On the line may be Lance Bass’ debut as a leading man, but the ‘N Sync singer appears to be making the transition from pop idol to thespian without much trouble. It’s a chilly April day in downtown Chicago, and Bass’ character Kevin, a shy adman desperate to track down a dream girl he encounters on the L train, has just spotted his soul mate at the Wabash and Adams stop. He bounds up the platform stairs to catch her. After two takes, Bass jogs over to Beth Flanagan, his personal assistant and childhood friend.
”Did you see the emotion in my steps?” he asks, nudging his pal’s arm.
”I did on the first take,” she says, playing along. ”It was kind of overwhelming.”
Okay, maybe Flanagan’s a bit biased — after all, she’s known Bass since she was 13. Still, America, prepare yourself: The 22-year-old singer might just be saying bye, bye, bye to being a teen dream and hello to becoming a Hollywood hyphenate. The $10 million romantic comedy, due Oct. 26, is not just Bass’ first major film role (the IMAX hit ‘N Sync: Bigger Than Live notwithstanding), it’s also the first project from his 10-month-old production company, A Happy Place. ”’N Sync can’t last forever,” says Bass of his move toward producing. ”Hopefully, we’ve got another good 10 years ahead of us…. I just think with acting, there’s not a time limit on it. That’s why I want to get into this — I love to entertain, and this lives forever.”
The ‘N Sync guys have always roamed outside the boundaries of boy-banddom: JC Chasez wrote and produced for the girl group Wild Orchid; Chris Kirkpatrick has his skater-style clothing line, FuMan Skeeto; and Justin Timberlake dabbles in songwriting and acting (remember last year’s ABC movie Model Behavior?).
Bass and Joey Fatone — who has a supporting role in On the Line as Kevin’s rocker buddy, Rod — are the movie geeks. In addition to writing treatments for ‘N Sync videos, the duo once penned a script for Grease 3, though copyright issues kept that project from happening. ”God did not give me the talent to write [songs],” says Bass. ”But I love creating movies.”
In January 2001, Bass funneled that cinematic passion into A Happy Place, a company created with Wendy Thorlakson (a former exec at Tom Hanks’ Playtone) to bring musicians and athletes to the big screen. Initially, the company considered making an ‘N Sync movie, but the guys were dismayed at the narrow options. The scripts ”were just cheesy,” says Fatone. ”Five guys, bound for destiny, singing in a group. That’s what we do in real life.”
Thorlakson kept digging, and beneath the heaps of teen fluff (like Mork the Dead Teenager) she found On the Line. Deciding the ”hopeless romantic” Kevin was ”exactly like Lance,” she passed the script on to her partner. Bass was so enamored of the nice-guy role, he pitched the film to Miramax himself. ”We weren’t looking for an ‘N Sync vehicle,” says Bob Osher, the studio’s copresident of production. ”Obviously, [their] wanting to be involved adds to the project.” (It helped that Miramax had also done business with Happy Place’s coproducers, Tapestry Films, on 1999’s She’s All That and the current Serendipity.) ”It’s a romantic comedy for a younger audience,” adds Osher of the PG film’s appeal, ”but it also talks about friendship. There’s a good moral to the story.”