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Mr. Mean Guy

NAME: Mark Metcalf

DESCRIPTION: Not-nice Neidermeyer in “Animal House.”

LAST SEEN: In college.

When fans spy Mark Metcalf on the street and hustle him for an autograph, he often signs off with, “You’re worthless and weak!” – the line Metcalf delivered as frat leader Neidermeyer, the primary nemesis of the “Animal House” Deltas in National Lampoon’s 1978 hit film. To his fans, Metcalf is the quintessential mean guy – and until recently, that has been his cross to bear.

The classically trained New York actor and soft-spoken Southern-born nice guy in real life did everything he could for years to dodge the mean-guy typecasting that Hollywood imposed upon him after “Animal House.”

But he succumbed at times – for the bucks. He was one of the few original “Animal House” cast members to ship aboard a cruise sponsored by a New York rock radio station to commemorate the film’s 15th anniversary. And then there were the MTV videos for Twisted Sister, a heavy metal glam rock group whose leader was also a heavy Neidermeyer fan.

Like most New York actors, Metcalf religiously attended acting classes to hone his craft, appeared in Off Broadway plays, and played leading roles in regional theatrical productions of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, O’Neill and Miller.

But “you can’t make a good living doing that,” and in 1993 he decided to move to Hollywood and take whatever mean guy roles he was offered. Alas, “nobody was interested in Neidermeyer,” he says ruefully. “I came to sell out but nobody was buying.”

Just married, with a wife and newborn baby, Metcalf buckled down to get a real job. His plan, he says, was to teach drama at a small Montana college. So Metcalf enrolled at California State U at Northridge to snare a master’s degree.

But around the middle of his first semester, late last spring, Metcalf received a call from an old friend, “Animal House” director John Landis, offering the actor-turned-college student a part opposite Tom Arnold in “The Stupids.” The role was, naturally, a mean-guy character.

“Of course, I said yes.” Metcalf plays the movie’s lead villain, a disgruntled military officer who steals weapons from the army and gleefully sells them to terrorists. He recently wrapped shooting on the picture, which is scheduled for a Christmas release from Savoy.

Still in school, Metcalf is a working actor again and appears in an upcoming “Seinfeld” as a character called the Maestro who is not a mean guy at all.

But while his character in “The Stupids” is identified as “The Colonel,” sharp-eyed members of the audience looking closely at the screen will note that Metcalf wears a name tag that says, “Neidermeyer.”

“I’m back,” snickers Metcalf.

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