'General Hospital': Daniel Benzali joins James Franco in the soap's sandbox

daniel-benzali-nov-04-gi.jpgDaniel Benzali is sampling the playground that James Franco also continues to visit.

Probable "127 Hours" Oscar nominee Franco is slated to return to ABC's weekday staple "General Hospital" just before he co-hosts (with Anne Hathaway) the 83rd Annual Academy Awards next month ... but famously bald "Murder One" veteran Benzali is on the serial now.

He's playing the Balkan, a mystery man whose presence suggests bad things are in store for bride-to-be Brenda Barrett ( Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo).

"It's just a matter of doing different things and keeping going," Benzali tells Zap2it about entering daytime drama after appearing on "Nip/Tuck" and "Lie to Me," among other primetime shows. "Whatever strikes my fancy, a script or an idea that comes in, I'm really open to trying it."

That's close to the British approach to acting, which makes sense since Benzali also has worked in England for many years.

"What's great about being an actor over there," he reasons, "is that it's all in one city, London, so you don't have to go across the country at all. Years ago, I was playing Juan Peron in 'Evita' on the West End, and they let me out to do other things. My understudy got to go on a lot, so he was happy, and I was happy because I didn't have to say 'no' to anything I wanted to do."

Before producer Steven Bochco helped Benzali's star rise on "NYPD Blue" and then "Murder One," he was part of the James Bond machine temporarily. He played -- with a full head of hair -- an ill-fated San Francisco civil servant in "A View to a Kill," Roger Moore's 1985 swan song to the 007 adventure series.

"Oh, it was great," Benzali recalls. "That was a fun cast. Grace Jones was in that movie. What a character; she's hilarious. And there was Chris Walken and Roger, and they were all fun to work with in their own way.

"Roger is what they call a 'raconteur,' and he would tell his stories in that great British accent. He's very dry and tongue-in-cheek, and he really made me feel right at home. We became great friends. He came to see me on opening night of [the stage musical] 'Sunset Boulevard,' which I did in London. He was sitting with Billy Wilder (director of the classic 1950 screen version), and it was fabulous."
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
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