Verizon disconnects "Can You Hear Me Now?" guy

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - You won’t hear him now.

Verizon Wireless is taking its famous cell phone commercials -- featuring actor Paul Marcarelli uttering the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” -- in a new direction.

In a new profile in The Atlantic, Marcarelli says he was informed of the change via email last September.

“Don’t feel bad for me, but I’m definitely glad that chapter is over,” he said. “Most people my age are now trying to trade in their street cred for money, and I kind of made my money.”

Marcarelli landed the role of Test Man nine years ago. At first, he says he was embarrassed.

“The reality was, it was a job,” he says.

His contract obligated him to appear in 20-40 spots a year commercials -- in addition to numerous live events (including appearing in front of 85,000 football fans during the halftime show of the Buffalo Bills’ 2002 season opener).

Says Marcarelli (whose previous work included an Old Navy commercial): “Up to that point, I hadn’t played to a house larger than 99 seats.”

But the gig came with a price.

He tells The Atlantic how, at his grandmother’s funeral, a family friend whispered “Can you hear me now?” as her body was being lowered into the ground.

Marcarelli, who is gay, also says that kids used to drive past his home in Connecticut at night, yelling, “Can you hear me now?” and spewing gay slurs. He says he never filed a police report because he was afraid of the publicity.

“I didn’t want to be put in a position to have to answer any uncomfortable question that would affect my income stream,” says the actor, who reportedly received up to $6,000 a commercial.

Marcarelli’s initial five-year contract forbade him from talking about his job or from taking any other acting gigs. Verizon refused to confirm his identity even after AdAge published it in 2002. Later, his contract was amended, but Marcarelli said he still kept quiet because he didn’t want to jeopardize his job.

Even today, he still can’t talk about everything. “He’s still under contract,” Verizon spokesperson Brenda Raney told The Hollywood Reporter. When asked about further plans, the company had no comment.

So, what’s next for Marcarelli? A film career. He has already written and co-produced “The Green,” about a gay couple who are ostracized living in a small town. Said Marcarelli, “I still want to make something of value.”