As we get closer and closer to the present day, the Vanity Fair cover girls (and sometimes boys) are starting to look more and more plausible as current cover subjects. It does take several years for an entire group of careers to change dramatically. Though, who would have guessed in April 2002 when this was published that Rachel Weisz would be the only Oscar winner within the next six years. (Connelly had already won hers).
Kirsten Dunst, newly 20, had been well known since she was 12 but her fame was exploding: that record breaking Spider-Man franchise was launching a month after this cover. She was the Next Big Thing coming off of a comic hit she carried (Bring It On, 2000) and lots of critical praise for three performance stretches: The Virgin Suicides (2000), crazy/beautiful (2001) and the just-opened period piece The Cat's Meow (2002). In other words her future was very very bright...
<-- One might say blinding: she hadn't even slept with Jake Gyllenhaal yet (!) who, and people forget this, was considerably less famous than she when that began in Sept 2002. One can never know what's coming, can one? Especially if you've just entered your twenties. Wildly hateful internet backlash and rehab for depression were still far ahead in Kiki's unforeseeable future.
Kate Beckinsale, almost 29, was very high profile at this exact moment though not so much before, having just starred in Michael Bay's blockbuster Pearl Harbor. Prior to that dumb epic she was known mostly for period pieces. Afterwards she seemed to mostly swear off indie fare (Laurel Canyon a notable exception) in favor of headlining big budget vampire flicks in skimpy costumes (Underworld, Van Helsing). Next up: Supposedly she's an Oscar hopeful for the true story political drama Nothing but the Truth.
Jennifer Connelly, 31, had just cemented her typecasting as The Depressive Crying One with her Oscar win in A Beautiful Mind (2001) which was hot on the heels of a critical hit with Requiem for a Dream (2000). She hasn't equalled the success of the former or the performance skill of the latter since. Though it almost feels like she stopped trying at her peak, doesn't it? A year after this cover she was a newlywed with a child on the way (Her A Beautiful Mind co-star Paul Bettany was the lucky man). She's never exactly gone away but films like Reservation Road, Little Children, Dark Water, Blood Diamond, House of Sand and Fog and Hulk have done little for her reputation. The 30something years are generally the plum years for actresses of a certain fame level and, strangely, she seemed to sit hers out. Who could've predicted it? Is a comeback in store? [Pictured right at the 2002 BFCA Awards -photo src]
Rachel Weisz, turning 31, had driven up her fame co-starring in The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) but a date with Oscar seemed a little far fetched at this juncture. At the time she was something like a B version of Kate Winslet: a Sam Mendes dating, talented, pretty British actress. It wasn't until she married director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) and delivered that grand performance in The Constant Gardener that she started to seem like a potential A lister. Her career has since settled back into the mid level range but who knows. Next up: The Brothers Bloom from the director of Brick and a high profile gig as the grieving mother in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones.
Brittany Murphy, 24, had been dancing animatedly around the edges of big fame for some time. A feisty offscreen personality and memorable screen stints in Don't Say a Word (2001), Cherry Falls (2000), Girl Interrupted (1999) and Clueless (1995), kept her in the Hollywood running until the lead roles started hitting 'round about the time of this cover. Movie Star status didn't really take. Maybe it was the films she delivered in her brief headliner phase from 2002 to 2004... 8 Mile, Just Married, Little Black Book, Uptown Girls? She returned to firecracker supporting parts in Sin City (2005) and The Dead Girl (2006) which seem to fit more comfortably. Still, there was real screen presence and potential that one senses wasn't quite explored for a variety of reasons -- emotional instability, party girl madness and bad career moves chief among them.
Brittany on David Letterman in 2002 (when the future looked bright)
and in the music video Faster Kill Pussycat in 2006
and in the music video Faster Kill Pussycat in 2006
Selma Blair about to turn 30 was enjoying her second Hollywood cover (see Episode 6 for more on her). Conde Nast must have owned as much stock in her career as they did in Gretchen Mol's. Blair is now returning to TV comedy full time with the US adaptation of Australia's irreverent Kath & Kim.
Rosario Dawson was about to turn 23 and enlisted by Vanity Fair's strange Affirmative Action policy with these covers [unwritten but obvious rule: one non-white actor must be placed in the last third of the foldout]. She first hit Hollywood in the controversial Kids (1995, which also introduced Chlöe Sevigny -see episode 7) and she has been a hardworking game actress since --she's nearing 40 quite diverse feature credits after only 13 years in the biz). 2002 was bringing her three major opportunities to score with the public: Co-starring in two summer star vehicles for huge stars (Will Smith in Men in Black II and Eddie Murphy in The Adventures of Pluto Nash) and The Girlfriend part in Spike Lee's joint 25th Hour which turned out to be his best since Do the Right Thing! [pictured left at a party for the film -photo src] Her work ethic hasn't let up since (either that or she can't say "no" to any offer) and fame has continued rising at a steady if non A list clip. She's currently the star of the groundbreaking web series Gemini Division and in theaters with Eagle Eye.
Christina Applegate, 30, was something of an oddity for these covers which usually focus on film stars. Her fame had come from TV (Married With Children) but perhaps the Vanity Fair staff assumed she'd really cross over? She didn't. She made ooccasional forays into the big screen: The Sweetest Thing (2002) and Anchorman (2004) to name two high profile examples. She also had a minor success on stage with a revival of Sweet Charity (2005) but through it all she never strayed far from the small screen. She recently returned there to carry the hit sitcom Samantha Who? Though not a movie star, she's a success story not to mention a Hollywood survivor --consider that storied broken foot on Sweet Charity and her recent battle with breast cancer --and a likable celebrity, too.
Naomi Watts, 33, was then more commonly known as "Nicole Kidman's Best Friend" or even "Heath Ledger's Girlfriend" rather than for her own gifts (the Aussie friends are all pictured, right, at the premiere of The Ring). She was still a relatively untested screen presence when this issue debuted despite years in the biz. Sure she had just aced her role in David Lynch's Mulholland Dr [prev posts] ensuring her a place in cinephile hearts forever but it wasn't a mainstream success and didn't bring her Oscar attention. Luckily for Watts, filmmakers went crazy for her and after The Ring (2002), 21 Grams (2003), King Kong (2005), and The Painted Veil (2006 - previous post) among others she's now the most important Actress (capital intended) of the nine featured on this "Hollywood" cover. At the time, who knew?
median age: 28, Kiki played the baby sister (20) and Naomi the mom (33)
collective Oscar noms before this cover: 1 nomination and win for Jennifer Connelly for A Beautiful Mind [see prev post] who inexplicably won everything that year despite strong competition.
collective Oscar noms after this cover: Only 2 (Naomi Watts in 21 Grams & Rachel Weisz) with one win (Weisz in The Constant Gardener)
fame levels in 2008, according to famousr, from most to least: Kirsten Dunst (this is why actors make superhero movies, you know ;), Naomi Watts, Kate Beckinsale, Brittany Murphy, Christina Applegate, Jennifer Connelly, Rachel Weisz, Rosario Dawson and Selma Blair
other episodes of 'VFH': 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005.
bonus jpeg: The ladies now!