By Jeff Gordinier
July 30, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT


First, let’s get something straight. We love you. Honestly. We think you’ve got deep, untapped quarries of talent and charm. If we tend to nag — if we get crabby and snide — well, it’s for the same reason that your mother and your agent nag: We only want the best for you. When we see your career wheeling off in perilous directions, we can’t help but wave a red flag.

So consider this a dose of tough love. Last time we checked, you were still a movie star. You have the power to track down good scripts and get them greenlighted. Use it. Fail to use it and you’re in danger of becoming a punchline in the next South Park movie — if that, um, hasn’t happened already.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY Rent 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Watch it. Notice anything? Yip, you’re funny as hell. Cool, even — something that’s increasingly hard to fathom as you’ve sought out Serious Face roles in hot-air epics like Contact and Amistad. EDtv flopped, true, but getting back to that loose-limbed, brew-chuggin’ brand of humor is probably a wise move.

NICOLAS CAGE We ”got” Face/Off and The Rock — bank some cash, flex your box office pecs. What we cannot grasp is why one of Hollywood’s most risk-taking actors would follow up an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas with a nonstop torrent of action: Con Air, Snake Eyes, Eight Millimeter. Thank God you play a paramedic in Scorsese’s upcoming Bringing Out the Dead, because your cred needs a respirator. (P.S. Forget Superman. Just play a real man.)

WINONA RYDER You are the face of your generation. Problem is, your generation has grown up and exercised its Silicon Valley stock options, whereas you’re still associated (fairly or unfairly, due to your pixie frame) with every slacker’s dormitory crush. (Even in serious fare like The Crucible and Girl, Interrupted, you play lasses younger than your years.) Leave school to the American Pie posse and graduate to grown-up projects like Fight Club, which got snapped up by your colleague-in-corsets, Helena Bonham Carter.

ALEC BALDWIN and BRUCE WILLIS We don’t recall a single frame from Mercury Rising, but we remember whole slabs of blistering dialogue from your small, character-driven films: Alec’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Bruce’s Pulp Fiction. Hmmm. What does that tell us?

SHARON STONE To paraphrase a recent Saturday Night Live routine, ”What the hell happened?” In most movies, you’re too big for the room. You need directors and costars of equal magnitude — talents who can match your slinky, spitfire mojo, à la Basic Instinct and Casino. The next time some bumbling hack comes knocking at your door, please whip out the ice pick.