In any given week in Hollywood, a new star is born — and an old one burns out. A potential Oscar-winning script is sold (or chucked in the trash), a TV series is given the green light (or put on hiatus), a hot new band is signed (or dropped), an opening weekend makes a movie producer’s career (or has him mentally refinancing his home), and a thousand other mostly unseen moments unfold under this city’s famous sun-kissed skies (and lung-choking smog).
In this issue, we’ve tried to capture the moments of just one of those weeks — July 11 through 18 — with pictures and words that give you an inside peek at the entertainment industry at work. Some of the moments caught in these pages are big (producer Jerry Bruckheimer checking the opening grosses for Pirates of the Caribbean), some are small (a casting call for Everwood), and some are just moments we’ve been curious about (what really goes on in the Simpsons writers’ room).
Each moment, though, is important in its own way (even plucking Jaime Pressly’s eyebrows). Because for all its buzz and glory, Hollywood is a town that often turns on the briefest twinkling of time. The people in these pages are working 24/7, whether on set, at home, or on the town. And for good reason: It takes just a flash, after all, for fame and fortune to catch fire — and even less for them to flicker out forever.
Friday, July 11, 2:00pm
$24 million. At this moment, that’s how much Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl has grossed in the two days since its Wednesday release. That’s not good — that’s great. Doubloon-stuffed-treasure-chest great.
Three hours from now, Jerry Bruckheimer, the Uberproducer charged by the Walt Disney Studios to convert a Disneyland attraction into a cinematic thrill ride, will receive his first report on today’s initial box office performance. Based on the film’s strong start, he should be brimming with yo-ho-ho confidence.
That’s because this is an opening weekend — the defining moment of any week in Hollywood. Even a swashbuckling sea dog like Bruckheimer — one of the most successful producers ever, whose films (The Rock, Con Air, Black Hawk Down) and TV series (CSI, Without a Trace, The Amazing Race) have made him into an eminently marketable brand — gulps hard while sailing through its treacherous passage.
”Twenty-four million dollars in two days, that’s a pretty good indication,” says Bruckheimer, 57, clad in power-player black and seated in a cushy chair in his spacious, loft-style Santa Monica office. He shrugs. ”But you just never know.”
A few days earlier, Bruckheimer had been in Ireland for the premiere of his upcoming political drama Veronica Guerin, starring Cate Blanchett as a crusading Irish journalist, and to visit the set of next year’s King Arthur, a Gladiator-esque re-dressing of the legend, starring Clive Owen. He flew back to be in L.A. on Wednesday — the beginning of Pirates’ five-day opening weekend (only in Hollywood can a weekend be five days). ”I was on the phone with my office as soon as I landed, [checking] on the numbers,” says Bruckheimer, whose hushed voice compels you to lean forward.
Today, he awoke (as usual) at 6 a.m. and spent 40 minutes on a stationary bicycle. Next came a slew of phone calls. His first was to Chuck Viane, Buena Vista’s head of distribution, to parse the previous day’s box office. Since then, Bruckheimer has paced through his day like an expectant father, waiting for the 5 o’clock update. There’s been plenty of work to keep him distracted. A radio interview to promote Bad Boys II, opening Friday the 18th. A meeting with Anthony LaPaglia, star of Without a Trace, to discuss the next season. A casting session for National Treasure, an adventure yarn starring Nicolas Cage. Then e-mails. ”I’m kind of busy right now,” says Bruckheimer, a satisfied smile curling across his lean, bearded face.
He doesn’t do it alone. He employs a staff of 26. They labor casually and quietly, in a stylishly renovated old warehouse decorated with modern art. Currently, in the waiting room, actor Daniel Benzali (The Agency) is mumbling lines to himself, presumably preparing for an audition. In about an hour, actor Miguel Ferrer (Crossing Jordan) will walk through the door. The environment speaks of oiled professionalism and hard-earned comfort. In fact, the nervous reality of the opening-weekend moment is nowhere in evidence… except in the boss’ office.
Jon Favreau Makes The Score
Friday, July 11, 11:10am
In a Santa Monica editing room, indie actor-turned-indie writer/director Jon Favreau (Swingers) auditions composers for his first major-studio release, Elf, in which Will Ferrell plays a human raised by Santa’s little helpers. A CD is inserted and music fills the tiny room. ”Can you turn that off?” Favreau quickly asks. ”It’s depressing me.” The score’s too somber for an off-kilter comedy featuring oddities like a smooth-talking, stop-motion snowdude (pictured). Still, overall, Favreau’s feeling chipper. ”I helped make Will a leading man,” Favreau says. ”Everybody knows he’s funny, but I got to show he’s a really good actor.” Elf is due out this November, baby, November.
Josh Groban Takes a Risk
Friday, July 11, 3:45pm
Josh Groban is sitting inside a Hollywood studio listening to a track he’s just cut for his sophomore album (due in November). It’s a cover of Michael Jackson’s balladic ’80s hit ”She’s Out of My Life” that offers at least one distinct departure from the original. ”I decided not to cry at the end,” Groban jokes. It’s a good rule of thumb: Baritones don’t bawl. Jacko covers notwithstanding, Groban is known primarily for applying his bottomless lungs to classically minded, romantic material — as in Romance languages. His 2001 self-titled debut album has sold more than 3 million copies in America, and he has no desire to alienate the audience that wanted to hear a young man who sounded more like Caruso than R. Kelly. This new effort will introduce some wrinkles — like a cover of Linkin Park’s ”My December” that he just cut with a full orchestra — but not many. ”David [Foster, who discovered him] and I hit a great thing on the first album, so I need that familiarity on a second to make sure I don’t lose my way,” Groban says. ”I learned from other artists not to experiment too much on album 2. You don’t want to scare people. Album 3 is the album to do that.”
Sucking Up to Brand New
Saturday, July 12, 10:25pm
At certain gigs at the legendary Troubadour, no matter how many rock fans have jammed the club’s floor area and balcony, there’s always a lineup of gray-haired types with their backs pressed to the wall nearest the exit. They would be the label scouts (a.k.a. A&R execs). Tonight’s reps (from Columbia, Warner Bros., Interscope, DreamWorks, and other companies) are here to catch the hottest up-and-comers on the emo scene, Brand New (whose indie contract expired when they delivered their just-released second album, Deja Entendu). ”It’s a lot of dinners, a lot of lobster to stuff down my throat,” says frontman Jesse Lacey of the meetings. The band expects to pick one of their stalkers by year’s end: ”We’ve done our homework, and now we’ve gotta take the plunge.” After the sold-out show, the label reps come a-courtin’ in the dressing room: ”I’ve been at [the label] for 13 years, and I could never work for anybody else,” one exec tells Lacey (backstage, far right, with bandmate Vin Accardi), passionately extolling a certain corporate subsidiary. ”And I’m not just drinking the Kool-Aid…”
Establishing Your Cool Quotient
Sunday, July 13, 12:45am
In a town where the mainstream music scene metastasizes daily, discerning scenesters seek refuge in weird places — like Dragonfly, where swarms of pretty hipsters get down to new-wave tribute act the Spazmatics every Sunday night. Why the particular fascination with 30ish guys in sweater vests and (for some reason) neck braces channeling ’80s relics like Toni Basil? Could it be club-kid nostalgia for the prom they never had? It’s a theory. Here’s a fact: The Spazmatics provide the rare chance to affect your ironic detachment and rock out to it, too.
Grinning and Baring It for The WB
Sunday, July 13, 7:00pm
Look up dog and pony show in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of the Television Critics Association’s annual press tour. Every July, hundreds of journalists from around the country gather at an L.A. hotel (this time, the Renaissance in Hollywood) to attend two weeks of wall-to-wall press conferences about the new fall TV lineup. It’s the one time of year when reporters from papers like the Akron Beacon Journal get to rub elbows with small-screen stars, grill top network execs, and graze on mushroom risotto and arugula salad. The WB kicked off the tour with a party at the chichi White Lotus restaurant in Hollywood, where guests included (clockwise from above) Hilary Duff (the special Hilary Duff Birthday Celebration) and Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), Joseph Lawrence (Run of the House), hunk du jour Travis Fimmel (Tarzan), Amanda Bynes (What I Like About You), and Jeremy London (7th Heaven). The relentless flesh pressing is almost enough to make you feel sorry for the stars. Almost.
Monday, July 14, 9:00am
Whenever I hear that I’m on the brink of stardom, I feel like I want to run into a cave,” says Kate Bosworth, a flicker of fear flashing across her soon-to-be-famous (maybe) dual-colored eyes (one hazel, one blue). ”It’s a scary place to be, the pinnacle.”
At this most promising — and treacherous — stage of her career, she won’t be running anywhere without a publicist, agent, hairstylist, and a flock of studio executives rushing after her. Every so often, Hollywood scans the teeming masses of unheralded actors who toil in this city and — seemingly at random — picks one as the Next Big Thing. This time, it’s Bosworth’s turn, and the swirl of buzz surrounding her is already approaching tsunami proportions. The 20-year-old actress has precisely one starring credit to her name — playing a babe-acious surfer chick in last year’s Blue Crush — and yet here she is, strolling onto the set of the romantic comedy Win a Date With Tad Hamilton for her second high-profile role of the year. (She just finished costarring with Val Kilmer in the sure-to-be-controversial John Holmes biopicture, Wonderland; later this year she’ll play 1950s ingenue Sandra Dee opposite Kevin Spacey in Beyond the Sea.)
In her case, at least, there does seem to be more happening here than hype. ”Kate Bosworth is a movie star in every sense of the word,” believes director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), watching his new starlet prepare for a scene in which her character, a naive West Virginia girl who wins a date with fictional movie star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel), first arrives at LAX. ”There is something incredibly paper-thin about some of these Next Big Things, but Kate has the talent to back the fame up. The notice she’s getting is not a result of some publicity machine. It’s the result of the quality of her work.”
The blond hair and freshly scrubbed good looks don’t hurt either. Still, Bosworth has valid reasons to be scared: Stunning NBTs of arguably equal talent have come and gone before her (see Gretchen Mol). ”There’s definitely a lot of stuff coming at her,” says Duhamel. ”She knows her mistakes count more right now. That causes a lot of anxiety.” How to deal with that anxiety is something Bosworth is still trying to figure out. ”It’s making me slightly more aware,” she says. ”When someone says something nice, I wonder about their real motive. It’s a horrible way to be, but if you’re a hundred percent innocent in this business, you’re going to be eaten alive.”
She’s already learned Lesson No. 1.
Crafting the Perfect ”D’Oh!”
Monday, July 14, 10:10am
Their Monday morning probably isn’t entirely dissimilar from yours: They get up, get dressed, go to work, and slurp coffee while engaging in deliciously nerdy debates about The Simpsons with their coworkers. The only difference is: These guys get paid a lot more for it. Tucked away in a cozy, bungalow-style office on the Fox studio lot in L.A., the show’s 20 writers earn their keep by poring over the blueprints for an episode airing next year in which bully Nelson moves into the Simpson household after Marge grows motherly toward him. Even with a script from a seasoned scribe, the rewriting process is significant; today’s pass is the first of two or three drafts to be completed before the cast is brought in to record their parts; more tweaking will likely follow. (And it can be as subtle — and as important — as simply changing the phrase ”giving my self-hatred a swirlie” to ”giving my self-hatred a purple nurple.”) Despite this cultivation-by-committee construct, the vibe in the room is far more casual than corporate, though not completely kooky. ”Everybody has an arrow in their head, everybody’s wearing rainbow suspenders, and everybody has a Nerf gun,” Simpsons writer Matt Warburton deadpans. ”Because it’s comedy, right?” And comedy is the sole objective, insists executive producer Al Jean. ”It’s not something where your name goes on the joke, so it’s noncompetitive,” he says. ”It’s something where you only want to get a good product.” Along the way, however, some wackiness does ensue — though outsiders don’t always get the humor. ”[People always] say, ‘What goes on in there?”’ says coexecutive producer Ian Maxtone-Graham. ”Every now and then, I try to explain step-by-step a comic digression that had us all doubled over in stitches and they look at me like I’m dehydrated. Which I am.”
Breaking the Band
Monday July 14, 11:00pm
By the looks of the Beatles-on-Ed Sullivan response Yellowcard are getting at the release party for their new album Ocean Avenue, you’d think they were superstars. But the moshing girls and boys at L.A.’s Roxy belie the long road ahead for the pop-punks, signed to Capitol in April after building a rabid yet tiny fan base with constant touring. ”We’ve been working as hard as we could for years, and that won’t change,” says frontman Ryan Key (above). ”It’s just more people turning switches and making things happen.” Across town, Capitol president Andy Slater is pushing Yellowcard and upstart rapper Chingy but says the marketing philosophy is the same for both. With music, he says, ”it’s never really about the first-week sales…. These are artists and this is their lives. Let’s try to give them a long-term career rather than see if it can happen right away.”
Casting The Everwood Sister
Monday, July 14, 5:15pm
”I’m just going to do my thing,” Melinda McGraw announces before launching into her audition on the Warner Bros. lot. ”Stop me if you want something different.” Everwood casting director Patrick Rush doesn’t stop her, which could be a good sign or a bad one. If McGraw lands the part — playing the new-to-town sister of Dr. Harold Abbott (Tom Amandes) on the WB hit drama — it could be a career-making break, giving this working but still unrecognizable actress her biggest shot at fame. But then, that’s a big if. ”She has the look and I like her voice,” says Rush after the audition. ”But the warmth is missing.” Still, in Hollywood hope springs eternal — or at least gets strung along for a while. ”I’d fight to bring her back,” he adds. ”We need three choices to take to Warner. Hopefully two will be approved to [take to the] network.”
Mya Busts Some Tour Moves
Monday, July 14, 3:35pm
Inside a North Hollywood rehearsal studio, Mya (front) and five dancers she’s about to take on tour are running through their paces. ”My love is like…wo!” Mya mimes, gyrating wildly to her new single. ”My touch is like…wo!… My ass is like…wo!” And with that, she and the two female dancers snap their well-toned bums toward the male hoofers, who feign whiplash. When they bring this choreography to the stage (in upcoming TV appearances and possibly opening for Mariah and R. Kelly on tour), Mya won’t even participate in most of it, because she doesn’t want to cheat with tapes on the singing front, a la some other dancing divas. But she’s still learning every step, and ”the stuff that I think is most effective, I’ll jump into.” Dance rehearsals have been going on so far for a week and a half, six hours a day, following every-other-morning physical therapy. Her discipline is like…wo!
Taking a Meeting
Monday, July 14, 4:12pm
On today’s agenda at Revolution Studios is casting for The Forgotten, a supernatural thriller about a grieving mother (Julianne Moore already has the part) whose dead son may be a figment of her imagination. Oscar-winning producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen (American Beauty), Revolution partner Todd Garner (above right, with Cohen), development exec Scott Bernstein, and director Joseph Ruben (The Good Son) are running through a list of names (we’ve agreed not to reveal) to play a detective who befriends Moore. Garner envisions a Jodie Foster-in-The Silence of the Lambs type. Cohen thinks one TV-drama actress radiates the right toughness — ”she’s got balls, it’s all about her balls.” The others are unconvinced. The name of a not-quite-A-list beauty is floated. ”Too model-y,” says Ruben. The group dismisses an indie regular as muted, then focuses on an action-prone star (”she’s tough and sexy,” Ruben enthuses) — but has she gotten too big for a supporting role? Garner argues that the actress will be ”in 80 percent of the movie, and [she’s given such an intriguing scene] people will be talking about it. It seems like a real actor would want to do this.” Let’s go back to that Jodie Foster idea…
Preserving The Indie Cred
Monday, July 14, 11:30pm
At a Glendale dive near where Nicolette (vocals) and Aixa (drums) Vilar, Betty Cisneros (guitar), and Michelle Rangel (bass) grew up to become L.A.’s ass-kickingest punk band and the only boy-free act on the Warped Tour, Go Betty Go still work hard at maintaining their independence despite heavy label courting. ”When the right deal comes along,” shrugs Aixa, ”we’ll be happy. So far, they haven’t been to our convenience.” As for all the hype over being all-girl, all-Latina? ”We’re just a rock band,” says Betty. ”Leave us alone.”
Rowan Atkinson Cracks the Yank Market
Monday, July 14, 5:48pm
Rowan Atkinson unwinds in his dressing room after a guest spot on The Tonight Show plugging his new movie, Johnny English. ”I was very nervous for the first few minutes,” confesses the 48-year-old British comedian. ”I’m not a naturally funny person. I’m not improvisational. And there’s this enormous obligation to be entertaining.” Atkinson did just fine — scoring laughs by removing his pants — but the pressure was clearly on: Although an enormous star worldwide (among British actors he’s second only to Hugh Grant at the global box office), he’s still a cult figure here (thanks to imports like Mr. Bean). But his spy-spoof movie could change all that, potentially becoming his American breakthrough (overseas gross so far: more than $120 million). His goal tonight, of course, is to get Leno watchers to see English. ”Achieving success in the U.S. isn’t something I hanker for on a personal level, and it’s not really necessary for commercial reasons,” Atkinson says. ”But it would be nice. It’s nice when two people like you, but it’s even nicer when three like you.”
Duran Duran’s Second Coming
Tuesday, July 15, 9:02pm
When D Squared’s original members reunited for their first U.S. show in 18 years, it was at the same tiny, sweaty club where they debuted here 25 years ago. Duran Duran lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and the Taylors (guitarist Andy, drummer Roger, and bassist John) jammed at Hollywood’s Roxy, and found some things never change. ”The dressing room still smells the same,” remarks LeBon, above with Rhodes and John Taylor. Expect a new album in fall 2004, though the 500 Roxy fans were perfectly satisfied to gyrate ’80s-style to oldies like ”Rio.”
Enduring the Test Screening
Tuesday, July 15, 8:45pm
Test screenings are about as appealing as a proctological exam (and just as mandatory). For his first full-length film, Chump Change — a comedy about a Midwesterner trying to make it as a writer in Hollywood — director Stephen Burrows has attended enough tests (a whopping 25 so far) to have developed a ritual: He always sits in the back (”to avoid the Lincoln at Ford Theater syndrome”), wears the same Hawaiian shirt (”to mask pit stains”), and drinks the same beverage (Rumplemintz schnapps — airplane-size). ”I used to go to screenings sober,” he explains, ”but there’s just no reason to.” Well, not when responses have included one New Yorker filling out her reaction card with the following: ”I didn’t know where to laugh. At least with sitcoms, they let you know when to laugh.” Another guy found it ”insulting to heterosexual gay men.” Fortunately for Burrows, tonight’s audience of 20 or so seems to be laughing in all the right places. The rest of us can look forward to viewing it in a ”high-profile” Miramax DVD early next year.
Peter Berg Mixes It Up
Tuesday, July 15, 11:23am
Director Peter Berg supervises sound mixing on The Rundown, starring The Rock and Christopher Walken, at TODD-AO, a Hollywood postproduction facility. ”This, for me, is the most exciting part of filmmaking,” says Berg, better known as an actor (The Last Seduction, the TV series Chicago Hope). ”This is where it suddenly all comes together — where you get your first adrenaline shot and say, ‘Holy s — -! This is a movie.”’ Technically, Berg is overseeing a ”temp dub” for the film’s third test screening, taking place tonight. To the current sonic assemblage of score, dialogue, sound effects, and background hubbub, Berg and his technicians are about to add a new piece of music that just arrived from composer Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek), a muscular orchestral riff with a classic-rock vibe. (A nice substitute, Berg notes, for Led Zeppelin’s ”Whole Lotta Love,” which he says proved too pricey to license.) The Very Bad Things director expects to be fine-tuning right up to the movie’s Sept. 26 release: ”They’ll be pulling me out of this room, screaming ‘Just one more! Just one more edit!”’
The Power Lunch
Tuesday, July 15, 1:15pm
When it comes to lunch, Hollywood’s elite divvy up the Beverly Hills watering holes: Agents tend to schmooze at Barney Greengrass; producers prefer grazing at The Grill on the Alley. Today’s Grill menu includes producer Steve Tisch, seated at a booth in the back, not far from producer Arnold Kopelson and his wife. Producer Larry Gordon is squeezed into a booth closer to the entrance, and producer Brian Grazer has settled into a seat on the right side of the restaurant, behind producer David Friendly. ”The booths on the right are okay if you want to stop people on their way in or out,” explains one helpful entertainment lawyer, deconstructing the seating geography with the precise eye of a Cold War Kremlinologist studying May Day photography. ”But the real power booths are in the back. Look how Steve Tisch just sits there while everyone else leans over the table to talk to him. I used to sit in the back,” he notes sadly, surveying the room from the relative Siberia of the bar. ”At least we’re not sitting in the center with the has-beens and tourists.”
Carre Otis Assumes The Position
Tuesday, July 15, 12:30pm
In case the large Buddha head overlooking her yoga room isn’t enough inspiration, model-turned-actress (turned-Mickey Rourke’s ex) Carre Otis has brought along a trio of pups rescued from an animal shelter (talk about a downward dog). ”In Los Angeles, yoga isn’t a luxury or a once-a-week thing,” says her instructor Vinnie Marino, whose Santa Monica classes draw such flexible talent as David Duchovny, Marg Helgenberger, Heather Graham, and Helen Hunt. ”It is an absolute staple in people’s lives. It’s easy to get caught up with superficial things here. Yoga is a good way for people in this town to get past their personalities and egos to become centered and calm inside.” And perhaps more critically: ”It keeps you [looking] hot.”
Dido’s ‘White Flag,’ Take 25
Wednesday, July 16, 7:35pm
For about two hours and two dozen takes, Dido has been ambling down the same ersatz New York City street; every time, the focus, lighting, or extras thwart her ambition to make it to the end of the block, which is actually on the Universal backlot. But you won’t find her carping about the hurry-up-and-wait shoot for her upcoming music video, ”White Flag.” ”The last time I came here was when I was 20, for the studio tour, so it’s actually quite nice,” says the Brit, 31, whose ”Thank You” made her famous. Not only is she no longer heading through these parts on a tram, now she gets her choice of leading man. Dido wanted a costar who was ”cool and dark” since, although the video initially pictures her obsessively following a guy, a twist reveals he’s the ”really crazy” one in their sidewalk cat-and-mouse game. Cool, dark, and stalker-ific? No wonder she picked TV vampire and Angel star David Boreanaz.
Chingy Learns To Share With Others
Wednesday, July 16, 3:30pm
Here’s an interesting tidbit for your next cocktail party: Musical guests on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno cannot be accompanied solely by DJs. This is causing problems for Chingy, the St. Louis rapper whose drawl-drenched single, ”Right Thurr,” is ruling rap radio, and who is scheduled to play the show on Thursday. His label has hired L.A. band the Polyester Players (who’ve previously backed up Mary J. Blige on Leno) and arranged this rehearsal. Although the rapper has never performed with a live band before and is visibly startled by the three-piece horn section, things go smoothly, both in rehearsal and, later, on TV. ”It sounded great,” he says. ”I’m thinking about doing that again when we go out on tour.” As for the phonetic song titles (other songs on his debut album, Jackpot, include ”Wurrs My Cash” and ”He’s Herre”), Chingy — whose name comes from local slang for money — says people are just gonna have to get used to it. ”If you come to St. Louis, you’ll see that urrbody talks like that.”
Tom Green’s Sidekick Plays Dead
Wednesday, July 16, 11:57pm
They’ve bronzed his underwear. Made him sleep on the floor of a 24-hour disco gym. Even had him cuddle with a lion. And here, in yet another outlandish gag designed to persecute Glenn Humplik — the unassuming cohost of MTV’s The New Tom Green Show — he’s being forced to ride around L.A. in a hearse. Inside a coffin. In the middle of the night. With a psychic who’s informed him there are four spirits in the car. ”We kind of drove around and she ended up talking all night about weird stuff,” he groggily recalls. ”Oh, we did stop at 7-Eleven to get some ice cream.” He adds: ”It was actually kind of fun. I guess the writers will have to get a little more creative next time to f
Katie Holmes Keeps Her Clothes On
Wednesday, July 16, 4:10pm
Katie Holmes is all dressed up and ready to go — preferably somewhere sitting down, tired feet kicked up — on the set of First Daughter at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. This, after two hours and 10 takes of walking through a long, opulent ballroom to greet the President of the United States — a.k.a. Dad (Michael Keaton) — and introduce him to her college beau (Marc Blucas). The twist: Unbeknownst to her, said beau is a Secret Service agent assigned to protect her. The straps on the Vera Wang dress — one of four created for Holmes by the designer — had to be fastened to her shoulders with Scotch tape. ”Very elegant, huh?” says Holmes. But her fears of accidentally disrobing paled compared with her anxiety over tripping on the hem. ”It’s a challenge to be graceful in this beautiful thing,” she says. ”I’m naturally kind of klutzy.” Guiding her to a stumble-free performance was director Forest Whitaker (Waiting to Exhale), who between takes studied footage of Ronald and Nancy Reagan dancing at a presidential gala in order to get the look of the scene just right.
Rachel Trachtenburg’s Preshow Ritual
Wednesday, July 16, 10:00pm
As any musician will tell you, life on the road ain’t easy. Outside the dressing room, the Hollywood club Derby is packed to its hip gills. Inside, the unlikely trio they’re clamoring to see, the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, gets ready to go on stage. The campy cabaret act consists of dorky, thirtysomething dad Jason, who plays songs on his toy-size keyboard; affable mom Tina, who projects slides to accompany them; and incomparably adorable 9-year-old daughter Rachel, who plays drums and provides backup vocals. ”I never really get nervous before shows,” says Rachel, who intermittently plays with Strawberry Shortcake dolls and irons her stage outfit. ”But I’m not exactly sure what ‘nervous’ means.”
A Show Goes On
Wednesday, July 16, 10:56am
The costume designer doesn’t like the green tablecloths — she thinks they’ll clash with the star’s wardrobe. The director of photography points out that the wooden floors, although authentically rough-hewn, will make the dolly shots wobbly. The writers are having issues with a plotline in the ninth episode. And, just three weeks from the start of production, the show doesn’t even have a title — at least not one officially sanctioned by the network.
In other words, everything is running pretty much according to schedule here on Paramount’s Stage 19, where a new sitcom is being painstakingly hatched. For the moment, at any rate, it’s called It’s All Relative (until a few weeks ago the working title was Don’t Ask; The Out-Laws, Modern Love, and Family Outing have also been contenders). But by any other name, this series is bound to push some buttons. It’s about a pair of about-to-be newlyweds (played by Maggie Lawson and Reid Scott) from backgrounds light-years apart. His parents (Lenny Clarke and Harriet Sansom Harris) are working-class, Irish-Catholic Republicans; hers (John Benjamin Hickey and Christopher Sieber) are affluent, educated, and gay. Both are equally outraged by the match.
A decade ago, a sitcom about gay characters would have been unheard-of, but in the post-Will & Grace era it’s practically a network necessity. Indeed, the premise for Relative sprang directly from the mind of ABC chairman Lloyd Braun, who, two years ago, approached Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, producers of last year’s Oscar-winning musical Chicago, with the notion of doing a show about gay parenting. ”The question,” says Meron, ”[was] what’s next on network television after Will & Grace?” His answer: ”Gay parents and a committed gay relationship.”
Right now, though, on the set — a working-class Boston barroom on one side of the stage; a trendy high-end art dealer’s apartment on the other — the show’s controversial theme is the least of anyone’s concerns. With all three facets of the launch — production, promotion, and story development — now in full swing, it’s a critical week for the fledgling show. Every detail of the original pilot must be picked over.
Current challenge: choosing the doors to separate the living room from the dining room in the art dealer’s apartment. ”Sliding doors are better for architecture, but swinging doors are better for comedy,” says executive producer Anne Flett-Giordano.
Later, the producers and crew will mull over such issues as a barmaid’s wardrobe (”Cleavage was a story point in the pilot,” Zadan notes, ”so we don’t want to do that to her every week”); what the show’s opening credits will look like (family snapshots in front of various Boston landmarks — unless those various Boston landmarks decline to grant them clearance); and what the show’s musical cues should be (”This one sounds like when Magnum P.I. goes to investigate a rock club,” quips supervising producer Mike Markowitz).
Seal Sweats The Comeback Video
Wednesday, July 16, 1:30pm
”I’m shvitzing,” says Seal. ”Shvitzing!” The unlikely Yiddishism barely registers given the astonishing rivers of sweat emanating from the body of this Grammy-winning, British-by-way-of-Nigeria pop star. Seal and a gaggle of scantily clad extras have been on this L.A. soundstage since 8 a.m. shooting nightclub scenes for the ”Get It Together” video, a single from his first album in five years. ”To tell you the truth, I don’t really know what’s going on in this video,” says Seal, whose fourth album, Seal IV, comes out Sept. 9. ”I think everybody’s just supposed to be having a good time.” While the cameras are on, maybe. As soon as ”cut” is called, the bump-and-grinders instantly wilt. ”The only way to keep your energy up is to carefully choose who works with you,” he says. ”Everyone is here — well, in part because they’re getting paid, but also because they like my music. There’s enough energy here to last me a year.” Or at least until the scheduled 10 p.m. wrap. ”Who knows how late this will actually go?” he sighs. ”Once I had a video shoot finish ahead of schedule. I gave thanks at church the next day.”
Agent of Change
Wednesday, July 16, 4:30pm
Sue Naegle begins her day hanging with Jeffrey Katzenberg. She ends it with an episode of The Real World: Paris. And in between, the 34-year-old partner at United Talent Agency tries to find a small-screen gig for Macaulay Culkin, plays cheerleader to the creator of Six Feet Under, and trades gossip with the head of The WB.
Once you strip away the expensive suits, cell phones, and jewelry, most talent agents resemble used-car salesmen. Naegle is anything but: Modest and unassuming (”I wouldn’t want to live better than my clients. My business is promoting them, not promoting me”), the superagent — and soon-to-be supermom — quietly helps oversee one of the most impressive TV rosters in Hollywood (Friends’ Matt LeBlanc, Everybody Loves Raymond’s Patricia Heaton, Bernie Mac, and Sopranos creator David Chase). EW caught up with Naegle on her last day in the office before a six-week leave during which she and her husband are adopting a baby girl, Katharine Liu, from China.
9 a.m. Naegle and fellow UTA TV department cohead Jay Sures urge Katzenberg and his DreamWorks team to create urban, sophisticated comedies for NBC (read: Friends or Frasier replacements). They suggest several writers who could pull it off.
10 a.m. Naegle and 17 other TV agents — mostly men in their early 30s — assemble in the agency’s fifth-floor conference room to talk shop. Naegle reminds her colleagues that she’ll be in China for two weeks, but urges them to e-mail: ”I’ve got an international BlackBerry!” The conversation then turns to Culkin, who made a well-received appearance on Will & Grace in May and has expressed interest in TV gigs. (Of course in Hollywood-speak, the idea doesn’t come out quite as succinctly: ”He’s not saying he definitely wants to do a TV show,” Naegle explains. ”He’s just saying, ‘I’ll take some meetings, meet some writers.”’) The conversation then gets sucked into a time warp (think 1997). Full House’s Bob Saget wants to sully his squeaky-clean image by doing an HBO-type show based on his stand-up act. Saturday Night Live alum Cheri Oteri is pitching a new sitcom about a naive cop who relocates to a big-city police department. Naegle will later meet with writer Rob Cohen to discuss Oteri’s treatment.
12 p.m. Naegle plays expectant mom (”I’m so excited!” she tells HBO programming exec Carolyn Strauss about her trip to China)…
12:05 p.m. …and career adviser to an executive who is up for jobs at ABC and Fox (”You may just have to let the offer go,” Naegle says firmly)…
12:15 p.m. …and counselor to Six Feet Under exec producer Alan Ball, who’s pondering tomorrow’s Emmy nominations (”I think it’s going to do well. It’s all about making great work,” she says).
1:10 p.m. Naegle hops into her black BMW and drives two miles to The Ivy, a Beverly Hills hot spot, to lunch with WB president Jordan Levin. The two eschew TV shop talk for gossip. ”What exactly happened with the spin-off to Gilmore Girls?” Naegle asks. (Levin says the show would have been too expensive.) Naegle lobs back a blind item: What ABC family man has been loitering around the set of sitcom Less Than Perfect because of his crush on star Sara Rue?
Image Is Everything
Wednesday, July 16, 2:00pm
Looks are important to celeb rockers Phantom Planet, whose lineup includes actor/drummer Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) and model/actor/frontman Alex Greenwald (Donnie Darko). So, today Greenwald (left) and bassist Sam Farrar (right) have come to Sony Music’s Santa Monica offices to inspect the artwork for their upcoming, as-yet-untitled album. The packaging will have a high school yearbook theme, including pictures of their friends’ bands posing for group portraits. ”We tried to put these girls that are in a band, the Like, in running shorts, but it wasn’t fashionable enough,” says Greenwald. ”Maybe field hockey.” The yearbook conceit sounds kinda like a certain Wes Anderson movie. ”Yeah, Rushmore might’ve been a reference,” admits Greenwald. ”That and the French new wave.”
Cheryl Hines Gets Emmy Love
Thursday, July 17, 04:30 PM
Cheryl Hines — who plays Larry David’s long-suffering wife on his HBO comedy — curbs no enthusiasm while describing a pretty good day: My husband, Paul, and I both pretended to sleep soundly last night. In fact, all week we hadn’t mentioned the upcoming announcements of the Emmy nominations. But at 4:45 a.m. the cool facade dropped for both of us when he turned to me wide awake and said, ”Let’s watch E!”
First I found out both Curb Your Enthusiasm and Larry were nominated, and I was excited. Then…no more announcements. Five minutes later my publicist called to congratulate me for my best-supporting nom.
”Are you sure? I haven’t heard anything about it.”
”Cheryl, I’m sure.”
”It doesn’t seem real. I need to see it.”
I didn’t really believe it until they posted it on E! a few minutes later. Everyone from Curb — including Jeff Garlin, my costar, and Bob Weide, the show’s director — then called me, and Larry grabbed the phone.
”Congratulations!” I shouted.
”Yeah, yeah. I’m really happy for you because I know you like this sort of thing. Congratulations to you,” he said.
”Oh, you don’t like it?”
”Well, it’s pretty much a huge inconvenience, don’t you think?”
”You have to admit it’s exciting.”
”Okay, it’s an exciting inconvenience.”
Then Jeff, Larry, and Bob began to argue about how many nominations the show got altogether, which turned into crazy chatter that I couldn’t make out.
All day long, we drank champagne and ate pizza and listened to the phone ring.
Earning The Big Bucks
Thursday, July 17, 10:50 AM
Meet the press or pressed meat? It’s hard to tell the difference inside the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, where Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman is mobbed by the media after giving a keynote address about the upcoming season. ”This sets the critical tone for our programs,” she says. ”We want to be talked about. We want the public to understand we’re trying to [be] innovative.” That’s not easy when you’re surrounded by dozens of unrelenting reporters. ”You want to pay attention, but there’s a lot coming at you,” notes Berman, who was grilled on everything from the racial sensitivity of Fox’s new Japanese game-show spoof Banzai (there was a modest group of protesters outside) to the secret twist of Joe Millionaire 2 (sorry, folks). ”I’ve never had anything like it in my life before this job.”
Hilary Duff Tries to Grow Up
Thursday, July 17, 02:31 PM
The hardest part about being a teen pop icon is making the transition to adult pop icon. With A Cinderella Story, Hilary Duff, the 15-year-old former star of Lizzie McGuire, grows up just a little in this comic updating of the fairy tale: She’s in high school, all angsty and stuff. But the task of maturing Duff’s Lizzie image is no laughing matter: Soon after Duff shoots this scene with actor Dan Byrd, her acting coach, Troy Rowland, worries that she sounds too McGuire-ish. ”Did you tell her to take it down an octave?” he asks producer Dylan Sellers. ”Is she Lizzie?” Sellers assures him, ”She wasn’t Lizzie.” Days earlier, Coach Rowland prepped her for a crying scene with Erin Brockovich clips. ”This is the moment that won Julia Roberts the Oscar…. You can be that — or you can be just ‘okay.”’ Duff, who says that Lizzie was ”so close to me in real life,” admits her Cinderella role has been a bit of a stretch: ”I’m hyper; she’s more calm, reserved. It’s definitely a challenge.”
Constructing ‘Big Brother 4’
Thursday, July 17, 09:37 AM
”This show is a house of cards,” says Big Brother 4 exec producer Jon Kroll. ”If you remove one scene, suddenly two others don’t make sense.” Kroll and his Friday-show team are gawking at 42 monitors, making sure key moments in the ”Clash of the Casseroles” food competition don’t pass them by. ”We always pray something will upset the balance of power.” The contest didn’t yield much drama, but it did give the control room some gross-out moments. ”I tasted a squid-and-brussel-sprout pie that was pretty vile,” he says. The first half of tomorrow’s show must be shown to CBS execs by 8 p.m. (the second half, by 6 a.m.). In other words, Kroll’s wife won’t be seeing him for dinner. ”[We’ve learned] to get by on one or two hours of sleep,” he says. ”I’m lucky. I get a bed in my office.”
Shilling the Hard Sell
Thursday, July 17, 10:14 PM
An indie movie about illegal immigrants in London would be a tough American sell in any season, let alone one filled with enraged superheroes and killer robot babes. Which is why director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) is attempting to ratchet up the hype with an all-out American media blitz for his Dirty Pretty Things, culminating with a screening and Q&A session at the ArcLight theater. The film boasts Amelie’s Audrey Tautou (in her first English-speaking role) as one of the aforementioned immigrants who stumble upon a black-market organ ring. The subject matter, announces one earnest audience member, made him think. ”Did you have these feelings when you saw Hulk?” Frears (above left) quips amiably. ”If you feel they liked the film, you’re all right,” he adds after the screening. ”If they don’t, it’s horrible. [But] this seemed to go really well.”
Sharon Osbourne Keeps Her Mouth Shut
Thursday, July 17, 05:35 PM
Nestled on a couch in her dressing room at the KTLA TV studio lot, Sharon Osbourne sizes up the three-hour taping of a test episode for her eponymous fall talk show, which featured visits from teen rapper Bow Wow, alt-country rocker Rhett Miller, and teen nudist-camp counselors: ”Did you see it? Did you see my dog Lola attacking the crew and Rhett? Oh, my God. Where else can you be attacked by a dog as you’re trying to perform in front of an audience?! And I feel badly about the teen nudists. If I’d done more homework and thought about it last night, I never would’ve done that segment, because I couldn’t sit there and pretend that it was fun. All I really wanted to do was say, ‘F — – off. You’re all just a bunch of f
Jaime Pressly’s Perfect Arch
Thursday, July 17, 03:00 PM
In Hollywood, even the eyebrow stylists have publicists, and the top of the heap — Damone Roberts (who tweezes Vanessa Williams and Lauren Graham) — always has a waiting list. Indeed, the A-list arch has become de rigueur. Model-turned-actress Pressly wouldn’t be caught dead on the red carpet without a Roberts pruning; she visits his Beverly Hills salon weekly: ”Eyebrows are No. 1 on my beauty regimen.”
How To Survive An ‘American Wedding’ Junket
Friday, July 18, 01:30 PM
The best part about spending three days locked in a room in The Four Seasons Hotel talking up your new movie to scores of reporters? ”Cocaine and whores,” jokes American Wedding star Jason Biggs, taking a break from the spirit-sucking siege that is the Hollywood press junket. ”Okay, maybe just the cocaine. Okay, maybe not even that.” Yeah, the press junket can be a brain-numbing affair — especially if you have to promote a stinker. ”If the press doesn’t like the movie, you’re going to find out right away,” says Seann William Scott. Luckily, no one plugging Universal’s second sequel to American Pie detected bad vibes. Still, says Eugene Levy, ”It’s tedious. You have to answer the same question 800 times and make it sound like the first time.” How to deal? Biggs prefers multivitamins, heavy on the B-12. ”Caffeine is a little friend of mine,” says Alyson Hannigan, who particularly appreciated the complimentary Red Bull. Adds Eddie Kaye Thomas, ”Well, I’m an actor, so I guess I have to try and act.” Additional compensation: a new Gameboy in each actor’s suite — ”Two bathrooms!” enthuses Hannigan. Adds Biggs, ”I steal all the Bulgari soaps.”
Make an Entrance (Or Two)
Friday, July 18, 01:30 PM
Professional debutante Paris Hilton and actress Nicole Richie (left, with Hilton) are late for a noon photo op in the lobby of the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, where they are making a press-tour appearance in support of The Simple Life, their upcoming Green Acres-inspired reality show for Fox. 12:25 p.m. Very late. 12:32 p.m. Wait, here comes Paris (and her little dog, too!). 12:32 p.m. Oh no, there goes Paris. 1:11 p.m. No sign of Nicole, either. 1:17 p.m. Nicole is here! 1:18 p.m. Nicole is whisked away to makeup. 1:24 p.m. Boy, the lobby carpeting sure is ugly. 1:30 p.m. Paris and Nicole take 1 minute and 30 seconds to pose for this photo.
Jimmy Kimmel Books a Top Dog
Friday, July 18, 05:15 PM
Booking championship dogs who run obstacle courses is one thing. Finding eclectic guests and kooky sidekicks is what has the booking staff of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live jumping through hoops each week. ”Typically Leno gets the A-listers, then they go to New York for Letterman and Regis and we have to fight for the scraps,” admits exec producer Daniel Kellison. At today’s daily talent meeting, two men and four women from Kimmel’s booking staff celebrate their coup of getting new L.A. Laker Karl Malone to appear, while lamenting their failure to attract John McEnroe as a future cohost. Fortunately, human-interest guests always help to fill the bill, like some masochist who’ll perform sit-ups during the entire show. Still, Kimmel’s bookers continue to shoot for real top dogs, like Dom DeLuise and Ted McGinley. ”Who’s Ted McGinley?” asks one of the bookers. If you need to ask, you just don’t understand.
Eliza Dushku Puts On a Good Face
Friday, July 18, 09:30 AM
Eliza Dushku (former Buffy vampire slayer) gets the brush-off from her trusted makeup artist, Matthew Van Leeuwen, before shilling her new Fox drama, Tru Calling, to a gauntlet of tired television critics at the biannual TCA press tour. ”I was up really early,” says Dushku. ”We had a dinner with my attorney and manager at Mr Chow last night, and my new golden retriever, [appropriately named] Max Factor, was asking to be let out of the house at six this morning. So Matthew came over and drank tea with me. Matthew worked with J. Lo for years. I love him. He looks at me like I’m his canvas and he’s Picasso.”
Living for the Moment
As the preceding pages show, being a working actor or screenwriter can be tough. But it’s nothing compared to being an aspiring actor or screenwriter.
The rest of this issue is a lie.
Okay, not a lie exactly. But it’s a very tiny fraction of a larger truth. The rest of this issue is about the Moment — the instant when a handful of people create something magical and (they hope) permanent. But saying that living in Hollywood is about the Moment is like saying that playing the lottery is about winning a million dollars. Sure, for a very few people, a very small percent of the time, life in Hollywood is about the Moment. But the vast majority of its population spends its time waiting and hoping and working toward the Moment — and for almost all of them, it never arrives.
Consider the statistics: 45,000. That is the number of screenplays, ideas, story treatments, and characters registered with the Writers Guild of America last year. 467. That is the number of movies that were released last year. Those are what are known as long odds. Similarly, the Screen Actors Guild has 58,000 members in Southern California, and in any given year 70 to 75 percent of them don’t even make the $9,000 minimum from SAG roles to qualify for its benefits.
What these dry numbers translate into, in real life, is that Los Angeles is a city full of people whose lives are dramatically failing to match their expectations. ”There’s always an anxiety in the air” in L.A., says Ellen Barrett, a trainer whose Buff Girl Workout at the Crunch gym on Sunset Boulevard is popular among young actresses. ”It’s not tension, exactly, because everyone’s hanging out at the Coffee Bean and they’re sleeping in, [but] there’s anxiety here…. You know that they’re never going to be satisfied. I mean, something happened to them. They feel a void, and they feel that fame or being an actress or getting attention is going to temporarily fill it.”
”Too oily.” ”Too old.” ”Too nerdy.” ”Too big.” Paul Weber and his associate Ivy Isenberg, of Weber & Associates Casting, are sitting in a nondescript office in a Century City high-rise, auditioning actors for parts on an upcoming episode of She Spies. Each actor comes into the room, reads a few short scenes from the show, then leaves; in the five or so seconds it takes for the next actor to arrive, Weber and Isenberg whisper their assessments to each other, which almost invariably begin with the word too. Harsh as their comments sound, they’re not judgments on the people, just decisions on whether they fit the roles. Indeed, some applicants are rejected for reasons that sound almost flattering — ”too pretty,” ”too blond,” ”too sexy” — but it’s rejection all the same, and in an hour and a half during which 15 people come through the room, only one is held out as a possibility for being shown to the producers.
Here is how to tell the difference between someone who’s new to L.A. and someone who’s been here for a while: Ask them how they cope with that sort of rejection. New arrivals will generally offer a few brief, upbeat sentences. But those who’ve been at it longer will offer paragraphs, essays, whole books’ worth of answers — a philosophy of life and how to view rejection as part of a larger scheme, as well as an appraisal of why they’re unique and different and how their current straits can be viewed as a building block for future success. This burst of confidence can be slightly startling — off-putting, even — until you realize that this is what they have to tell themselves all day, every day, in order to keep going. You have essentially asked them to speak their inner monologue aloud.
Set designers can do only so much. They can put up a row of lockers to make a high school or install steel bars and cots to create a prison, but without students or prisoners, it won’t look quite right. That’s where Prime Casting comes in — it supplies extras who match certain ”types” to make a scene come alive. EW asked six extras to step out of the background and tell what it’s like to be a type.