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November 09, 1995 - Image 25

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-09

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The Michigan Daily - Wut.# t, tU. - Thursday, November 9, 1995 - 11B

Actress Jodie Foster stays behind
camera in'Home for the-Holidays'

Surprisingly, despite the steamy shot shown here, former "NYPD Blue" stud David Caruso generated little heat with "The
Last Seduction" star Unda Florentino in the recent thriller "Jade."

Transition from television to silver
screen not so easy for some stars

By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
I've never understood the twists and
turns of logic that led the hapless John
Hinckley to attempt a presidential as-
sassination in order to impress Jodie
Foster. However, I definitely relate to
his motives. The idiot got one thing
right: Even then, the 13-year-old star of
"Taxi Driver" seemed to exist on a
certain higher plane, and getting her
attention required actions on a grand
scale. The act itself just demonstrates
the limits of Hinckley's imagination.
The key word to just about anything
Jodie Foster does with her life is sheer
audacity - but not of a suicidal Holly-
wood variety. Really, there aren't many
Hollywood stars who get a degree in
literature from Yale - AFTER they
become celebrities. There aren't many
stars about whose private lives we know
absolutely nothing. And there definitely
aren't many stars whose careers have
taken such unpredictable turns from the
very beginning: Jodie's first role ever
was a nude appearance (at age three in
a Coppertone commercial).
Of course, she had the gall to play a
prostitute at 13, and she received her
first Oscar nomination the same year.
Then came a string of other brash career
choices. Herturn in "Bugsy Malone" as
a prepubescent gangster moll was flat-
out frightening. "Freaky Friday," an
uninspired body-switching fantasy res-
cued by her confident acting as an adult
trapped in teenager's body, involun-
tarily drew comparisons to Jodie's own
situation.
Then, in what seemed to be her riski-
est move yet, she managed to disappear
from movies completely in order to
concentrate on her education. Foster
later conjured up enough self-confi-
dence to star in a couple of French
movies speaking her part in Voltaire's
own language (dubbing be damned!).
Having returned to the American
screen with a vengeance in the late '80s
(with such films as "The Accused,"
"Sommersby" and "The Silence Of The
Lambs"), she suddenly switched gears
in 1992 and directed a sweet little com-
edy-drama called "Little Man Tate."
Finally, Foster formed her own produc-
tion-distribution company, the weirdly-
named Egg Pictures.
So far, Jodie Foster's career includes
only one misstep: Last year's "Nell,"
universally dismissed as an exercise in
self-indulgence and a desperate bid for
athird Oscar. My personal opinion hap-
pens to be that whatever Foster's ambi-

tions might have been, her acting is not
affected by them. And even if the script
was obviously custom-suited for show-
casing Jodie's stuff, well ... so what?
After all, the last thing Ms. Foster can
be accused of is being an exposure
junkie.
In her own films, she continues to
show commendable artistic restraint:
She assigned herself a relatively unde-
manding, blue-collar supporting role in
"Little Man Tate," and in "Home For
The Holidays," her latest effort, she
remained behind the scenes altogether
(interestingly, "Home For The Holi-
days" is still very much a Jodie Foster
film, with Holly Hunter and Claire
Danes splitting the "adolescent" and
"adult" Jodie personas between each
other).
And then, of course, there's her per-

sonal life, about which she has no inten-
tions to disclose anything and which
had spawned one of the most spectacu-
larly pointless is-she-or-isn't-she de-
bates of the century. What little we do
know about Alicia Christian Foster(yes,
that's her real name), seems only to
indicate complete, um, normalcy.
She likes the Pretenders. She's not a
very good driver. She has broad and
undiscriminating tastes in movies:
While her directing starts to show traces
of Robert Altman, her most recent fa-
vorite is "Seven," a movie "just about
as perfect as a movie can be." And what
do you know, there actually is a line in
"Seven" when Brad Pitt's character
extrapolates on the serial killer's Pos-
sible motives: "God made me do it, the
Devil made me do it ... Jodie Foster told
me to do it."

Los Angeles Times
In the summer of 1994, Paramount
Pictures paid a reported $2 million to
David Caruso - then one of TV's
hottest actors in the ABC police se-
ries "NYPD Blue" - to star in a
glossy, high-budget film called
"Jade."
It was a risky decision for Paramount,
but by the time Caruso exited the Emmy
Award-winning series, he had gained
an avid following as Detective John
Kelly.
By the time "Jade" came out last
month, however, Paramount's print ads
were not showcasing Caruso - or co-
stars Linda Fiorentino and Chazz
Palminteri. The studio had decided to
sell the steamy. murder mystery as a
concept, rather than rely on the drawing
power of the actors.
Today, Caruso's attempt at movie
stardom has stalled after the $50-mil-
lion film opened poorly, grossing only
$9 million in its first 17 days of re-
lease. Indeed, "Kiss of Death," which
Caruso made before leaving the se-
ries, has made only $15 million for
20th Century Fox.
Caruso thus joins a long and storied
list oftalented actors who have stumbled
making the leap from TV to the big
screen.
Indeed, over the decades, one of the
enduring puzzles of Hollywood has been
why some of the biggest stars in TV
found it so difficult to cross over to
films.
Why did Tom Hanks, who appeared
in the ABC guys-in-drag sitcom "Bo-
som Buddies," and Jim Carrey, the rub-
ber-faced comedian of Fox TV's "In
Living Color," soar to stardom in films,
while men with bigger Nielsen ratings
like Bill Cosby ("The Cosby Show")
and Don Johnson ("Miami Vice")
didn't?
Why did Tim Allen of ABC's current
hit sitcom "Home Improvement" be-
come an overnight movie star, in
Disney's "The Santa Clause" last year, .
while Ted Danson and Shelley Long,
who were huge stars on NBC's
"Cheers," never did the same in mov-
ies?
But Woody Harrelson, the naive bar-
tender in the series, seems to have made
the transition in the films "White Men
Can't Jump" and "Indecent Proposal."
"Beverly Hills, 90210" brought le-
gions of fans to Luke Perry and Jason
Priestley, but Perry flamed out in "Buffy
the Vampire Killer" and "8 Seconds,"
while Priestley flopped in "Calendar
Girl" and the recent independent film
"Coldblooded."
Even being touted as People
magazine's "sexiest man alive"in 1986
didn't parlay into a feature film career
for Mark Harmon.

Harmon had generated heat after
leaving NBC's "St. Elsewhere." But
his crossover films, "The Presidio"
(with Sean Connery), "Stealing
Home," "Worth Winning" and this
summer's "Magic in the Water" all
bombed. He has since returned to se-
ries TV.
For studios, the risk of green-light-
ing movies with a hot TV star can be
enormous. By the time the film comes
out a year or more later, the actor's
popularity could have cooled or audi-
ences may simply reject them in an-
other role.
"Anybody who casts based on cur-
rent heat is making a mistake," one top
studio executive said. "You should cast
a movie based on the actor's ability to
play the role, not based on how good
their ratings are in the series itself."
"The Monkees," for example, were
an enormous hit when the TV show
made its debut in 1966, but by the time
a movie starring the singing group was
released in 1968 (the film was called
"Head" and Jack Nicholson was the co-
writer), the series had been canceled
and the movie bombed.
And, onetime teen idol and pop singer
Rick Springfield was similarly hot on
the daytimesoap opera "General Hos-
pital," but his 1984 film "Hard to Hold"
was deemed "hard to watch" by critics
and his creer in features ended abruptly.
Some argue that actors who have
successfully crossed over are those who
have established a distinct persona on
television and, at least in their maiden
film, expanded on that persona.
"If you are a strong, silent action star,
the best thing to do in crossing over to
movies is be a strong, silent movie
star," said one studio executive, who
cited Clint Eastwood and Steve
McQueen as examples.
"If you are a wild and wacky come-
dian like Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy,
the best thing to do is something wild
and wacky in movies. Jim Carrey
would not be where he is today if his
maiden voyage had not been in 'Ace
Ventura: Pet Detective,' which ex-
panded on his persona in 'In Living
Color.'"'
Some contend that actors should
try different kinds of characters when
making the transition from TV to
movies.
"Audiences become used to seeing
an actor in a certain type of role," said
casting director Bonnie Timmerman
("Miami Vice," "Crime Story"). "I
believe in taking chances in your ca-
reer. Doing something completely dif-
ferent."
Sally Field, she noted, went against
the grain and became a film star in
"Norma Rae," overcoming the ste-
reotypes she spawned in her TV

sitcoms "Gidget" and "The Flying
Nun."
Eastwood has said he went from
"Rawhide" to starring in movies simply
because he was "in the right place at the
right time."
"At the time I (crossed over), there
were not too many actors who had
been doing it," Eastwood recently
told The Los Angeles Times. "There
were a couple: Steve McQueen and
James Garner. ... A lot of people
seemed to look down on television as
a poor, younger brother of films. But
it actually was a great training
ground."
Eastwood said he went to Italy "on a
lark to do a little, low-budget film ("A
Fistful of Dollars") with a director I had
never heard of with other people I had
never heard of."
If there is one consensus about why
some actors make the transition while
others don't, it is because they choose
bad scripts. Bill Cosby couldn't save
"Leonard Part 6" and "Ghost Dad."
Don Johnson couldn't rise above
"Sweethearts' Dance," "Dead Bang"
and"Harley Davidson and the Marlboro
Man."
Meanwhile, Farrah Fawcett may have
been America's favorite calendar girl
When she was on "Charlie's Angels,"
but her film career sputtered andcrashed
with "Somebody Killed Her Husband,"
"Sunburn" and "Saturn 3."
"Farrah Fawcett was a sexpot," one
studio executive said. "She was a pin-
up girl. How do you translate that to a
movie? It wasn't until later in television
that she could prove she could act (in
"The Burning Bed"), but by then she
was in her late 30s. Hollywood chews
up actresses in their 20s and spits them
out in their 30s."
The reason Caruso may have been
hot on TV and not movies, some point
out, is because he came from a series
("NYPD Blue") in which Steven
Bochco and his writing team are the
real stars of the show _ not the actors.
"Caruso wasn't a star when he came
out (of the series)," one studio execu-
tive said. "He was a good actor in an
ensemble piece. 'NYPD Blue' is a
writers' show, not an actors' show."

Jodie Foster directs Holly Hunter in the new film "Home for the Holidays."

Ix

Foster (in "The Silence of the Lambs")
is amazing - even in sweats.

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