A.J. Jacobs
November 04, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

Forget the casting couch. If you really want to be a movie star, get yourself involved in a nice, juicy, tabloid-frenzy scandal. It worked for overzealous Olympic skater Tonya Harding, former amputee John Wayne Bobbitt, and Victoria’s Secret model Paula Barbieri (O.J. Simpson’s acquaintance at the time of the Brentwood, Calif., killings). All three will be making their acting debuts in low-budget movies. So flip off CNN and check out the following:

BREAKAWAY, featuring Tonya Harding (to be released in December) *The plot: A woman working as a courier for the Mob steals $300,000 and makes a run for freedom. *Harding’s role: A feisty waitress who shares a boyfriend with the courier and eventually winds up with the cash. *Marketing pitch: Something Wild with action,” says producer Eric Gardner. *The action: Tonya ”beats the crap” out of a guy who pulls a gun on her, Gardner says. *The romance: Tonya kisses her two-timing boyfriend in her artist’s loft. *Tonya the actress: ”Performed like a pro,” Gardner says. The skater even improvised some lines.

JOHN WAYNE BOBBIT UNCUT, an XXX-rated tale featuring John Wayne Bobbitt (arrived in video stores Oct. 10) *The plot: It’s his story. Says Bobbitt: ”I’m doing this mainly for documentation, to show my side of the story, to show that a guy can have his penis cut off and recover.” *Marketing pitch:Forrest Gump meets Deep Throat.” *The action: The infamous slicing scene, complete with a replica of the actual knife. (Though during the filming of the scene, Bobbitt had flashbacks and had to leave the room.) *The romance: Five sex scenes, including one in a hospital with nurses, one on a yacht, and one with three women at once. *John the actor: ”He’s better than Keanu Reeves,” says Bobbitt’s manager, Aaron Gordon.

THE DANGEROUS, featuring Paula Barbieri (due to premiere on HBO in February but filmed before the scandal broke) *The plot: A brother-and-sister team — seeking revenge for their murdered sibling — go on a kamikaze mission to kill gangsters. *Barbieri’s role: The abused girlfriend of a drug lord. *Special guest: Former star Elliott Gould. *Marketing pitch: Black Rain meets Lethal Weapon.” *The action: Gun-toting Barbieri has a standoff with a samurai swordsman. *The romance: Barbieri makes love with her on-screen boyfriend, who’s the hero of this action flick. *Paula the actress: ”She has a toughness yet a vulnerability — kind of a Monroe thing,” says producer David Winters.

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