The Pitchman Cometh

HE'S BEEN HAILED AS the next Olivier, but to most Americans Jonathan Pryce is just the guy in the Infiniti commercials. "Well, that's all right," says the actor in his Welsh-tinted accent. "I mean, they're good commercials." He knows there are stranger paths to notoriety. Five years ago, Pryce got famous for not being Asian. Actors' Equity banned him from playing a Eurasian pimp in the Broadway show "Miss Saigon," only to un-ban him 10 days later. (He went on to win a Tony.)

As Lytton Straehey in "Car-rington," for which he won best actor at Cannes, Pryce is finally getting some attention on the big screen. Taking the part was easy: "I've been frustrated in film for quite some time, not finding a role that was as complex as anything I'd done on stage." Preparing for it wasn't: "I had two months to get thin."

Now he has two months to get fat to play Juan Peron in the film "Evita" (which he chose over a Schwarzenegger and a Stallone movie). He spent October recording with Madonna, who plays the title role. "My deal is, I'll help her with her acting if she helps me with my lip-syncing," he says.

Pryce will spend his fattening months with his wife and three kids at home in London, where he recently played Fagin on-stage in "Oliver." He dreads leaving them. "Work is built around the family," he says in his slow, earnest way. Not only has he been called the most extraordinary Hamlet of his generation, but he's a car salesman you can trust.