January 15, 1996 12:00 PM

>Frank Gorshin


He came to fame as the celebrity mimic of 1,000 faces, and became indelibly identified as the Riddler on the vintage mid-’60s Batman TV series. Now Frank Gorshin plays one of the shrinks who must rule on time-traveling Bruce Willis‘s sanity in the futuristic thriller 12 Monkeys. The erstwhile comic villain says he has long craved the kind of meaty dramatic role that Monkeys’ director Terry Gilliam gave him. “I don’t think of myself as being funny,” says the 61-year-old, Shakespearean-trained actor, who lives in Westport, Conn., with his wife of 35 years, Christina. “But life takes strange turns.”

How did you wind up in 12 Monkeys?

The role I went in for was hotel clerk, and it was like three lines. I told Terry, I’m flattered, but the part is nothing. So he said, “What would you like to do?” I said, “Well, Dr. Fletcher’s pretty good.” He said all right. If I knew it would be that easy, I would have asked for Bruce Willis‘s role.

In your nightclub act, you still knock people out with your Kirk Douglas and Marlon Brando. Is there anyone you can’t do?

Spencer Tracy. I tried and tried, and then one day I found out that he was born on April 5, the same day as me. Then it all made sense.

How do you feel about not being offered a part in the Batman movies?

I think there was a deliberate aversion to using any of us, lest people think of the movie as a spoof. But the fact that they picked Jim Carrey for the Riddler was, I guess, flattering.

What did you think of Carrey’s performance?

I didn’t see the movie. I don’t want to see anything that I’m not in. All I can think is, “I can do that, too.”

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