Jeff Jarvis
July 02, 1984 12:00 PM

Harrison Ford, says his latest co-star, has what you call a “blendable face.” That’s how he can go out and not be recognized. And if you’re a Hollywood hermit like the man who plays Indiana Jones, that’s not so bad. “I have a face that’s blendable too,” says co-star Kate Capshaw. “I have a very ordinary Midwestern face.” But it’s more than the face that gets you recognized. “You get attention on the streets when you want to get it,” she says. “There’s a certain attitude that you can give, a certain way of dressing and presenting yourself. Or you can be very quiet and keep your eyes down and not wear clothes that will bring attention to yourself.” Harrison is that kind, and so is she. “I don’t dress flashy,” Kate says. “I don’t really anticipate becoming recognizable.”

But Capshaw, 30, isn’t exactly looking for anonymity either. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which racked up the highest weekly gross in movie history) is only her first big film. Unlike Ford, who’d rather face a firing squad than the press, Capshaw knows the value of getting her face out there (she’s been a newspaper, magazine and TV show fixture since the film debuted).

Look what happens when you don’t. Take Kate’s predecessor, press-shy Karen Allen (only Mickey Rourke and Sam Shepard scored lower on the PEOPLE recognition poll), who played Indy’s girl in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Allen later drifted into supporting roles (Shoot the Moon), film flops (Split Image) and Broadway fizzles (Monday After the Miracle), and she faced a confused public that couldn’t tell her from Brooke Adams or Margot Kidder.

Capshaw hopes for a different future, and she’s willing to work for it. She knows that her Indiana Jones role as Willie Scott, a vain cabaret singer who can’t stand the roar of the jungle or the smell of the elephants, left many critics cold. “A whining deadhead,” sneered critic Gene Siskel. “When we see Willie dangling over molten lava, frankly we wish she would fall in.”

Capshaw, a bit like the critics, was wary of the character she played for director Steven Spielberg. “Willie is a maniac lady,” Kate says. “I’d probably never pick anyone like Willie for a friend. I had to find ways to love her. She was kooky, funny and extremely off the wall, which is not who I am at all.” Willie is not much more than a dumb, screaming blonde. And Kate?

She’s not a blonde. Capshaw dyed her brown hair for the movie. She’s not dumb either; she has a master’s degree in special education and for two years she taught children with learning disabilities in Missouri. And she’s no screamer. “I didn’t know how to scream,” she admits. “I went ‘aahhhhhh,’ and Steven went, ‘Cut! Kate, we could use a really good scream.’ Steven had to teach me. I’d remind him that we never covered screaming in acting class, and he’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’re making an action-adventure film, doll!’ ”

Some scenes, she admits, did not require much in the way of acting—like the bug scenes, when creepies crawled all over her. “The bugs I hated,” Kate says. “They put them in my hair, everywhere. They were dropping buckets of bugs on top of me. I stood there very quietly, closed my eyes and would not look. I really didn’t have to act.” Then there were the eels. “I found them actually more disgusting than the bugs because they slither and writhe and they’re slippery and really disgusting.” Kate’s 7-year-old daughter, Jessica, wasn’t nuts about them either. “My daughter and I, just the two of us, go to a sushi bar in the [San Fernando] Valley for girl talk,” Kate says. “We were sitting there recently and Jessica said, ‘Mommy, I want to try some eel.’ I said okay, because they cook it and it tastes like barbecued chicken anyway. And so it came, and she goes, ‘Mom, I just remembered, is this the same as the eels that were in the movie?’ And I went, ‘Uh-huh, but taste it first. You’ll like it.’ She said, ‘I don’t think I’m that interested.’ ”

Born a Texan, Kathy Sue Nail moved to a St. Louis suburb when she was 4 with her mother, a beautician turned travel agent, and her father, an airline employee. She started acting in her own 6th-grade adaptation of The Miracle Worker. “I wanted to be an actress but that wasn’t in the cards in Missouri,” she says. She earned her education degrees at the University of Missouri-Columbia, married a high school teacher named Robert Capshaw, had Jessica, taught near home and lived unhappily ever after. “I was in a malaise over my marriage, my job,” she says. “My husband and I figured New York would be good for both of us and maybe it would fix our marriage. It didn’t.” They later divorced. “I don’t think the words amicable and divorce go together,” Kate says (though she and he are now cordial).

Kate started modeling for pictures on Clairol boxes and for Certs commercials. She wanted to be in movies. “I went into Eileen Ford’s TV department and said, ‘I can act, I think.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. You and 50,000 other girls.’ ” But she dropped modeling, took acting lessons and soon got six weeks on the TV soap The Edge of Night and the lead in her first and little-seen movie, A Little Sex. She has three other movies coming out to catch the Indiana heat: Best Defense with Dudley Moore and Eddie Murphy, the sci-fi Dreamscape with Dennis Quaid and Windy City with John Shea. For Windy she got the lead and also landed the movie’s writer and director, Armyan Bernstein, who wrote the script for One From the Heart. “We fell in love during the filming, but we were both being very stubborn,” she says. “Army and I put our heels in the sand. He said, ‘I’m not falling for the leading lady—how boring!’ and I said, ‘I’m not falling for the director—how boring!’ ” They played out the cliché anyway.

Early last year Kate decided to leave New York for a home with Army in L.A.’s Sherman Oaks. “I decided I didn’t want to have a bicoastal love affair,” she says. “I felt so strongly about Army that I picked up my bags and my baby and headed for the West Coast…for love.”

Then she won the Indiana role. Her ex-agent was jogging with Indiana’s casting director, and that’s how she got her foot in the door. She met Spielberg and they talked; then he had her back and they played a video game together. (Have computers replaced casting couches?) After a screen test, the part was hers. “I called Army and he said that it wasn’t exactly good news,” she says. “The bad news was that I would be gone for five months.”

But Kate took daughter Jessica with her, and the two of them, at least, had fun together on location in Sri Lanka and London. Jessica would visit the set, and Kate, Jessica, Steven and crew members often would make ice cream in Spielberg’s office. “We’d make vanilla, and then we’d put fruit on it or grind up Oreo cookies…Steven is a cookie monster, and he would import Oreo cookies from the States.”

Harrison the hermit rarely participated. “He’s a very quiet fellow and very private,” Kate says. So they didn’t become bosom buddies, true. But she’s quick to say that Ford helped her out making the movie. “He knew it was a Saturday-matinee type of film, and I simply wasn’t aware of that. I was applying the Lee Strasberg method-acting approach, and it wasn’t working. He saved me.”

As for the big director: “Steven and I hit it off right away.” He wanted Kate to do a scene taking a bath with a snake intruding on her. She has a thing about snakes. “I realized just by looking at them that I was going to get sick to my stomach,” she says. Steven thought about it and then ruled: “Cut the scene! You don’t have to do this.” Says Kate: “I felt real bad. I had been trying to be a real trouper.”

But there were still plenty of gross things left in the movie: too many, according to some critics who have complained that Indiana is too shocking, too intense for young children. When Spielberg wants to scare you, he has a bad guy rip the heart out of the good guy, evidently with nothing more than his sharp fingernails. The fact that Indiana got a PG rating has raised a ruckus about the entire rating system. Recently the National Coalition on Television Violence, turning its attention to the big screen, protested that Indiana Jones contains 215 acts of violence, and thus deserves an X or at least an R rating.

Kate’s daughter—who’s allowed only 90 minutes of TV a day—saw Indiana, but, as Mom explains, “Jessica wasn’t frightened because she had been around when it was being made and knew what was happening.” Still Kate allows that “a friend of Jessica’s saw it and said that she got scared.” What if Kate hadn’t starred in the movie? “Yes, I would take Jessica, but I would hope to have seen it first to prepare her for it,” she says. “I’m not saying that the film isn’t shocking, but if you go into the spook house at the fairgrounds, you expect to get scared.”

What with the nonstop thrills, chills and box-office take, it looks like the only thing you can’t expect from an Indiana Jones movie is certain fame for its actors. Suppose PEOPLE does a recognition poll next year and nobody knows Kate Capshaw? “It would bother me,” Kate says without hesitation. “I want to be recognized as an actress. Otherwise what’s the good of being in the entertainment industry?”

You May Like