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Cher: Is her movie career dead?

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Seen a good Cher movie lately? Seen any Cher movies lately? Of course not. The singer-turned-actress, who hasn’t made a film since 1990’s Mermaids, has been too busy becoming the Queen of the Infomercials. Turn on the TV anytime day or night and catch her singing the praises of Lori Davis’ Hair Products, hawking her own cosmetic line, or appearing in regular TV ads exalting the virtues of Equal.

After earning a reported $1 million per spot plus a cut of the beauty-product profits, Cher, 47, is now getting ready to resume her film career. But some insiders are saying Hollywood is not eager to welcome the Oscar-winning actress back.

In her quest to rid the world of overweight women with bad hair and even worse skin, Cher may have irreparably damaged her film career. ”Why should I pay her millions to star in a movie,” says one studio executive, ”when I can watch her with Lori Davis for free?” Says another exec, ”Jack Nicholson doesn’t do TV for a reason. He figures if you see him on the small screen, why would you want to see him on the big one? Cher should learn a lesson from him.”

The first signs of the Cher film freeze came last year when she tried to find a new home for her production company, Isis, after its previous benefactor, Orion Pictures, went belly up. A half-dozen studios were approached about bankrolling the moribund company, but all passed.

The Cher snub, to be fair, was part of a larger downscaling effort: The studios have been pulling the plug on vanity companies like Isis, which traditionally offer little in the way of films. Still, the slight was surprising to anyone who remembers that after her 1987 Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck, her name alone could summon up instant Hollywood financing. ”Now,” says one Hollywood deal maker, ”she can get European financing, but not here. She’s considered a risk.”

She hasn’t helped matters by being incredibly picky in choosing roles. She was offered — and passed — on leads in The War of the Roses, which earned $80 million, and Thelma & Louise, which brought Oscar nominations for both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Reportedly, the actress does have at least one movie in development — a black comedy about a movie star and a tabloid reporter, starring herself and her Witches of Eastwick buddy, Michelle Pfeiffer. But the movie doesn’t have a studio, much less a start date.

Even if she can find the right project for her return, insiders question whether Cher will regain her once-mighty box office appeal. But the actress and her camp don’t seem worried about the impact of infomercials on her mystique. ”The rules that apply to other people simply don’t apply to Cher,” says her publicist, Lois Smith. ”She makes and breaks her own rules and always has.” Says another producer who has worked with the actress, ”Give me a break. This woman has been down and come back nine times, so why should she stop now?”

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