LSU Alumnus Makes his Mark in Hollywood
He fathered Megan Fox, was beaten up by Cameron Diaz and helped guinea pigs save the world.
He played baseball for the New York Yankees (Kevin Costner called him the ultimate reason “not to be a Yankee”), running back for the LSU Tigers and linebacker for the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs.
He’s most famous for killing Tobey Maguire’s uncle.
Papajohn feels the wrath of Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) in Spider-Man...
Quite a checkered post-LSU career for the starting center fielder on the Tigers’ first-ever College World Series baseball team, don’t you think?
In 1986, Michael Papajohn was starring on the diamond, hitting .296 as the Tigers made their inaugural trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
Two years later he was on the silver screen as an actor, appearing as an extra in Everybody’s All-American, where he served as Dennis Quaid’s stunt double while also playing two other minor roles.
“They were coming to shoot a movie at LSU, and it was in the Reveille that they wanted extras,” Papajohn said. “I ended up going to the Sheraton Hotel, met with (technical advisor) Lew Erber, and he said we’d play college football players.
“Later on in the shoot they said if anyone wanted to take hits or deliver hits they’d pay more money. I was down in the end zone, and me and my teammates set up a hit; I did a flip in the air, and they cut my legs out from under me. The producer and director saw it, so I ended up doubling Dennis Quaid and making more money.”
... and Natalie (Cameron Diaz) in Charlie's Angels.
Papajohn’s roles in Everybody’s All-American included brief face time, as he also played the man who shot John Goodman’s character, sparking a long career that has seen him play some memorable villains.
He played Costner’s nemesis in For the Love of the Game, a thug who earns Diaz’s wrath in Charlie’s Angels and Fox’s recently incarcerated father in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
But his most famous role to date was that of the carjacker who killed Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, spurring Parker to adopt his superhero alter ego in what was, at the time of its release, the fifth-highest grossing movie in history.
Papajohn has made a habit of showing up in Hollywood blockbusters, with appearances in two of the three Spider-Man movies, Terminator Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and, most recently, G-Force. Expect that streak to continue, as he recently filmed The Green Hornet (with Diaz again), Jonah Hex (with Fox again) and Thor, with Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Samuel L. Jackson.
But despite making a career out of playing bad guys, Papajohn is using his celebrity clout for good in the real world, acknowledging—as Uncle Ben said not long before Papajohn killed him—that with great power comes great responsibility.
Since 2009, Papajohn has been heavily involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, donating his time and Hollywood influence to help a charity that he has a personal connection to.
"With great power comes great responsibility." Though he's played many memorable villains on film, Papajohn is heavily involved in charity work away from the set.
When Papajohn’s wife, Paula, was pregnant with their first child, the pair found out they both carried the gene for cystic fibrosis, an inherited autosomnal recessive genetic disorder that affects more than 30,000 Americans and can lead to respiratory failure and death.
“I was very scared,” said Papajohn. “My wife got an amnio, and I had to wait three-and-a-half weeks to find out. That was the longest three-and-a-half weeks of my life.”
While the couple’s son, Sean, was born healthy and cystic fibrosis-free, Papajohn nonetheless pledged to work towards helping doctors find a cure, something that could be potentially achieved during his lifetime.
He now serves on the committee for the Los Angeles chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where, along with the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, he helped organize last fall’s Alfred Hitchcock Legacy Tribute Gala at Universal Studios.
“Alfred Hitchcock’s great-granddaughter had cystic fibrosis,” said Papajohn. “This was the first time his family came out to raise awareness for CF.”
Papajohn, along with the other members of the committee, are currently planning 2010 galas in New York and Los Angeles, while Papajohn is planning his own fundraiser in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., next year—a bass fishing tournament pairing former LSU, University of Alabama and Auburn University athletes with members of the public.
“One doctor told me, ‘Michael, what’s exciting about being involved with cystic fibrosis is that in your lifetime you can find a cure,’” Papajohn said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”
But of more pressing concern for the LSU alumnus is this Sunday evening, where the man who once performed stunts in the 11-time Academy Award-winning movie Titanic will be eschewing the Oscars in order to have a belated Valentine’s Day celebration with Paula.
“We’re TIVOing the Academy Awards this year,” Papajohn said. “I was working nights on Thor and missed celebrating Valentine’s Day with my wife, so on Sunday we’re getting a sitter, and I’m taking her to Moonshadows, where we first met.”
A Tiger with a heart of gold who would rather take his wife out for a romantic dinner than support his peers at the Academy Awards? Maybe Costner will go easier on him next time. *
* Unfortunately, Spider-Man still won’t.
Damian Foley | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations