Playing the Hollywood Historian...
The third year of "Vanity Fair's Hollywood" led us to believe that they'd be alternating the all girl / all boy lineups forever. They'd soon disrupt the formula but it was back to a 10 girl lineup for 97. This time they were christened "The Next Wave" At the time I wasn't terribly wild about this cover. It's hard to remember why but every year when the cover premieres you have someone in particular that you feel is overlooked. I should have written it down. Now...who knows who was snubbed? 1997 isn't that clear. Looking back, though, it's the first cover that really coheres. Isn't this a beautiful color palette? Plus, nobody is pulling too much focus from anyone else either, or dressed in such a way that they don't quite fit (Hello Gwyneth Paltrow in 1995).
The collaborating cover girls were...
Cameron Diaz, who heading towards 25, still had residual heat from her successful debut in The Mask (1994) with Jim Carrey. Subsequent films hadn't achieved any impact but My Best Friend's Wedding was about to open. People were stunned that she dared a charisma-off with Julia Roberts and even more dazzled that that blinding Julia star wattage didn't burn the young upstart to a crisp on the spot. Instead it lit her up and onto the A list. Heady days of worshipful Golden Globe nominations, audience pleasing rump-shaking (Charlie's Angels) and endless Justin Timberlake carousing were just ahead. But doesn't it seem like things have gotten awfully quiet since 2002? She's only 35... where's the second act surge?
Kate Winslet was already going places at 22. She had revealed to us the brilliance of Peter Jackson (casting this particular unknown in Heavenly Creatures was his first masterstroke, don't you think?) and was the only Oscar nominee on the cover (Sense & Sensibility). You'll notice that she also had red hair. Which means, Titanic was filming. That's probably all you need to know about what happened next. Although I think it bears repeating (after the discussion of the peaks and valleys of one Ms. Kidman) that people tend to forget the valleys in tremendous careers. Nobody would ever admit to this now but there were people back in the day that felt her choice to do Hideous Kinky after Titanic was a "career killer", that she was too fat for Hollywood, etcetera. People have always been trying to tear great actresses down, particularly when they've embraced acting above the demands of being a sex symbol.
Claire Danes specialized in making me cry like a baby in the 90s. She was turning 18 here and she had already jerked my tears around in My So Called Life, Little Women, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday and Romeo + Juliet. To virtually anyone paying attention she looked like the next big thing. Ten years later the fame persists but the career is disappointing. Mileage may vary but I think there are two problems. 1) Choice of roles. 2) She hasn't rid herself of those formerly endearing fidgety mannerisms (and nearing 30, they're distracting. Maybe it's just me but I want to see a mature actress emerge from the memories of the A list teenager.
Renée Zellweger -that's right I said the name. We're time travelling remember? This was long before she became one of my arch enemies... She Who Must Not Be Named. She was but 28 and had won many hearts and probably came thisclose to her first Oscar nomination just months before, having "completed" Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire (1996). Previously she had also starred in The Whole Wide World (1996) and was one of several rising stars to be seen in the very funny 70s high school comedy Dazed and Confused (1993). Major stardom followed and strange things eventually began to happen... A couple of quiet years may have sufficiently doused the raging backlash that was occurring but can she regain control over those calcified mannerisms? Let's hope she's Bridget Jones squinty and not Miss Potter squinched in Leatherheads with George Clooney. (That's right, I'm calling truce. Win me back Renée... or at least don't get in the The Clooney's way. I love him best in comedies.)
Alison Elliott, 27, might be the lone member of this cover you didn't recognize. 1997 remains her biggest year. She was fresh off the Sundance surprise The Spitfire Grill (1996) but it underperformed once regular audiences got a hold of it. Later in 1997 she was in fine form as Helena Bonham-Carter's kind rival in The Wings of the Dove. Some critics called for an Oscar nomination. That didn't pan out and very strangely, Wings of the Dove was her last high profile film role.
Minnie Driver, 27 and reclining awkwardly on one elbow--Ouch Minnie-- was about to win Matt Damon's troubled heart both onscreen and off Good Will Hunting --though it'd shortly be off off. She won an Oscar nomination for her efforts as 'the girl'. At the time of this cover she was surfing good buzz from her performance in Circle of Friends. Lately she's been singing and starring on the critically acclaimed The Riches on TV.
Jada Pinkett was not yet Jada Pinkett Smith at 25 but almost. Will Smith and she made it official at the tail end of this very year. Her acting career had taken off round about 1993 with the one two punch of Menace II Society and her recurring role on television's A Different World. The previous year had been a big one for her in the movies, arguably her peak, starring in The Nutty Professor and Set it Off with Queen Latifah and this year she was in the first kill position (hi Drew Barrymore!) in Scream 2. You'll mostly see her in supporting roles these days and on the red carpet, usually in stunning metallic colors.
Jennifer Lopez was nearing 28 and Selena and Anaconda were opening, making her an instant star. She had famously been paid 1 million for Selena making her the best paid Latina actress ever at the time (if I recall correctly). She was on her way to mega stardom and becoming so famous you only needed two syllables ~ "JLo" Next up: Out of Sight (1998) which remains her best performance by so wide a margin one wishes Steven Soderbergh would cast her again.
Charlize Theron was only 21. My god, that seems like it must have been 10 years ago. oh... um... She had made a big splash in Two Days in the Valley (1996). The film wasn' t a big hit but people were really talking about her. Mostly about her hotness. It was very Jessica Alba a few years ago. Theron proved her acting chops were on par with her beauty, quickly surprising people with her intensity and believability in the otherwise ludicrous The Devil's Advocate which came out in the fall of '97. She is one of only two eventual Oscar winners (thus far) on this cover --the other being She Who Must Not Be Named. Coincidentally, they both won on the same night in 2004, seven years after this cover shoot saw the light of day --the next wave, indeed.
Fairuza Balk -had been a child actor in Return to Oz (1985) and showed a lot of maturing promise in the under seen indie Gas, Food, Lodging (1992) but was still transitioning to adult roles at 23. The year previous she had been an overcooked hoot as a witch in The Craft (still what she's most remembered for) and she would soon co-star in American History X (1998) with Ed Norton. She's been effective in some notable films or roles like Almost Famous (2000) and Personal Velocity (2002) but stardom didn't really materialize save for devoted cult pockets and she isn't in many pictures these days.
median age: 24, youngest: Claire. oldest: Renée
collective Oscar nominations before this cover: Just 1... Kate Winslet in Sense & Sensibility
collective Oscar nominations after this cover: 10 nominations with 2 wins: Charlize's Monster and Renée on Cold Mountain
fame levels in 2007, according to famousr, from most to least: Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, Jada Pinkett Smith, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Fairuza Balk and Alison Elliott. * famousr proved very unreliable this time around. No listings for Kate, Jennifer or Renée. That's some major snubbage there given the household name status.
see also: 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001