THE MAKING OF ALICIA SILVERSTONE
HOLLYWOOD'S RULES OF THE GAME HAVE CHANGED. SO WHO'S TO SAY VIDEO'S LOLITA CAN'T TANGO WITH BERTOLUCCI?
Because you are a young man, you recognize her face in an instant. The elevator doors fly open, and there she stands. You know those eyes, brimming wide as teacups. You know those lips, glistening and upturned like a wedge of tangerine. Alicia Silverstone greets you with knock-kneed exasperation, assuming for a split second that she has wound up on the wrong floor. ”Oh, my God!” she says in a whispered flurry. ”I’m sorry.” u Were you a decade older, you might not know her name, and the thought might pass through your brain without much consequence: ”Pretty girl. Probably an actress.” You might take the Memory Lane exit back to high school-Alicia Silverstone, after all, is only 18 years old- and recall that cheerleader in your Spanish class, the one you never had the guts to talk to. But you would be wrong. Here at the posh Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, you are sharing an elevator with power. ”Huge,” casting director Marci Liroff says of Alicia Silverstone. ”She’s a huge movie star.” Of course, so far Miss Huge has conquered only a corner of the world-the part known in demographic parlance as guys. Among those males who frequent fraternity houses and video arcades, the name Silverstone carries more weight than Streep, thanks less to two little-seen movies (1993’s The Crush and the recent silly slasher film Hideaway) than to Silverstone’s kitten-eyed coup de theatre in what might be the most popular trilogy of videos in the short history of MTV: Aerosmith’s ”Cryin’,” ”Amazing,” and ”Crazy.” In another era, perhaps, popping up in a hard-rock video-even a finely made hard-rock video- might seem like a surefire way to relegate your career to the bimbo file. But in the age of the Buzz Bin, when a three-minute clip can hoist a rock band from obscurity to stardom in a matter of hours, why shouldn’t the same principle apply to actors? The rules have changed: In past years, the making of the girl of the year required at least a few hours to let the dough rise; now you just punch a button on the microwave, wait 30 seconds, and serve. The rest of the world got the news about Alicia Silverstone only last June. That’s when the actress, as The Crush’s scheming, roller-skating nymphet, took home two MTV Movie awards for Best Breakthrough Performance and Best Villain, leaving thespians like Ralph Fiennes and John Malkovich in her flaxen-haired wake. Suddenly, Silverstone was more than a video soubrette. ”I truly loved doing the videos,” she says with a practiced air, ”but it has been hard hearing all the time that you’re just the Aerosmith chick.” Fear not. If all goes as planned, the coming months will witness Silverstone’s transformation from gym- locker pinup to household name. En route to theaters are Silverstone’s True Crime, a thriller in which a Catholic schoolgirl turns gumshoe; Le Nouveau Monde, a Gallic coming-of-age story directed by Alain Corneau; and, most notably, Clueless, a teen comedy due this July that’s described by its creators as a Rodeo Drive version of Jane Austen’s Emma. The thing is, Alicia Silverstone is still a teenager, and from time to time, she acts like one. Even in the hotel lobby, she carries her belongings- everything from a bottle of fruit juice to a leather-bound datebook-in a beige plastic bag, the kind you get at the grocery store. Over a late lunch, she encounters a stray piece of ligament between the slices of her chicken sandwich. She scrunches up her face. She reaches a thumb and a forefinger into her mouth, retrieves the meat from the cavern around her molars, and flicks it on a bread plate. ”They’re like morsels or something,” she says. Morsels of what? ”Probably like chicken muscle or something.” Thus it’s breathtaking, moments later, when you ask her what directors she would like to work with and she mentions the imposing Italian responsible for the psychosexual manifestos Last Tango in Paris and The Conformist. ”Well, I just met Bernardo”-she stumbles a bit with the surname. ”How do you say his name?” Bernardo Bertolucci? ”Yeah, him,” she says. ”Bernardo Bertolucci.” You just met him? ”Upstairs,” she says with a coy laugh. ”That would be very nice to work with him. He’s obviously very brilliant.”