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A KU grad gets his big break in Hollywood.


L.A. Twister is an independent film about two rookie filmmakers making an independent film about two rookie filmmakers ... making yet another independent film. Unfortunately, all of these films suck.

But despite the rampant Hollywood clichés, the overdone movie-within-a-movie plot and poor acting by bit players, the work is made watchable (and practically enjoyable) by the three actors at the center of the comedy -- the bully from A Christmas Story, Daphne from Party of Five and the Hot Listerine Guy.

Zach Ward plays Lenny, a struggling actor who lives in Los Angeles. When his friend Ethan (played by Tony Daly) moves in with him to recover from a divorce, they decide to make a movie, despite having no industry experience -- because "miracles happen," according to Lenny's love interest, Mindy (Jennifer Aspen).

Though it flags in parts, the chemistry among the three leads is surprisingly genuine. Ward looks just like Scut Farkas, the schoolyard terrorizer he embodied 21 years ago, but is damned funny -- and charming -- in his turn as Lenny. And Daly, a University of Kansas grad, is so attractive that you almost forgive him for sometimes being so doe-eyed he could be mistaken for Chris Klein.

Though we were dying to talk to some of the women Daly romanced in Lawrence, we settled for the actor himself. We learned that when the time came for the Los Angeles Clippers ball boy to go to college, former Jayhawks-cum-Clippers Danny Manning and Larry Brown convinced Daly to check out the KU campus, where he says he fell in love.

"I wanted to get away from the big city, wanted to go to a community environment where people care about what's going on," Daly says. "In L.A., nobody seems to care about anything. I really like Kansas -- the people, the mentality, the pace of life. I'd still live there if I could."

He attended the school from '94 to '98, when, he says, he did "the classic actor thing." Back in Los Angeles on summer vacation, he got a part. "I thought, This is it, I have arrived. I dropped out 15 credits shy."

But he hadn't arrived. He spent the next five years doing a lot of commercial work (such as the aforementioned mouthwash ad -- a straight 30 seconds of Daly swishing, spitting and sighing a refreshed "Ahhhh") to pay the bills and scored a small part in Pearl Harbor before coming back to Lawrence in the summer of 2001 to complete his psychology degree. L.A. Twister, however, was his big break.

"This was my first opportunity to create a character from start to finish that was going to drive the movie, where I was working every day, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week," Daly says. "Whatever I did was part of the total story, and that was really exciting.

"But I had to put a lot of faith in the director and my other actors," he continues, lamenting the quick pace of an indie film's production. "When you start going really fast, scene after scene after scene, you just hope the autopilot kicks in and you're doing a good job."

If Daly doesn't make it in Hollywood, he could always move back to Lawrence. We certainly wouldn't mind.

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