We take a look at ''The First Wives Club,'' ''Surviving Picasso,'' and more

By EW Staff
August 23, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

The First Wives Club
Starring Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Elizabeth Berkley, Sarah Jessica Parker, Heather Locklear, Marcia Gay Harden
Directed by Hugh Wilson

Three ladies of a certain age who are still reeling from mistreatment by the husbands who have traded them in for lush young things may not seem funny, yet Hawn, Midler, and Keaton turn this tale of women scorned into a biting revenge comedy (complete with cameo by patron saint Ivana Trump). Old college pals reunited by a cheated-on friend’s suicide, the three determine to torture their unfaithful exes (Victor Garber, Dan Hedaya, and Stephen Collins). Their best-laid plans run more smoothly than the movie’s production did. Director Wilson stepped in when P.J. Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding) stepped out, Paul Rudnick was called in for an uncredited polish of the script by Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias), and slow shooting bumped the movie from summer to fall. ”They underschedule you and overwork you, but there was no bulls—,” says Hawn, who plays an alcoholic actress unhappy about heading north of her 40s. ”I think we’ve gotten to an age where that disappears.”

Alas, the women haven’t reached the age (they’re all 50) at which stunt work is no longer required; adapting Olivia Goldsmith’s novel required the stars to dangle from scaffolding. But ”we were there to have a good time,” insists Hawn, who, away from her home in L.A. during the three-month Manhattan shoot, made a new best friend in Keaton. ”Diane and I would get made up together, whereas Bette would be made up in her trailer. So much bonding goes on in that trailer.”

Included in the club was Elizabeth Berkley, still smarting from Showgirls, who had no complaints about her part as the less-than-brilliant ingenue actress muscling in on Hawn’s husband. ”She wants to be a star,” Berkley says of her character. ”I don’t mind being part of the joke.” Not that Berkley took her part lightly. The actress, who was asked to do a deliberately bad reading from Romeo and Juliet in her audition, spent much of her downtime picking up tips from her mentors. ”She gets a gold star,” says Hawn. ”That bubbleheaded stuff is hard to do. Guess how I know?” (Sept. 20)

Buzz A woman’s woman’s movie, and a career-reviving chance for Hawn, Midler, and Keaton to strut their stuff.

Surviving Picasso
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Natascha McElhone, Julianne Moore, Joss Ackland, Joan Plowright

Directed by James Ivory

He loved to paint himself in the guise of a bull. But to the women in his life, Pablo Picasso behaved more like a swine. A pathologically manipulative lover, he demanded subservience from his wives (two), mistresses (five), and passing consorts (countless). Such a swath of misbehavior hardly renders a portrait of the artist an easy sell in these prickly, post-Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill times. But then again, Hopkins made even Hannibal the Cannibal kinda charming. That may be why producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, the team behind Howards End and The Remains of the Day, asked him to take on the title role. ”People keep asking ‘Why play another monster, a man who treats women so badly?”’ says Hopkins. ”I don’t see it that way. Picasso was a life force, a primitive. His appetites were huge — sexually, artistically, and in every way. If he comes over as an absolute s —, I’m not surprised. But I saw him as a romantic.” Besides, reasons the actor, ”the door was there. [These women] could have walked.”