Aussie actor says

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A winding road, a eucalyptus-lined street, and a whitewashed gate lead to the home of Paul Hogan in the foothills south of Santa Barbara, Calif. As the gate swings back, there stands Hogan, with his golden retriever barking a welcome.

He tips his cowboy hat and says "g'day," just like in his new movie, "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles." Once we settle in the living room of his comfortable three-bedroom home, he explains why he's left Los Angeles.

"When we arrived from Australia, I heard there was wildlife in L.A. I didn't know how wild until I lived there a while," he says. "We [his wife, actress and co-star Linda Kozlowski] decided we preferred something more settled, so three years ago we drove up the coast and found this old farmhouse in a lemon grove. We wanted to make it more friendly, so we restored it - that took a year and a half."

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The Australian says the quiet of the home allowed him to reflect on some of the things that had happened to him while socializing in L.A. "I thought 'what a perfect place to send Mike Dundee.' ... L.A. is a little planet all its own. I got a yellow legal pad and a pencil ... and began scribbling what eventually became 'Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles.' "

The first "Crocodile Dundee" was made in 1986, and the second, "Crocodile Dundee in New York," two years later. Together they grossed more than $600 million worldwide.

"I really thought I had done a circle with that character and had nothing more to say - until we lived in L.A."

You don't have to talk with Hogan long to see there's a lot of Dundee in him - his attitude, humor, and outlook on life. But "there are differences," he insists. "I don't live in the outback, I'm not a 'bushy'. I'm a bit more traveled than Mike Dundee."

For 12 years Hogan had his own TV show in Australia. He wrote more than 600 sketches and was so familiar to viewers that they nicknamed him "Hoges."

"I finally decided I'd like to do something that lasted longer than the three-minute sketches," Hogan says. "That's when I wrote the first 'Crocodile Dundee.' "

And he married his leading lady.

"I'm not one for mushy sentiments," he says, "but I knew she was the one."

They have been married 10 years and have a 2-year-old son, Chance. "We named him after a Western hero in a Larry McMurtry novel. I'm kind of starting over. I have five grown children, four boys and a girl [from a previous marriage], and now Chance. This little fella is always smiling."

Hogan says he loves to slip into a theater to watch people's reactions to scenes he dreamed up in the middle of the night. "For me, it's not about awards or money, it's making people laugh - it's the best job in the world."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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