Will Patton always searches to find something in an acting role that connects with his life, "something that I can carry as my secret map or code for the character."

He didn't have to look far for his turn as Charles (Chick) Chappie, one of 13 oil-rig workers drafted by NASA to destroy a killer asteroid in "Armageddon." Once, when he was 19, he found work cleaning up an oil spill on the Mississippi River.The job was to lean over the edge of a barge and scoop up the oil slick with huge mops, he told The New York Times on Sunday.

"As the boss was leaving in his motorboat, he says, `Oh, by the way, if you fall in, you'll be sucked right under.' "

Patton survived that and a series of other odd jobs, including work selling Christmas trees and at an all-night vegetable market.