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Eddie Deezen (1958)

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  Summary  

Eddie Deezen is an American character actor, voice actor and comedian, best known for his bit parts as nerd characters in 1970s and 1980s films such as Grease, Grease 2, Midnight Madness, 1941 and WarGames, as well as for larger roles in a number of independent cult films, including Surf II: The End of the Trilogy and I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

As a voice actor, he is easily recognizable for his distinctively high-pitched and nasally voice, most notably used for the characters of Mandark in the Cartoon Network series Dexter's Laboratory, Snipes the Magpie in Rock-A-Doodle, Ned in Kim Possible and Lenny the Know-It-All in The Polar Express.

  Biography  

Deezen was born Edward Harry Dezen in Cumberland, Maryland, the son of Irma and Robert Dezen. A class clown in his youth, Deezen started out with aspirations of becoming a stand-up comedian, moving out to Hollywood within days of graduating high school in order to pursue a career (after adding an extra "e" to his last name so that people would pronounce it correctly). As a comedian, he performed at least three times at The Comedy Store, though eventually decided to abandon stand-up and focus on acting after bombing his last act and having difficulty memorizing his routine. Deezen attempted stand-up one last time, however, when he appeared on an episode of The Gong Show in the mid-1970s, only to be gonged by singer-songwriter Paul Williams.

 Hollywood career
Deezen landed his first and perhaps best known role in the film Grease, playing nerdy student Eugene Felsnic, a part he won through a standard audition process. During Grease's post-production period, Deezen won another small role playing a bully in the low-budget independent science fiction movie Laserblast. Despite being his second film, Laserblast marked Deezen's screen debut when it was released in March 1978, three months before the theatrical release of Grease.

Following the massive success of Grease, Deezen found himself being cast in a string of high-profile comedy films playing similarly nerdy characters, including Robert Zemeckis' directorial debut I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Steven Spielberg's 1979 epic comedy 1941. Deezen was in such demand by 1979 that he was constantly having to turn down roles. At least two such notable instances were the characters of Eaglebauer in Rock 'n' Roll High School and Spaz in Meatballs, both of which Deezen turned down in order to film 1941.

Throughout the early 1980s, Deezen perpetuated his trademark nerd persona in several major films, including WarGames, Zapped! and Disney's Midnight Madness, as well as returning to the role of Eugene Felsnic in Grease 2, one of only seven actors from the original Grease to return for the sequel. In 1984, Deezen was cast in a recurring role on television, playing a goofy superintendent on the first season of Punky Brewster. After filming only eight episodes, however, Deezen voluntarily left the series due to his reluctance to perform before a live audience and a continuing difficulty in remembering his lines.

 Independent film

1983's WarGames proved to be the last mainstream film of Deezen's live-action career as he began working exclusively in independent film for the remainder of the 1980s, starting with his first starring role in the 1984 cult film Surf II: The End of the Trilogy, where he played mad scientist Menlo Schwartzer, the movie's antagonist.

1984 also saw the release of Revenge of the Nerds, the film that is generally credited with making the stock character of the stereotypical "nerd" a mainstay of teen films. Despite having arguably created the nerd archetype in such movies before, Deezen was not cast in the film. He remarked in an interview that he later asked the producers of Revenge of the Nerds why he hadn't been offered a role, and was given the response that he was deemed "too geeky", where as casting was instead just looking to dress "normal people" up as nerds. Despite this, Deezen says he is frequently "recognized" by strangers for being in the film.

Deezen worked steadily throughout the remainder of the 1980s and early 1990s, continuing to play nerds in both bit parts and major roles, including the ensemble comedy Million Dollar Mystery, Critters 2, The Whoopee Boys and The Silence of the Hams. He worked several times alongside comedian Tim Conway, most notably appearing in two of his Dorf videos, and struck up a partnership with prolific low-budget filmmaker and producer Fred Olen Ray, who gave Deezen leading roles with the films Beverly Hills Vamp, Mob Boss and Teenage Exorcist.

To date, Deezen's last live-action appearance was a cameo as a security guard in the 1998 Leslie Nielsen spoof Spy Hard. In a July 2009 interview, Deezen revealed that he would return to acting in front of the camera, stating "The truth is, it is extremely tough to sustain a career in Hollywood. It is tough enough ever getting work, just the sheer odds. I loved John and Matthew and it would definitely be my pleasure to work with them again. Believe me, if the right role was there and available, I'd be there in a second".

 Voice acting
In the mid-1980s, Deezen transitioned into voice acting, a change of pace he favored due to better pay and not needing to memorize dialogue. He started out lending his voice to animated feature films, including Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird and Don Bluth's 1991 Rock-A-Doodle. According to a 2011 interview, Deezen unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of the title character in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, losing out to comedian Charles Fleischer.

Deezen eventually found full-time voice work on television in the mid-1990s, playing recurring characters on the animated series Grimmy, Duckman, Kim Possible and What's New, Scooby-Doo?, as well as guest spots on many others, including Johnny Bravo, Recess and Darkwing Duck. His best-known voice-over character, however, is that of Mandark, the arch-nemesis of the eponymous Dexter on Cartoon Network's Dexter's Laboratory, a role he played for the series' entire run from 1996–2003. Deezen also voiced the character on the TV special Dexter's Laboratory: Ego Trip and the video games Cartoon Network Racing and FusionFall.

In 2004, Deezen returned to the big screen once again under the direction of Robert Zemeckis to supply voice and motion capture performance for the blockbuster holiday film The Polar Express, playing the role of the nerdy "Know-It-All". He reprised this role for the subsequent video game.

Deezen regularly lends his voice to radio and television commercials. In the late 1990s, he provided the voice of Pop in commercials for Rice Krispies cereal, and Nacho, the mascot for Taco Bell's kid's meals commercials, alongside Rob Paulsen as Dog. In 2011, Deezen was under consideration for succeeding Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of The Aflac Duck, but did not win the role.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Eddie Deezen", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.