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The season for image makeovers

The season for image makeovers — We take a look at some proven image makeover techniques, as employed by Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson

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What do movie stars and politicians have in common? They’re forever trying to tweak their images and appearances in order to up their approval ratings, gain respect, and score with the public. When it works, they’re as happy as Tom Hanks after Philadelphia. When it doesn’t…well, we don’t want to remind anyone of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior unless it’s absolutely necessary. There are, of course, some tried-and-true tricks to image makeovers — and they’re all being used this holiday season:

The Meryl Streep-in-The River Wild Method (in which a highbrow actor shoots for box-office bankability in an action flick): Matthew Modine, heretofore known for sound, earnest performances in serious films (see Short Cuts), will shirtlessly swashbuckle with Geena Davis in the pirate flick Cutthroat Island.

The Bruce Willis-in-Pulp Fiction Method (in which a star displays hidden talents and Oscar-worthy humility by taking on a supporting role): In Casino, Sharon Stone stoops to play the gold-digging junkie wife of Robert De Niro’s mobster. As a presidential adviser with Stephanopoulos hair in The American President, Michael J. Fox, titan of time-travel movies, proves he can be charming in adult roles, even when given a shorter amount of screen time. And Madonna hopes to break her box-office hex with a bit role as a witch in Four Rooms.

The Mel Gibson-in-Braveheart Method (in which a glamourpuss shows commitment to the craft by avoiding the makeup trailer): Playing a nun in Dead Man Walking, Susan Sarandon shows us what was once for Tim Robbins’ eyes only — Susan sans lipstick. And in Twelve Monkeys Brad Pitt tries to blight his ineradicable cuteness with a fake glass eye and a tragic haircut.

The Humphrey Bogart-in-Sabrina Method (in which an aging tough guy proves he can be a pussy cat): The usually caddish Michael Douglas plays a good Commander-in-Chief in American President. And Harrison Ford follows in Bogey’s footsteps as a love-flummoxed tycoon in Sabrina.