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Six Pack: James thinks NASCAR is the craziest sport

October 16, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Kevin James said Henry Winkler 'is like the nicest man on the planet,' even when the cameras aren't rolling. (Getty Images)

Kevin James compares NASCAR to UFC, says fans' passion is what gets him

Actor and comedian Kevin James, who is starring in a new movie "Here Comes The Boom" and recently served as grand marshal for the Sprint Cup race in Talladega, answers this week's six questions.

1. Tell us a little bit about your new movie.

"We tried to ugly [Salma Hayek] up, but you can't do it. I found that out."

--KEVIN JAMES

James: It's a big, big, big inspirational comedy. Big. I play a schoolteacher who gets involved in the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] to try and raise money to save the school's music program, the head of which is played by [actor] Henry Winkler, The Fonz [from the old "Happy Days" sitcom]. I'm telling you, it's big.

2. Well, you've always kind of played up the fact that you're a, uh, big guy, right?

James: Hey, I bring it with the body in this movie. ... But we shot it a year and a half ago, and I might have hit a few food trucks since then. But yeah, I was in good shape then. That's not a joke. The UFC gave us their blessing, and we wanted to take it serious. So I worked out for 14 months, and since then, I've destroyed everything that I did to get in shape. But I'm not going to lie. It was a lot of fun getting back big again. A lot of fun.

3. How is it that the big guy always gets the hot wife in your movies?

James: Thank you. Ouch, by the way. But you know what? I can't explain it. I have Salma Hayek in this movie, who plays the nurse. I've worked with her a couple of times, and she's absolutely the greatest. She's a great actress, very, very funny. A lot of people don't know that because she doesn't get to do that a lot in her movies.

That's sort of why I wanted her to be in this movie. I had worked with her a couple of times before and knew she would be great. But the problem was, how do we make this believable? Because I sort of tick off America every time I have a very, very hot wife in a movie.

By the way, my wife in real life? Very, very hot. I've always done well. I've always batted over my head. ... But we tried to ugly [Hayek] up in this movie, I'm not going to lie. We said, "Because you're a school nurse." Not that all school nurses are ugly -- I'm not saying that -- but if Salma Hayek was my school nurse, I'd pretty much be sick every day. So we tried to ugly her up, but you can't do it. I found that out.

4. Was it difficult to share the spotlight in Talladega with Larry the Cable Guy, who also was around doing some promotion stuff?

James: You can't mess with Larry the Cable Guy in Talladega. I think he's in his element. It's like trying to fight a penguin on the beach. Does that make any sense? ... I love the guy, too, by the way.

5. Who are some of the people who have been most influential in your life and your career?

James: I would say my family, first and foremost, and especially my dad. But as far as the people you want to hear about, [actor] Will Smith gave me a big break by putting me in [the movie] "Hitch," where I danced like a fool, and of course, the great Adam Sandler has been a very big catalyst in helping me get to where I am.

You meet some very cool people in this business. I worked with [director] Ron Howard, who was very, very nice. And then I got to work with Henry Winkler -- The Fonz -- in my latest movie, and he was so nice he made it look like Ron Howard pretty much kicks puppies. In comparison, Ron Howard is an evil person, because Henry Winkler is like the nicest man on the planet. You see people like that and you're like, "I'd like to model my life after that guy because he seems to have it down." Even when the cameras aren't rolling and no one's looking, he's just the nicest guy.

6. You've always been a big fan of NASCAR, too. What about it appeals to you?

James: NASCAR is the craziest sport I've ever seen in a lot of ways. And I just did a UFC movie, so that'll show you. That's just two men fighting it out. It's basically the same here in NASCAR, only you do it with vehicles, and there are more of them.

The passion is what gets me. It's the passion of the fans that drives me. I'm a big sports fan, and I've never seen passion for a sport from the fans like I've seen in NASCAR.