Monday, May 05, 2008

Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~ Episode 6 (2000)

Missed other episodes? See: 1995 , 1996, 1997, 1998 , 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005

In 2000, Vanity Fair recovered from the grungy altogether dull 1999 cover with a pared down (only 9 people) lustier version of Young Hollywood which they called Splendor in the Grass. Speaking of Splendor (61)... none of these hopefuls will be able to stand next to Natalie Wood & Warren Beatty in the pantheon of movie stars but you can forgive them for dreaming. That's what Tinseltown is about.

This cover is the one with the least variance in age. They could have called it 20something. We didn't know it at the time but this would mark the end of the "up and coming" VF lineups. They'd start experimenting with the format thereafter. Yes, this was the last consecutive year in which the pictorial spread was meant to represent future A-Listers... (i.e. young actors with great publicists). Is it because their lineups had been getting progressively more speculative and therefore disappointing or would it have happened anyway?

Penelope Cruz , turning 26, had the press both legitimate and otherwise in the beginnings of a frenzy having just co-starred in Pedro Almodovar's Oscar winning All About My Mother and expected to become a big star with her first headlining gig in an English language movie (Woman on Top) and future gigs wherein she had been cast opposite three leading Hollywood stars (Matt Damon in All The Pretty Horses, Johnny Depp in Blow and Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky). Her profile raising relationship with Cruise was just around the corner. Audiences didn't warm to her as quickly as the tabloids (and Vanity Fair) but her ubiquity paid off and she became a big star. It took another 8 years and another reteaming with Pedro (in his biggest US hit Volver) to win her true respect Stateside though she was already a superstar in Spain.

Wes Bentley and Mena Suvari both 21, were white hot after Oscar's Best Picture of 1999, American Beauty. They're pictured here with their Beauty co-star Thora Birch (who was conspicuously absent from this 'new stars!' focused cover even while her co-stars got the actual cover). Big things were expected from all. Mena surprised new fans by marrying the much older cinematographer Robert Brinkmann this year (21 is very young for a Young Hollywood member to settle down). But since Mena came to embody the heteronormative "schoolgirl" fantasy for millions of moviegoers, she still enjoys relatively high levels of fame from this movie (and perhaps American Pie --also in 99) alone. Nothing she's done in the decade since accounts for her continued Q rating.

Wes, who won ever more critical acclaim for Beauty, kept a low profile thereafter appearing in at most one film a year for a few years and until 2007, in which he suddenly had roles in four films (Ghost Rider was the biggest hit among them), he had disappeared altogether from screens.

Marley Shelton 26 had been busy for the two years prior to this cover co-starring in films like Never Been Kissed, Pleasantville and The Bachelor. When this cover arrived she was enjoying frequent employment and the following year, 2001, four movies arrived featuring the blond beauty including the teen girl crime comedy Sugar and Spice and Bubble Boy with Jake Gyllenhaal who had already carried a film (October Sky) when this cover arrived. Why wasn't he on it? Big things didn't materialize for Marley but her funny trembling performance in Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007) will hopefully renew interest.

A fashion shoot with Shelton & Klein during this same time period

Chris Klein was 21 and had been plucked from high school obscurity for Alexander Payne's Election. Hollywood immediately latched on to him casting him in several projects including American Pie, Rollerball and We Were Soldiers over the following few years. Like Bentley he disappeared round about 2002 for a few years. In fact this absence from screens coincides oddly with his entire three year engagement to Katie Holmes (called off in 2005). The career was much quieter upon his return but could get noisier. He has four films due out soon including the videogame adaptation Street Fighter.

Selma Blair about to turn 28 was the oldest actor on the cover and was at the time the lead on a short lived sitcom called Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane (she was Zoe). Her career has been low on buzz but long on employment. Blair has stayed mostly in supporting roles and even though she's been typecast as the stuffy girlfriend/spouse, she's been featured in a wide range of projects from John Waters comedies (she's hilarious in A Dirty Shame) mainstream rom-coms (Legally Blonde), controversial indies (Storytelling) and superhero films (Hellboy and its sequel arriving any moment now).

Paul Walker 26 was roughly in the same position as Shelton. Though featured in several movies prior to this cover he hadn't yet staked his claim to fame. He would become the second biggest star here even as his projects rarely inched above the B level. It would take The Fast and The Furious the following year to raise him to the status he currently clings to tenaciously despite only mild hits afterward. Though Hollywood doesn't usually have a lot of use for the pretty boy blondes (DiCaprio and Pitt being the A list exceptions) he has managed keep himself viable for leading man roles as he enters the prime age for them in Hollywood (It skews older than actresses of course). He's returning to the role that made him famous (another sequel to The Fast and the Furious) which is probably not a good idea at he enters his mid 30s. He needs a film with more weight if he wants to attract meatier projects and keep the leading man status going well into his 40s.

Jordana Brewster (had to look up her name) was turning 20. She still routinely makes Hot 100 lists of lustworthy celebrities but otherwise there's not much going on in her career. Even in the early Aughts when people barely knew he she was the media was pushing for major stardom. After the surprise smash The Fast and the Furious she returned to college and has only appeared in four movies since 2001.

Sarah Wynter 27, was virtually unknown when this cover was published, having done only TV guest spots and a couple minor film roles. One assumes she snagged the cover for her upcoming role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger (pre-Governator) in The Sixth Day (2000). None of her subsequent films (Bride of the Wind, Farewell My Love among them) were hits and she turned to television with recurring roles on 24, The Dead Zone and Windfall

median age: 24. Youngest: Jordana Brewster was still 19 when Leibovitz shot this cover. Oldest: Selma Blair was the granny here (nearly 28). Her career isn't exactly A-list but I bet a lot of actors would kill for it: steady employment, always around in some way or another.
collective Oscar noms before this cover: None
collective Oscar noms after this cover: Only one but it was thrilling/deserved: Penélope Cruz in Volver (see: previous posts)
fame levels in 2008, according to famousr, from most to least: Paul Walker, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Selma Blair, Jordana Brewster and Marley Shelton (Cruz and Wynter are not listed on the website --I think they would safely be first and last among this line-up)
see also: 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.


Glenn said...

It's amazing how quickly you can go on/off a certain actor. I didn't care for Cruz outside of Spanish films, but now I'm always interested in what she's doing Spanish/American/Whatever. Whereas I liked Jordana Brewster, residual goodwill from The Faculty, and now I couldn't give a rats arse.

I've always liked Blair. Even on Zoe (it was titled simply Zoe in Australia), but especially in the more edgy stuff she's done. Love her in Storytelling especially.

Joe Reid said...

I'm as surprised as anyone that my favorite from this list, today, would be Selma Blair. Huh.

I do want to mention that the last movie I saw Paul Walker in -- the delightfully junky Running Scared -- gave me more than a glimmer (let's say a glimmer and a half) of hope that he can stretch as an actor. Haven't quite given up on him yet.

Robert said...

Hmmmm... this cover more than any other seems to be an attempt to make gorgeous people look unappealing.

Anonymous said...

Ditto and ditto on the first two comments, really.

Volver helped forgive a multitude of Cruz screen sins, and Running Scared did indeed suggest that there was more from Paul Walker if he went after the right roles. However, I maintain that he's a potentially good actor cursed with a dopey voice. (See also: Melanie Griffith; Keanu Reeves.)


Neel Mehta said...

For me, the biggest surprise of this post is that Marley Shelton has her own tag at The Film Experience.

Anonymous said...

How did Wes Bentley disappear so thoroughly? That's something I'd love to figure out, because immeadiately post-Beauty, I would've figured him for semi-stardom and critical success.


well he took 2 years off in his 20s! probably not a smart move.

Glenn Dunks said...

It didn't help that he will forever be dogged by that "plastic bag" scene in American Beauty. Now he's like some sqeezy villain in everything he makes.

Anonymous said...

I love Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions and Storytelling. And now she has a promissing tv show with Molly Shannon. Can't wait for it.

Anonymous said...

This series on Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issues is what made me bookmark this blog... I love these bits of recent history.

Who would have told Cruz then she'd be one of the most popular faces of this cover eight years later?

Glenn, if you're interested in Cruz's (how the hell is that pronounced? ;) Spanish career before Hollywood, I would recommend "El amor perjudica seriamente la salud" "La niña de tus ojos" (, two fine comedies, besides Belle Epoque and Jamón, Jamón (which also includes Bardem in the pack).

Wasn't there another cover at that time in which Cruz was with some Hollywood Legends like Loren, Bacall and others I can't remember?
She really must have a good publicist which I guess is as essential in Hollywood as talent.
Let's hope she has some meaty supporting ¿? part in Vicky Cristina Barcelona which together with Broken Embraces and Nine might get her some attention.


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Paul Walker was great in Running Scared and Flags of Our Fathers. I would even go so far as to say he was the best thing about the latter, though it's a relatively brief role.

Anonymous said...

About Wes Bentley it's like Julia Stiles situation, both actors who were promising stars in 1999-2000, both were sleepeing quiet in their short stability and they're never recover anymore. Awful choices in awful movies... Well, unleast Julia still has "The Bourne Trilogy" success

Anonymous said...

Funny stuff. I think it is hysterical that NONE of them are a-listers.


iggy --i think that's the next cover if i remember correctly

powers --well maybe Cruz is A list. she gets an awful lot of press

walter --what did paul walker do in flags again?

Janice said...

//Wasn't there another cover at that time in which Cruz was with some Hollywood Legends like Loren, Bacall and others I can't remember?
She really must have a good publicist which I guess is as essential in Hollywood as talent.//

I'm reading Andrew Morton's bio of Tom Cruise right now and this is his take on the subject (pg 225):

"Even though Tom and Penelope tried to disguise their burgeoning relationship, there was no hiding the hostility between Nicole and the Spanish actress when they were photographed for a "Legends of Hollywood" story in Vanity Fair. For the cover, Annie Leibovitz shot a group portrait that included Nicole, Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Cate Blanchett, Chloe Sevigny and, incongruously, Penelope...who had scarcely a Hollywood movie to her name. That she was now represented by Tom's publicist, Pat Kingsley, and under his management umbrella, CAA, might just have worked in her favor. Significantly, Leibowitz placed the opposite corners of the photo.

If including the relatively unknown Penelope in the photo shoot was a not-so-subtle attempt by Tom's camp to intimidate and humiliate Nicole, their plan was effective."