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Bradshaw bares his soul -- as well as his body

| Sunday, March 12, 2006

NEW YORK -- Pssst. Wanna see Terry Bradshaw naked?

What's that, you say• Should be good for a laugh, if you don't turn into a pillar of salt first?

That's OK with Bradshaw. As usual, he did it to make you crack up.

Bradshaw bares all in "Failure to Launch," in which he co-stars with Oscar-winner Kathy Bates as the parents of a 35-year-old man (Matthew McConaughey) still living at home. They're reduced to hiring a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) to seduce their son and induce him to leave.

Once he's out, his room becomes daddy's Naked Room.

"Not that I got a lot to show off here. But I really thought -- and I think I'm right -- you seeing my butt is a shocker," Bradshaw says.

"I just thought it shows the people that I've got the guts to do something like that. Which is important for me. It was kind of a brave thing for me. I got a family I got to answer to. I got kids ... my older parents and my preachers and everybody," he says, then busts out laughing: "I'm going to have to answer for this."

Bradshaw offers the same high-energy, easy-to-laugh persona sports fans enjoy on television -- until the bombast and ostensible buffoonery give way to a contemplative 57-year-old man baring his soul.

But back to the bare butt for a moment: In his playing days, the ex-quarterback got undressed innumerable times in locker rooms with plenty of people around, so he didn't fret too much before walking to the movie set.

"Once I dropped my boxer shorts and exposed myself to the entire crew, it was kind of refreshing in a way," he says, chortling again. "I was like: I can breathe .

"It was fun to do. I wish I was about 90 pounds lighter, but it was fun to do."

The Bradshaw you see in the movie tipped the scales at 244. He's down to 228 and hopes to get to his playing weight of 215.

He packed on the pounds because of back problems that he says stem more from running than from injuries during his National Football League career.

Bradshaw has joked about being ugly, but that's always just been shtick, he says.

"Now if I'm next to Matthew McConaughey, am I ugly• Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I'm ugly. But so are you ," he says, laughing uproariously and adding: "I don't want to hurt your feelings."

But looks aren't a concern for Bradshaw, since he's not planning a feature-film comeback anyway.

It's been a quarter-century since he appeared in "Smokey and the Bandit II" and "The Cannonball Run," playing himself or a variation of himself. He took the part in "Failure to Launch" only after being approached and even initially turning it down -- and stipulating that he would play a "low-key guy."

Tom Dey, the film's director, says: "This turned out to be one of those times when you have a hunch about casting and it works out even better than you could have imagined."

Bradshaw has signed on for one other movie gig, and that's only because Oscar-winning screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton told him he's writing a dramatic scene especially for him.

Bradshaw says it was hard to be taken seriously as an actor 25 years ago after being a football star.

"I actually wanted to be accepted, and I wanted to learn the craft of acting, the techniques -- and told the agents that I found, 'I don't want big roles. I don't deserve big roles. I want to earn it, like the others do: study ... do little scenes.'"

He wanted to build a resume, "but I never could get to first base, and so that's why I quit."

The former football star has, uh, certainly rounded the bases in other ways, gaining popularity in sportscasting, first on CBS and now on Fox, after winning four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bradshaw, who lives in a Fort Worth, Texas, suburb, is signed to do "NFL Fox Sunday" for six more years. He also raises quarterhorses in Oklahoma and hopes to "eventually downsize" and spend a few months a year in Hawaii.

In his youth, the Shreveport, La., native who was born into a farming family thought he wanted to be an evangelist. "But early in my life, too, everything impressed me. (I was) very conscious of heaven and hell and being saved. ... Too easily influenced by everything.

"I really didn't have an independent side of me, as I do now. I'm real confident at this point of my life. But for the most part in my life, I haven't been a real confident person about anything -- too eager to please, too eager to go along with, do what everybody else wanted to do ... and you do that primarily to be accepted. I don't really care about being accepted now. I wish I had been like that earlier."

It's only been in recent years that he feels so evolved. "That's pretty amazing, isn't it• I'm a late bloomer, though, in everything. Ever felt like that in your life• I'm just late. I'm late, late, late ! ... I don't like confrontation. I've been through three divorces and totally devastated by the fact that I could even make three bad decisions like that."

Does that make him skittish about getting married a fourth time?

"Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely," he says, with a rueful chuckle.

Bradshaw openly talks about being diagnosed with clinical depression and ADHD -- a combo, he says, that "makes for a pretty screwed-up dude."

He's been through "tons of therapy" and Paxil CR has worked for him, but he's been off it for eight months -- which has led to some recent headaches, chest pains, rapid pulse and shortness of breath.

He knows he'll get back on it, but in the meantime: "I'll just deal with it. I'll just deal with it through prayer. I'll just pray about it. Me and God. God'll get me through this. ... (It's) not going to kill me."

What makes him happiest is two weeks of "doin' nuthin'!" -- which entails enjoying his house and four dogs, spending time with his brothers, playing golf and fishing with his dad. "Just being a bum, just being lazy. I love that." It also includes spending time with his teenage daughters.

And what's the one thing people would be shocked to find out about him?

"That I'm quiet," he says, explaining that when he golfs with his friends, "I'm not screamin' and hollerin' -- I hardly say a word."

But what the rest of the world sees from him most of the time goes back to that vulnerabililty he long felt.

"You find out in life that people really like you funny. So what do you give 'em• Humor. And then if you show them the other side, they don't like you as much. I find, too, that I can hide behind the idiot's mask being funny, and you never see the sorrow or the pain."

Some of that suffering dates back to his playing days in the '70s, when the Dallas Cowboys' Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson said Bradshaw "couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the 'c' and the 't."'

And it still hurts, Bradshaw says. "I could go into a tirade. But it has scarred me forever. Absolutely. It hurts."

The pro football hall of famer feels some people always will think of him as the Bayou Bumpkin, even though no quarterback has more Super Bowl rings nor has done better on TV over the years.

"If Peyton Manning never wins a Super Bowl, he's gonna be smarter than me. Elway, Montana, everybody's smarter than me," he says, then laughs: "Yet I'm the one that's on the 'Tonight' show."

Given his success, Bradshaw may be dumb like a -- well, you know, unless you need to spotted the "f" and the "x."

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