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Playing the Heavy

Actor Robert Davi has made a career of playing tough guys with a signature cigar.
Paul Chutkow
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

Monte's is not your usual Hollywood hangout.

It's not chic, it's not trendy, and it's no place to camp out waiting for a glimpse of Arnold or Demi. Monte's is located out in the San Fernando Valley, and it's a big, homey, slap-you-on-the-back sort of place, with great steaks, a friendly bar, a huge TV for watching sports and a faithful clientele that wouldn't be caught dead drinking a white wine spritzer or a kir royal. Monte's is Robert Davi's neighborhood hangout, and it's definitely his kind of place.

"Ho, sorry I'm late," Davi says, rushing in for lunch. "We worked all night, until 7:30 this morning, and I slept right through my alarm clock."

Davi looks as though he's just rolled out of bed. He's dressed in rumpled khaki shorts and a silky shirt of electric blue. His hair's still wet, straight out of the shower, and pulled down over it is a baseball-style cap, bill to the rear. The insignia on the cap: Cigar Aficionado. To emphasize the point, Davi has arrived for lunch armed to the teeth: in his fist he's clutching a half-dozen fine cigars.

Davi is not a casual cigar smoker; he's a passionate devotee and has been since long before cigars became high chic in the Hollywood of the 1990s. In his work in movies and television, Davi also likes to have a cigar in hand, to help him add a distinctive flair to his many memorable characterizations of heavies and bad guys. In the James Bond film License to Kill, he played Franz Sanchez, a ruthless Colombian drug lord with a taste for sadism and Dunhills. He has also played an array of gangsters, a Palestinian terrorist, a Mexican bandito and, in the first Die Hard, a hard-edged FBI agent in Los Angeles.


Now, though, Davi is enjoying an exciting departure and a major career opportunity as a good guy. In the new NBC series "Profiler," he's starring as Bailey Malone, the head of an elite FBI anti-crime unit. At Davi's urging, Malone has been written as a tough but warmhearted FBI pro--with a taste for whisky and, of course, fine cigars.

"Malone is an aficionado," Davi says, settling in for what will be his breakfast. "As an FBI agent, he's a man who seeks the truth. And he's also a man who, even from a distance, can distinguish a Cohiba from a Montecristo No. 2."

As a wake-me-up, Davi now orders a monster coffee--a big mug of American coffee with a jolt of espresso jiggered in. In a few moments, he has ordered a breakfast of fried zucchini with cheese melted over the top and a huge filet mignon, one of Monte's specialties. Now he's ready to properly start the day, with a Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona.

Davi is a bit bleary this afternoon, and with good reason. With "Profiler" in its infancy, Davi has been working around the clock and under enormous stress. He co-stars with Ally Walker, who plays Dr. Sam Waters, a brilliant forensic psychologist with an unusual gift for visualizing the way a crime has taken place and "profiling" the perpetrator. Davi and Walker, with their writers and producers, are still feeling their way, trying to hone their characters and establish the right chemistry between them. As with any start-up venture, there have been frustrations and growing pains. But all the effort feels good to him; at long last, Robert Davi has arrived.

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