Another Fawning Movie Star Profile

I never read movie star profiles until I started my current book on movie and TV producers last September. And now that I'm reading them regularly, I know why I previously avoided them. They are trite and predictable. I estimate that 75% of them are fawning and 15% are bitchy and perhaps 10% avoid either cliche.

I remember reading one of Halle Berry in the NYT just before the Oscars. I dismissed its fawning style was due to its subject being half-black. Typical liberal double standards. But I was wrong. Most profiles are fawning. I guess it's the only way reporters can get past the publicists to get access to their subject.

This profile of Jill Clayburgh by Jennet Conant in the New York Times is fawning. Comparie it to the perspective I got from Producer Edgar Scherick.

From the NYT 7/7/02 : Audiences who identified with Ms. Clayburgh's hilariously neurotic New York divorcée in "An Unmarried Woman," and rooted for her as the mousy school teacher who has to compete with Candice Bergen to win Burt Reynolds's affections in Alan Pakula's 1979 romantic comedy "Starting Over," will find it hard not to share her pain at the prospect of re-entering the dating scene at middle age in "Never Again," which opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles and in other cities July 19.

Ms. Clayburgh, who earned consecutive best-actress Oscar nominations for those early star turns, admits the appeal of doing another romantic comedy is that it completes a kind of cinematic triptych, bringing back her familiar discombobulated but determined heroine. When her character loses it in an early scene in "Never Again" — humiliating herself and embarrassing those around her — it is an instant reminder that few actresses play single, emotionally frayed women as well as she does. You laugh at her performance, and at her predicament.

[Director and writer Eric] Schaeffer said he could not resist making similar overtures to Ms. Clayburgh, who at 58 has retained her lithe figure and soft red hair, her impish charm undiminished by the lines on her face. "She was such a menschy mom, running around the set in Birkenstocks and old sweaters and offering everyone chicken soup," he recalled. "At the same time, she was fall-down funny, and could pull off this smart, sophisticated, subtle comedy with tremendous depth. I was intimidated by her because she was a real movie star from the old school."

Luke asks Producer Edgar Scherick in the Spring of 2002: "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can [1982]."

Scherick: "Michael Eisner said, 'Let's make the first Valium movie.' I think it is the only Valium movie. I hated the guts of our lead actress Jill Clayburgh. She was cruel to everybody. I hate cruel people.

"It wasn't a bad book. Jill Clayburgh was Michael Eisner's cousin or something like that. He wanted to make a picture with Jill Clayburg. I never thought much of the picture."

Tom McDonogh writes on Imdb.com about Jill: "It came as no surprise to film aficionados when in 1999 Entertainment Weekly named Jill Clayburgh to its list of Hollywood's 25 Greatest Actresses. For nearly 30 years she has delivered stellar performances in a wide variety of roles. Born into wealth in 1944 in New York City, Jill Clayburgh was educated at the finest schools including Sarah Lawrence College. It was while at Sarah Lawrence that she decided on a career in acting and joined the famous Charles Street Repetory Theater in Boston. She moved to New York in the late 1960s and had featured roles in a number of Broadway productions including "The Rothschilds" and "Pippin." She began her career in films in 1970 and got her first major role in Portnoy's Complaint (1972) in 1972. In 1978, she rose to screen prominence with her performance in _An Unmarried Woman_ for which she received an Oscar nomination. She was again nominated for the Academy Award in 1979 for her role in Starting Over (1979).

"But after giving a riveting portrayal as a Valium addict in I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can (1982) her career went into a rapid decline, mainly because of her poor choices of scripts. She seemed destined for a comeback after appearing in Where Are The Children? (1986) with multi-talented child actress Elisabeth Harnois, but her excellent performance was largely ignored by the critics who opted to give the credit for the thriller's success to the performance of the precocious, six year old Harnois. Since the late 1980s, Jill has worked mainly in television and low budget films. But in early 1999, it was announced that she was being considered for the title role in a big budget film based on the life of Nora Joyce, the near illiterate wife of world renowned novelist James Joyce -- a role that could easily restore her to the prominence and acclaim that she enjoyed in the 1970s."

Clayburgh was born April 30, 1944, in New York City. Her father was a manufacturing executive and her mom a former theatrical production secretary. Jill was raised on the Upper East Side. She attended the Brearley School. She describes herself as "a wild teenager," who stole from Bloomingdale's.

Clayburgh took up acting at Sarah Lawrence College. She made her Broadway debut in "The Rothschilds" in 1970, followed by "Pippin" in 1972. The next year, she failed to get the lead in Dave Rabe's play "In the Boom Boom Room."

Jill lived with Al Pacino from 1970-75. She married playwright David Rabe in 1978. They have two children.

Sources; Jennet Conant, "Her Family Grown, Jill Clayburgh Is Starting Over." NY Times, 7/7/02.