gone as far as that 1999 team and that had most to do with chemistry. I lived with Floyd, Nilson, Santangelo, Williams, and Hobus [nickname for Aaron Hill] and at some point in the day just about everyone on the team would drop by to say "Hello" or have a cold glass of something. And to me, a dumb opinion from one of the worst intramural players EVER, that's why they won. They loved each other and battled together. They were a different breed. They would wake me up for my classes; not your usual guys. They are my brothers and we are all just as close today. It's awesome.

GN: What are your main career goals in Hollywood to make a steady and long living, and how far do you think you are from your dreams?

EE: Well, this last year it's finally felt like it's starting to click. I struggled for a long time. I mean, I've worked at Starbucks, made pizza, delivered sandwiches, bounced at nightclubs, and [Laughs] spent 45 minutes as a telemarketer. It's a really, really hard way of life and it's not easy. About two months ago I was ready to take another bouncing gig and then I got this part. In the same week my comedy partner and I entered a pilot we shot into a TV Festival and ended up winning it. We just got an offer to do a pilot for NBC and it's very exciting. All this has just happened in the last week. I feel really blessed and it is a dream come true. And none of it would have happened if it weren't for Spokane and Gonzaga. I left there feeling like I could do anything because I had been around guys who had. I guess to answer the second part I am just going to keep plugging away and not expecting too much. I have seen friends get a little bit of success and go crazy so I am just trying to make a little progress at a time. If I never get another gig down here I had a good run. I just hope to keep stringing stuff together and try to be a Zag.

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