A piece I did for WIRED Magazine on Peter Weller is up on the web:
THE CELEBRITY SECOND ACT HAS BECOME a staple of pop culture. The press releases almost write themselves: Comedian becomes reality TV host, reality TV host becomes actor, actor releases mediocre rap album. But those second acts don’t always sink to the level of cliché. Take Peter Weller. He’s had a long, meandering Act I. After a vibrant movie career in the 1980s that included playing the lead in cult hits like RoboCop, he fell into the far less glamorous world of direct-to-video and straight-to-cable. Then last year, he came back big, in a riveting turn as a bad guy on 24.
In the interim, though, Weller started getting into character for Act II. He spent much of the past two decades in Italy and, on a lark, enrolled in classes at the Syracuse University program in Florence. He soon discovered he had a thing for the aqueducts of long-dead civilizations, and now he’s working toward a PhD in Italian Renaissance art history from UCLA. This is no vanity degree; Weller teaches courses, writes papers, and is doggedly climbing the academic ladder. Buckaroo Banzai, the polymath who was arguably Weller’s most famous character — acclaimed neurosurgeon, race car driver, particle physicist, and, of course, rock star — would be proud. “I’ve always followed my passions,” Weller says, “even when it didn’t seem to make much sense.”