For starters, Pooh Bear, the sicko at the center of the crime thriller The Salton Sea (opening April 26), is missing a nose. He does unspeakable things with badgers. And he gets his kicks staging reenactments of assassinations using... um, you'll have to see the movie. So how in the world did Vincent D'Onofrio, who by day obeys the rules as Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Detective Bobby Goren, go about developing such a baddie? After all, this isn't the type of character he can say is based on his Uncle Steve!

"I actually did base it on my Uncle Steve," D'Onofrio cracks wise to TV Guide Online. "But no, it is based on somebody I had met before. Not the style of speaking — I got that from him having no nose — but the way that he carries himself, with the added weight and strange posture, the weird energy that he has where you don't know if he's going to kiss you or bite your head off. That is all based on somebody I met once — somebody that you could tell you should get as far away from as possible."

The result of that effort is a most disturbing crystal meth dealer, one who provides a menacing match for Salton Sea lead Val Kilmer. "I don't know if Val was genuinely afraid of me," D'Onofrio allows, "but he certainly acted like he was."

While such a role is not new territory for D'Onofrio, who has fleshed out villains both surreal (The Cell) and extraterrestrial (Men in Black), it's a refreshing departure from his Law & Order cop — who, surveys his portrayer, wouldn't last long in the real world. "He's Sherlock Holmes, a fictional detective that does not exist and wouldn't last a minute on the streets of New York. The minute he got into somebody's face in an interrogation room, he would be flattened silly!"