Monday, September 29, 2008

Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~ Episode 8 (2002)

Missed other episodes? See: 1995 , 1996, 1997, 1998 , 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005 to get you caught up.

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

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!


Anonymous said...

"Her career has since settled back into the mid level range but who knows."

Sorry but i don't agree with you at all with what you wrote. Weisz is a well respected actress and its better to be that than be what you consider A list, which she still is.

Drew said...

I have an undying allegiance to Jennifer Connelly, if only because she got her start in a Dario Argento horror flick as a girl who could summon insects.

par3182 said...

that 'now' jpeg is just cruel...

i keep waiting for brittany murphy to come good but i guess it's pretty unlikely now. such a pity that janis joplin biopic didn't work out (maybe she should release that fabled audition tape)

naomi? i knew

Anonymous said...

I love this series. I really want Kiki to string together another set of unforgettable performances.

Anonymous said...

>>...she's now the most important Actress (capital intended) of the nine featured on this "Hollywood" cover. At the time, who knew?

Well, it was you who didn't know. We all knew.

John T said...

It's weird-as much as I love the actors that typically grace these covers, most of these actors I just go eh to. I like Christina Applegate (and have started to TiVo her show), but the only ones that I love are Weisz and (especially) Watts, so in an odd twist, I think Oscar and the critical establishment got it right about this cover.


steandric What's with the venom? I am actually praising someone you love. And I was speaking of general perceptions here. Obviously her work in Mulholland Dr was awesome and indicated a big talent. But notice Vanity Fair placed her on the back page.
And anyway... I liked her before any of you ;) TANK GIRL !

anon nothing against Weisz but what's not mid level about her career post Oscar?

Definitely, Maybe
Fred Claus
My Blueberry Nights

and, as much as i love The Fountain it was greeted as a disaster.

But more curiously what do I consider A list and why isn't that good ? Hmmm ;)

people woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning apparently.

par i waited for that too.

kat. nobody wants that more than me ;) Virgin Suicides. Bring It On. Crazy/Beautiful. What a triple that was.

Anonymous said...

I like Kirsten. She's not my favorite actress, but I don't see why people have immnese hatred for her.


Anonymous said...

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.

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.

Not to sound too argumentative, but: huh? By the time this cover was made she had had starring roles in films by Szabó and Annaud, not to mention a smaller part in Bertolucci's, and a couple of respected ones on stage. Apart from Watts' star turn in Lynch's film, had any of the other eight a comparable résumé?

True, Constant Gardener easily overshadows all her past performances, but I'd be surprised if back in 2002 most people in the know didn't bet precisely on Rachel to be destined to have the brightest future. I know I would have. Well, either her or Naomi, but seeing as you refer to the latter's career as surprising, too... -- who else???

Anonymous said...

Weisz was great in Definitely, Maybe

Weisz was in Fred Claus for about ten minutes of screen time, more than less a cameo performance.

Weisz was one of the only bright spots in My Blueberry Nights

Weisz only did a voice over for Eragon and Weisz and Huge Jackman made the Fountain watchable despite Darren Aronofsky's self destruction vanity project taking itself way too seriously.

And yes i do question your definition of 'A list" considering that you're trying to link her marriage to Darren Aronofsky as her way on the "A List".

rosengje said...

Nat, I just watched a new Australia trailer on MSN. Looks divine. Want to hear your thoughts...

Anonymous said...

Whoops...I meant to saw Hugh Jackman. LOL:)

Slayton said...

Brittany Murphy is an incredibly underrated actress... she really was incredible in "The Dead Girl", it showed us what we've missed by denying her a star's career.

Rachel Weisz has a great year next year. She's got three AMAZING lead roles - "Dirt Music" (adapted from an EXCELLENT Tim Winton novel - if she's nominated for Best Actress out of the three this'll be the one), "The Lovely Bones" (another great character, could swing supporting but I'd rather it didn't - it would probably knock unknown Carolyn Dando, who plays Ruth - the best character in the book - out of the running) and "Agora" (a big Greek costume epic - sounds promising!).


anon i understand you're a fan and i have nothing against Weisz. But voicework, cameos, and supporting a Ryan Reynolds headliner... i mean, by most definitions those are not really A-List projects after a well regarded Oscar win.

as far as marriage to Aronofsky goes: He's a major auteurial talent and when two respected industry people marry each other it does tend to augment the fame of both whether they're C B or A list. That's my take on it at least.

not that they married for fame. I'm just saying...

notluke you're right. She was in some respected director's work but she was not by any means a star I don't think until she did those silly Mummy movies. but that's my take. Obviously some people think she was a bigger star than others do.

Can we talk about someone else besides Weizzz (KIDDING!)

Anonymous said...

Can we talk about someone else besides Weizzz

Aw, you know we know you actually love her. :P

a big Greek costume epic - sounds promising!

It does, doesn't it? With Alejandro Amenabar directing, and the most important (yet practically unknown to the general public) female thinker of the Ancient World as a main character, I must say I am really really hyped about Agora. Could this be the first ancient epic with brains since I-don't-remember-when?


doesn't that mean it will have to go to HBO instead... or make like 954,000 at the box office instead of 90 million?


oh and also: isn't that Brittany / Letterman clip funny? god bless YouTube

Anonymous said...

I love this series and wonder if you would consider adding your own version of it to the Film Bitch awards. It would be so cool to see which actresses (and actors!) you'd pick as having hit the sweet spot in terms of high profile roles, great performances, and A-list career prospects.

Probably you'd have to put Rachel Weisz on this list every year to appease her (surprisingly rabid) fan base...

Cluster Funk said...

Aronofsky and Weisz aren't married yet, are they? Obviously they live together since they have a child, but I don't think she's his wife -- just a shack-up honey. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Saying that someone was the most promising of a specific group six bloody years ago, suggesting that someone didn't marry into her fame - those count as rabid fandom these days? I hate the Internet.


notluke -- people are just touchy about rabid fandom these days because the internet IS full of that unhinged stuff. We all know it.

I hope i cleared up that i didn't state that she married into fame. but i stand by my statement that two well known respected people marrying each other invariably boosts fame.

maybe it's a personal thing with Weisz though in terms of 'promising'. I just never saw anything in her work that suggested she was capable of The Constant Gardener ... now obviously i've been wrong before and I was this time ;) but I am generally a pretty good judge of potential.

emily i'm tinkering with some vaguely related ideas and it's an interesting suggestion. thanks

Anonymous said...

I love this series too, although it's a little different when the date is still fairly close. The older issues you can really see what happened over years.

It's a pity that we'll be missing one year, because some conceited moron decided it would be hotter to have him (Mr. Nobody) as the photo centrepiece, surrounded by semi-naked starlets. Only two did this (Knightly and Johanson). Rachel McAdams opted out, and good for her. Although I notice Vanith Fair seems to have blacklisted McAdams since, choosing this year, Alice Braga, Ginnifer Godwin, and Jessica Biel as "hotter" actresses. Too bad Vanith Fair can't admit it was their own error in judgement, not McAdams.

Anonymous said...

Poor Kirsten Dunst!

She wasn't so happy when she found out that Jake prefers boys.

Frank Jump said...

Rosario Dawson's Uncle Frank here to thank you for the wonderful article AND for properly crediting the photo I took of Rosa and Norton. The other photo of them I could not publish. Keep on blogging!

Frank H. Jump
Fading Ad Blog