Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~ Episode 5 (1999)

The Hollywood Historian in me continues his work after a long sabbatical ... Missed other episodes? See: 1995 , 1996, 1997, 1998 | 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005

In 1999, Vanity Fair went both a little crazy (14 people? The most ever for a Hollywood cover) and a little blah (seriously now, zzz). This issue gets my vote for worst cover in their history of Hollywood editions. They called it "New Kids on the Block" as if they were trying to date it instantly. I called it "Call me in Spring 2000 when the next one comes out." None of them look like they're in the mood to due boy band choreography or even sing one bar of a power ballad.

Adrien Brody, Thandie Newton, Monica Potter, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Stiles,
Leelee Sobieski, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Polley, Norman Reedus, Anna Friel,
Omar Epps, Kate Hudson, Vinessa Shaw, and Barry Pepper.

Adrien Brody, newly 26 years-old, had just come off of an extremely disappointing role downsizing in Best Picture nominee The Thin Red Line (see fascinating time capsule interview from several years back) --originally touted as the lead he was barely in the film by the time notoriously slow filmmaker Terence Malick was through with it. He had not yet been cast in The Pianist which would prove his rather massive critical / awards / Halle Berry kissing breakthrough. He was on the cover, as they often are because he was busy... already popular with casting directors with 5 performances emerging between 99 & 00 (his stripper in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam and his union organizer in Bread and Roses chief among them).

Thandie Newton was also 26. 1998 had been a big year with both
Bernardo Bertolucci's Besieged and Jonathan Demme's Beloved haunted by her beauty. All was not rosy thereafter. She snagged the female lead of Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) but it did as little for her as the previous film had done for Emmanuelle Béart stateside. Interest was renewed with her memorable supporting part in Crash (2005) and buzz has it that we'll next see her as Condoleeza Rice in Oliver Stone's Bush bio W. (2009).

Monica Potter, about to turn 28, was one of many actresses who were weighted down with "next Julia Roberts" buzz. Believe me, it was a plague that decimated the female 20somethings of Hollywood that entire decade. She had been in two hits Patch Adams and Con Air and would be in a couple more (the already forgotten Along Came a Spider, 2001 and the unfortunately remembered franchise-spawning Saw, 2004) Her last big gig was a stint on TV's Boston Legal.

Reese Witherspoon, all of 23, was still an up and comer and she was about to marry Ryan Phillipe, whom she had been dating since '97. Hopes for her career had stayed high mostly due to her impressive and soulful debut in The Man in the Moon (1991) but none of her films had been hits. That wouldn't change in 1999 (though Cruel Intentions nearly did it) because Election, the film that announced her formidable talent with the subtlety of a megaphone, also flopped in theaters (though it's better remembered than most of the smashes of that year... quality does sometimes win out in the end. It just takes a long time --Tortoise and Hare, you know). Two years after this cover, Legally Blonde would open and she'd join Hollywood's A list to become the biggest star to emerge from this cover's gelatinous mass of wannabees ---seriously. There's way too many people on this cover.

Julia Stiles, newly legal at 18, probably won this cover treatment on the basis of the just-then opening lead role in 10 Things I Hate About You (co-starring the late Heath Ledger). She worked a lot in the years that followed in films both successful and otherwise but her career didn't grow as much as people expected or she herself expected for that matter (that's my presumption from some interviews at least). Today people are still familiar and she is pretty terrific in that tiny role in the Bourne series.

Leelee Sobieski, also known as 'Helen Hunt Jr' among my crowd at the time, was a critical darling turning 16... a status I never understood how she achieved so quickly. Never could I understand her appeal but she worked steadily from her debut in the Tim Allen comedy Jungle 2 Jungle (1997) through the blockbuster Deep Impact to Kubrick's controversial Eyes Wide Shut and the horror thriller Joy Ride (2001). She's never stopped working but the press definitely stopped paying attention, ignoring her from about 2002 onward just as suddenly as they'd once inexplicably decided to dote on her. She's in the new Al Pacino thriller 88 Minutes which is about to open.

Giovanni Ribisi, from the twitchy school of acting that also spawned Jeremy Davies was 24. He had already worked a lot in indies with his biggest claim to fame being part of Saving Private Ryan's young soldier ensemble the summer before this cover was shot. He had eight projects open between this cover and the end of 2000. Presumably he slept some time in 2002 or thereabouts because every year brings several films. His career has been cooling off considerably but he's part of the next buzzy Michael Mann picture Public Enemies so his career might find its second wind next year.

Sarah Polley, 20 at the time, just had quite a year with an Oscar nomination for her first full feature behind the camera Away From Her. But we're talking 9 years ago, aren't we? Nine years back she was a critically celebrated actress with The Sweet Hereafter (1997) behind her for which many people thought she deserved an Oscar nomination. She had four movies coming out the year of this cover, the most famous of which would be Doug Liman's Go. Sarah hasn't totally given up acting (two movies coming next year) but expect more work behind the camera, too.

Norman Reedus at 30 was the oldest character on this cover. This former model was about to have a baby with longtime girlfriend Helena Christensen (they split up in 2003). He had made a few indies directly before this cover as well as the horror sci-fi flick Mimic (1997), which was his first picture. The heat was on with three more small films due in 99 but he never "broke out" as it were. He stayed mostly in indies with the occasional small role in bigger films dotting the filmography like Blade 2 and last year's American Gangster.

Anna Friel, about to turn 23, had up and comer buzz despite very little screen work. 1999 was an important year for her (see time capsule interview) as she was part of the quartet of players in Broadway's Closer (which became a film in 2004 --she played "Alice", later become Natalie Portman's role) and she was also in the ensemble in the umpteenth film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (this one with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer). Everybody forgot about her for awhile but she's more popular and adorable than ever, suddenly, as one fourth of Pushing Daisies central quartet of players. She's "dead girl" ...but you knew that already if you've been watching.

Omar Epps, nearly 26, had gotten his film start in the Harlem set drama Juice(1992) with Tupac Shakur and had been working steadily in both TV (ER) and film up until this cover. 1999 was a big year with three major roles (The Woods, In Too Deep, and The Mod Squad) and 2000 would be equally crowded but success was only moderate. Lead film roles dried up and he moved over to TV in 2004 as a regular cast member on the Emmy nominated House, M.D.

Kate Hudson , turning 20, had an Oscar-winning superstar mother (Goldie Hawn) but little else to recommend her for this cover. Major stardom of her own would arrive approximately a year and a half later when Almost Famous (2000) opened, for which she received an Oscar nomination and became a mainstream media staple. One romantic comedy blockbuster followed (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 2003) but, honestly, she gets a lot of attention for how little success her films have hand. And that filmography: yikes!

Vinessa Shaw, nearly 23, was known from her work as a teenager on television and in films like Hocus Pocus and Ladybugs. Nothing major but the Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut (pictured, right) was in post-production when this cover was shot and the buzz on her appearance/sex appeal in the mystery shrouded film was fairly loud. Not sure why a bigger career didn't materialize but you'll probably remember that she did a brief Russell Crowe snogging act in 3:10 to Yuma last year.

Barry Pepperwas turning 29 and the previous year's feature film landscape had suggested that he might be breaking free of television, where he had spent the first six years of his Hollywood career. In 1998 he had played a memorable sniper role in Saving Private Ryan and supported Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. A role in Best Picture nominee The Green Mile followed this very December and then he hit the brick wall that was the Scientology inspired Battlefied Earth(2000). The future didn't hold big successful lead roles after that but damn he was good in 25th Hour (2002), don't you think? Next up: supporting Will Smith again in Seven Pounds this Christmas.

Anna Friel ~ then and now

median age: approximately 24. Youngest: Leelee was still fifteen when the cover was shot. oldest: Norman Reedus @ thirty
collective Oscar nominations before this cover: Zilch
collective Oscar nominations after this cover: 4 (Reese, Adrian, Sarah and Kate), 2 of which led to big wins (Witherspoon in Walk the Line & Brody in The Pianist)
fame levels in 2008, according to famousr, from most to least: Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson, Julia Stiles, Adrien Brody, Omar Epps, Giovanni Ribisi, Thandie Newton, Leelee Sobieski, Sarah Polley, Barry Pepper, Monica Potter, Vinessa Shaw (Anna Friel and Norman Reedus are not listed on the website)
see also: 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

don't miss future installments. Yes I will one day get through them all

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Anonymous said...

Wow it really looks so late 90s. Never thought that moment would have a defining look - all that grey, pared down, combat "utility chic." So dated and eugh-looking.

Anonymous said...

And yes! Leelee looks so much like Helen Hunt! They've got to be somehow related, they just have to be!

jahs34 said...

I love Leelee because she didn't wear a bra in Joyride, which is a very good little thriller, with an Oscar caliber performance by Steve Zahn.


I like that movie too. I reviewed it a super long time ago. But please don't laugh at my woefully junior league review of Mulholland Dr on the same page.

mB said...

Whoa. That does seem like a weak lineup... both back then and now. But I guess hindsight is 20/20.

Keep the good historian's job going! :D

Glenn Dunks said...

Academy Award Nominee Sarah Polley does not enjoy realising she's less famous than Leelee Sobieski and Giovani Ribisi. Not at all.


i think the real question is how is Julia Stiles still so famous?

Anonymous said...

Watching this pic gives me a feeling of bad stomach stuff.

And last time i check, Famousr doesn't even have Kate Winslet. lol

Anyway, love Anna Friel and Pushing Daisies.


ryansumera said...

leelee should be in a woody allen movie.

par3182 said...

i'm pretty sure i bought this issue and i've still never heard of norman reedus or vinessa shaw

John P. said...

I like Barry Pepper. I wish he would get more/better work.

Glenn said...

I'm glad Par mentioned that because I didn't want to be the only one who had never heard of either of them.

John T said...

Why no mention of LeeLee's work in Joan of Arc-I think that's what most people, if they still remember her, remember her for (she did get Emmy and GG nominations for it)?

Anonymous said...

Nat, very good point(s) about Julia Stiles and Kate Hudson's careers & their fame levels. I suppose accolades must be given to their publicists for keeping them in the public eye, despite the lack of major film roles.

But how I do love this series...

Judy said...

Who shot that cover? My god it is the most horrid, blech looking thing. Still, I LOVE this series, Nat, keep it up. (Can't wait until you get to the actressy 2001 cover.)


Anonymous said...

Julia Stiles because she's actually a more than decent actress... (i think I've liked her anytime I've caught her in a film!)

Kate Hudson 'cause she's hot... (sigh! that is still a Hollywood criteria)

Anonymous said...

eugh - Kate Hudson - one good scene in one good movie. what a waste of space.....she would be nowhere w out mommie goldest....and her "pa". how long until her sitcom "Kate" and / or Lifetime movies???

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the people who thinks Sarah Polley deserves the nomination for "The Sweet hereafter", and now, she not only a fantastic indie actress, she's a promising writer and director and "Away form her" is the proof...

About Julia Stiles and Leelee sobieski, promising actresses in than time but now... they're under cover. Still, Julia has the Bourne trilogy sucess...

Yes, in cuestion of Kate Hudson, it's like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, queens of the tabloids...

Anonymous said...

reese has not been in a hit since winning the oscar.


maybe not but I'm sure she will be again. Popular she is.

I'm sure Four Christmases will change that