Bill Pullman is obsessed with augmented reality

For our new podcast series I'm So Obsessed, the actor talks about his iconic roles in Spaceballs and Casper, and his current turn as a detective in the crime series, The Sinner.

Connie Guglielmo SVP, AI Edit Strategy
Connie Guglielmo is a senior vice president focused on AI edit strategy for CNET, a Red Ventures company. Previously, she was editor in chief of CNET, overseeing an award-winning team of reporters, editors and photojournalists producing original content about what's new, different and worth your attention. A veteran business-tech journalist, she's worked at MacWeek, Wired, Upside, Interactive Week, Bloomberg News and Forbes covering Apple and the big tech companies. She covets her original nail from the HP garage, a Mac the Knife mug from MacWEEK, her pre-Version 1.0 iPod, a desk chair from Next Computer and a tie-dyed BMUG T-shirt. She believes facts matter.
Expertise I've been fortunate to work my entire career in Silicon Valley, from the early days of the Mac to the boom/bust dot-com era to the current age of the internet, and interviewed notable executives including Steve Jobs. Credentials
  • Member of the board, UCLA Daily Bruin Alumni Network; advisory board, Center for Ethical Leadership in the Media
Connie Guglielmo
3 min read

From his turn as a space cowboy in the sci-fi comedy epic Spaceballs to playing a kick-ass president of the United States in Independence Day, Bill Pullman has starred in more than 70 movies over three decades and is one of the most recognizable actors in the world. 


Bill Pullman is really excited about using AR to bring new characters to life. 

That's why I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who owns a lot of Pullman's movies on VHS and DVD, from Ruthless People, While You Were Sleeping, Sleepless in Seattle and Lake Placid to Zero Effect, Bottle Shock and Casper.  

Pullman has credited part of his success with his ability play a type of the American everyman (think of him as the dad in Casper or the likable brother in While You Were Sleeping). In a conversation for CNET's new podcast series I'm So Obsessed, which launches today, I tell Pullman he's got a kind of Jimmy Stewart thing going. Which is why his role as Harry Ambrose in USA Network's The Sinner (Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix) presents us with a different view of Pullman. In the crime drama, he plays a dogged but flawed police detective in a small town in upstate New York with -- no spoilers here -- some personal issues. 

What drew him to the role?  "The fact that he's compartmentalized quite a bit, and often his right hand won't admit what his left hand is doing," Pullman says, speaking from a Los Angeles commercial building he's renovating into an artists workspace alongside his kids.

"He's someone who really has managed to go through 60-plus years of his life without a lot of self awareness — a fear of introspection — and yet knowing that he's a marked man, that there's a lot that could be discovered about him, a lot that he's keeping secret as he goes to reveal secrets that other people have."

In our wide-ranging conversation, Pullman admits he took on the role of Lone Star in Spaceballs without having seen Harrison Ford play Han Solo in Star Wars first. "My head was in the sand, and I just missed that whole journey," he says with a laugh. He talks about growing oranges in his own orchard and starting a nonprofit with his wife to promote fresh food and community building called Hollywood Orchard ("Fruit is very nonpolitical.) 

And he talks about putting together a solo performance piece on the life of famous American painter Charlie Russell. He wants to using augmented reality to bring the audience into the Russell's Montana workshop and help them experience the Native American world he painted a century ago. Even so, Pullman isn't ready for us to stay at home, only watching AR and VR presentations on our own, today's shelter-in-place orders aside. 

"I am one that's still not ready to sit in a room with everyone and an Oculus or something. I find that dispiriting. What I'm trying to do is figure out how to do AR in a setting like theater," he says. "I'm really keen on that version of being surrounded by imagery and that we could kind of create an audience experience that's an amalgam with AR."

Listen in to hear my entire conversation with Pullman. And we hope you'll subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app as we catch up with other artists, actors and creators to learn about their work, their career and their current obsessions. 

See also: The 10 best health and fitness podcasts you should listen to

Watch this: What's new to stream for May 2020