February 02, 2009 12:00 PM

Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent | PG |


Any movie that promotes to kids the notion that reading a book is an adventure can’t be all bad. But besides encouraging the junior set to put their hands on something other than a Wii wand, the disappointing Inkheart is an ambitious but poorly executed muddle. Based on a best-selling novel by Cornelia Funke, the adventure film tells of a father and daughter (Fraser and Eliza Hope Bennett of Nanny McPhee) caught up in a dangerous world where literary characters—both good and villainous—come alive. The movie uneasily juggles genres: heartwarming family tale; decibel-busting, special effects-heavy action flick; and Harry Potter rip-off. As the dad, Fraser is on recycle mode from his Mummy films. Mirren, who plays an eccentric elderly relative fond of wearing turbans and caftans, sails through as if auditioning for a remake of Auntie Mame.



“I don’t have a well-designed career,” says James Earl Jones. “It’s more accidental.” And unforgettable: His booming basso and regal screen presence have given Jones, 78, a long and varied acting résumé. The actor, who will receive the Life Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 25, spoke with PEOPLE’s Michael Fleeman about some of his biggest roles.

The Lion King (1994)

Voicing King Mufasa would never have happened without advice from a supportive high school teacher: “He said, ‘Don’t ever listen to your voice, or nobody else will.’ He meant there are people with great voices that you know are very aware of them.”

Field of Dreams (1989)

“That’s on my cherished list,” he says. “My wife [Cecilia Hart] read the script before I got home. She said, ‘Here’s a little movie you’ve got to do.’ It was a family. I had seen Bull Durham and really admired Kevin Costner. We chatted a lot on the set and each had our families with us. That was special.”

Star Wars (1977)

Jones only got $7,000 for giving voice to galactic baddie Darth Vader. “I’ve always been with a very small, independent agency that didn’t envision what Star Wars could be. They said, ‘Take the money and run.’ $7,000 to do a day or two of work under a microphone when I was broke? Man, that was gravy!”

The Great White Hope (1970)

He got an Oscar nomination but laments that the film (with Jane Alexander) “wasn’t telling the same story” as the Broadway play it was adapted from. “I never got over that.”

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