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A Changed Man?

June 28, 2007 By:
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Who can fault Josh Feinman if he faces summer with a song spinning on the edge of his lips because it "Makes Me Feel Like Dancing"?

With screen credits set to rock 'n' roll this summer, who can blame him for catching "Saturday Night Freilach"?

Not that he hasn't had that song on his lips and in his heart before.

The Bronx-born boychick tapped into his dancing talent long before dancing with the star-struck struck audience gold on TV: Feinman was featured in the Jacques D'Amboise documentary "He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin'," the 1983 Oscar-winning flick about school kids connecting with the chemistry of dance, and took another terpsichorean timeout 15 years later in the film's follow-up.

But who can follow this fast-on-his-feet phenom-in-the forming? Transfixed on "Transformers," opening on July 3? Then get a fix on Feinman; he's in it.

He's also been cast in the cockily-cute "Mr. Woodcock," with Billy Bob Thornton, a comedy set to open late summer, following on the heels of a 2007 appearance in "Pirate Camp" -- not to be confused with Johnny Depp's same-year campy pirate -- all fun booty coming seven years after making "Men of Honor."

Honors coming his way? Don't know if the speeches are ready, but the staircase to paradise is just a toe shoe away. And, imagine, it all started with baby steps.

"Boy" of summer? "Oh, that was such a long time ago," says the 36-year-old actor of his days with D'Amboise, the peerless pirouette prince of dance who took novice New York schoolkids and put them through their paces at the National Dance Institute.

The echoes of the steps reverberate still: "That experience is what motivated me to pursue the arts."

The beat -- and staged beatings -- goes on: "Fifteen years later, I was staging fight choreography," explains Feinman, "and hadn't put one and one together."

Two-fisted ... two-footed? "Here I was, choreographing the steps for the fights, all in the D'Amboise style."

And, suddenly, there was student following in the footsteps of father figure/mentor. "Jacques and I have kept in touch over the years," says Feinman.

With all due respect to George Costanza, is this the Summer of Josh? No kidding, Josh, who's also producing works on his own: Is June bustin' out all over for you in Hollywood? "Things are certainly coming together for me now; I'm building a network out there."

Connect the dots with his folks at key points: Dad Lawrence, a gastroenterologist, and Mom Ruth, a school administrator, have always been in step with their son's choreographed career.

Grandparents as Icons
But Josh knows how life's twists and turns can turn out some challenging spins; he cites his grandparents as inspiration for taking curves in the road straight to success.

"Their life was not easy," he says of these two Holocaust refugees. "Their path to the United States was not an easy one."

Easy to understand why Josh's own mother "wanted to shelter me from my grandparents' experiences; my mother didn't want her kids to go through" the sad stories that had filtered through her formative years.

"But after college, I wanted to make up for those years of being a selfish young kid."

He dialed up the memories, keeping in contact with his grandmother and, through her stories, the past he had never experienced. "I always set aside time to talk with her," he says.

They were talks, not lectures, but they may as well have been life's lessons plans. "They really did change me and continue to change me," he says of their impact.

When his Bubba died, Feinman was left with a loving legacy, the actor/dancer understanding that life was a lifting experience, not a deadweight on one's dreams: "I'm really blessed with this life. I know the importance of giving back."

Step to the head of the class act, Josh Feinman: He is associated with Enrichment Works, a nonprofit organization that serves as prophet of change for children, and has put together a one-man show of a thousand points of enlightenment: "Voyage of Odysseus," an interactive siren call that acts upon his need to help others.

"Most of the children I perform for are just learning English, but when I take the stage you can see their faces light up," he says.

As his lights up 20 feet high on screen this summer.

Not that Feinman's ego need be movie-screen size; TV will do, too. To that end, he's made producers hear him now after a recurring role in the 2005 terrorist-topical series "Sleeper Cell."

Between upcoming military roles and the FBI agent he portrayed on "Sleeper Cell" ... "War and terrorism have been great for my career," he kibitzes.

Not that the actor's gunning for such typecasting. After all, he avers, "I'm a much more peaceful person in real life."

Snaring a piece of the action means taking life -- and auditions -- as it comes. "Never underestimate the power of a small audition," says Feinman in reference to the "four-letter, one sentence" side of himself he showed for "Sleeper Cell" that landed him a six-pack of episodes.

Pretty good for a guy who describes himself as "not a Hollywood pretty boy." Face it, he says, "I don't have that typical look you see in Hollywood."

Look up on screen and see him seemingly everywhere, however; the kid who started out as a natural for "Happy Feet" is appearing in one of summer's most anticipated films.

And yet ... he is unchanged by "Transformers," keeping the same stance he's kept all along, refusing the emotional robotics that can restrict actors' careers: "You have to be who you are," insists Josh Feinman, his chorus line of a reminder to those dancing to their own drummer. 

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