By People Staff
August 02, 1999 12:00 PM

Summer Flings

When the weather gets hot, stars say goodbye to Hollywood for a cool theatrical experience

Focus

A hit TV show? Nice. Academy Award? Sweet. But rising young stars today want something more from their careers, something reeking of history and sophistication. Something like…the theater.

Except who has the time for all those rehearsals? And who wants to get stuck in a show that may run for months, limiting other career-enhancing activities like, say, a TV movie or a Saturday night date?

The alternative? Try summer stock, theater with limited runs and maximum gratification for the actor who craves the sound of at least two hands clapping. This year’s hot spot is the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts’s Berkshire mountains, where Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), David Schwimmer (Friends) and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca) are in separate vehicles. “They come here because of the ambitious productions, the creative environment, the idyllic settings and the low pay,” says Michael Ritchie, the Festival’s producer. Just how low he won’t say.

But the stars insist they aren’t there for the money. For Paltrow, set for a sold-out run of Shakespeare’s As You Like It Aug. 4 to 15, summer stock is a family tradition. As a teenager she played in Williamstown opposite her mother, Blythe Danner. For Schwimmer, it’s a chance to schwim in waters free of Ross, his Friends character.

“I think the medium I’m best at is live theater,” Schwimmer told In Theater magazine. “There’s a freedom and a momentum that I don’t get out of being in front of a camera.” There are also, if you do it right, kind critical notices that can be good for the soul as well as the career. After all, it certainly didn’t hurt Hawke when The New York Times praised his Williamstown performance in Tennessee Williams’s Camino Real earlier this summer as capturing “the essence of crude American idealism and unquenchable energy.”

Writing a New Classic

Who says there are no roles for Hollywood’s grandes dames? Carrie Fisher just wrote four great parts—with Liz Taylor, 67, Lauren Bacall, 74, and Shirley MacLaine, 65, in mind. The fourth? That’s reserved—for Fisher’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, 67. Fisher says the idea for the movie—working title: These Old Broads—came up over lunch at Taylor’s Bel Air home two years ago. “We got to talking about all of them doing a film together,” says Fisher, “and someone said, ‘Why don’t you write something for us?’ ”

Fisher, 42, whose screenwriting credits include Postcards from the Edge and Sister Act, hopes this screenplay will go into production next year. “They all play celebrities who did a film—a musical—together 30 years ago,” she says. “Elizabeth Taylor is their agent. The movie is rereleased and, to everybody’s surprise, it becomes a big hit. But the actresses don’t like each other because they all had affairs with the director of the original movie.” Now, says Fisher, the search is on for an even grander dame—to play Liz’s mother.

Si, a War of Words

News from the front—the bombshells are throwing bombshells at each other.

Or so it appeared in a war of words between Jennifer Lopez (Selena, Out of Sight) and Salma Hayek (Wild Wild West). The battle began last year when Lopez, in Movieline magazine, accused Hayek of lying about being asked to star in Selena. (Lopez said the part was hers from the beginning.)

Hayek, now shooting Shiny New Enemies with Jeff Goldblum in Vancouver, retaliated in an article printed in Britain’s Sunday Times last month. “People say ‘Latino’ like we’re all identical, but Jennifer Lopez is American,” she said. “She’s from New York. She doesn’t have an accent. Some of these Latin people—their Spanish is pathetic. They learned it when they became famous as Latinos.”

Hayek, raised in Mexico by a Lebanese father and a Mexican mother, admits that she and Lopez are not “intimate friends.” But she also insists it was all a misunderstanding. “I was actually defending Jennifer to the people who say, “Oh, Latin is hot, and that’s [the only reason] why the girl is doing so great,” Hayek says. “She’s doing great because she’s a good actress.”

So good, says Hayek, that Lopez “can play any American girl because she doesn’t have an accent. Then she can play a Latin girl because her background is Latin.”

Lopez had no comment on the latest dispatch from the Spanish-American war.

So that’s it? Cease fire?

“I cannot criticize anybody for not being Latina enough,” concludes Hayek. “They should just take you for who you are.” ¿Comprende?

A Soap Mixes Fact and Fiction

Still wondering where Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were heading that fateful Aug. 31, 1997, Paris night? According to NBC’s new soap opera Passions, which is mingling real and imaginary life in a particularly sudsy brew, the ill-fated couple were on their way to see lovelorn heiress Sheridan Crane (played by McKenzie Westmore), an expat American socialite and Friend of Diana. In recent episodes, says show creator and head writer James Reilly, Crane visited the scene of the fatal car crash and had flashbacks to Diana’s funeral. “We don’t exploit Diana; we are paying homage to her greatness,” assures Reilly.

Not everyone is convinced. A Buckingham Palace spokesman refused to comment (the show does not have an airdate in Britain yet), but gossip doyenne Liz Smith declared the plotline “tacky and tasteless. The show’s writers should hang their heads in shame.” Maybe, but with impressive initial ratings, the scribes are unlikely to ply. “Any way we can get audiences to have an emotional response and to identify with a character, I will do it,” says Reilly. “If Monica Lewinsky would come on, I’d write her in. Same for Hillary.”

A Crash Course in Avoiding a Scene

Lara Flynn Boyle declines to comment about reports placing her in Jack Nicholson’s black Mercedes July 8, the night the actor, 62, accidentally crashed into an oncoming BMW in the Hollywood Hills. (There were no major injuries.) Boyle, 29, and reportedly dating actor David Spade, plays a lawyer on ABC’s The Practice. So much for filing notice before leaving the scene of an accident.

No Holds Barred

Young Abe Lincoln was a formidable country wrestler. And Andrew Jackson was a famous, and fearsome, duelist. But Honest Abe and Old Hickory matured—and, just as important, neither ever wore a boa and sequined sunglasses in public. Which cannot be said for Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who appeared thusly at a July 14 press conference announcing his return to professional wrestling after an absence of 13 years. Ventura, 48, plans to guest referee at the World Wrestling Federation’s SummerSlam in Minneapolis on Aug. 22—a gig that will earn him $100,000, all of which he says will go to charity. But experts estimate that videotape sales will net him an additional $1 million—which he gets to keep. Is this any way for an elected official to behave? Is this a fin de siecle body slam for civilization as we know it?

Steven Schier, chair of political science at Minnesota’s Carleton College, thinks that taking WWF money sets a seamy precedent. “If he gets away with this,” says Schier, “it will be a new low standard for ethics. It’s disturbing.” And Dr. Evan Cornog, author of The Birth of Empire: Dewitt Clinton and the American Experience, 1769-1828, an account of an early—and non-boa-wearing—New York governor, isn’t all that thrilled either. “I can’t imagine that the people of Minnesota are going to think this will enhance the reputation of their state,” he sniffs. Still, Cornog finds one bright spot: At least Ventura isn’t a lawyer. “It isn’t good,” he says, “to have the country’s business handled by people of only one profession.”

ON THE BLOCK

SONGBIRD’S CAGE

Even the brightest of stars can experience rejection in New York City. The toughest bounce back. Witness Mariah Carey, who earlier this year tried to buy Barbra Streisand’s $7.5 million, 16-room co-op opposite Central Park. The building’s governing board rejected her application, however, and Mariah had to continue her house hunt. Ah, perseverance: The pop diva recently purchased a penthouse duplex and the apartment below in a renovated building (left) in the city’s hot Tribeca neighborhood. Published reports put the price at around $9 million, although her spokeswoman says it’s not that much. And since the building is a condo, not a co-op, under the city’s real estate laws Carey doesn’t have to worry about passing muster with her neighbors.

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