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Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~Episode 1 (1995)

At the risk of becoming a shill for Condé Nast I want to talk about those Vanity Fair Hollywood covers. They emerge in winter/spring each year and they're usually the talk of the town(s). Let's take a trip backwards and see how this photographic/promotional shrine to stars both lasting and un has morphed over the years, to witness its prophetic moments and its stupid ones, all before the next cover lands. Sound like fun?

The first one hit in '95 calling its lingerie'd ladies "the class of 2000" ~ Starstruck I was.

Left to right: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, Angela Bassett and Sandra Bullock. The idea embedded in the title was that these were fresh careers and they were only going up, up, up. How famous were they at the time and, come 2000, how were they doing?

...............I'm playing Hollywood Historian.

Jennifer Jason Leigh --the crouching focus puller, was already quite famous. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Single White Female and Shortcuts were behind her (amongst many others) but the next few years weren't exactly rosy. The year this cover hit she was 33 and it was arguably the last of her always shaky A-list status: Georgia failed to deliver her the Oscar nomination many expected and the Stephen King adaptation Dolores Claiborne failed to turn into another Misery at the box office. By 2000 people weren't paying much attention and she was doing voice work and small parts in indies. She's back though this year with Margot at the Wedding. Is that elusive first Oscar nomination finally in sight?

Uma Thurman had been enjoying the spoils of fame since she was 18 when she had pulled off her nightgown in Dangerous Liaisons and stood naked like Venus on a shell in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. When this cover image was released she was 25 and full of fame adrenaline from that needle plunge in Pulp Fiction which had just brought her her one and only Oscar nomination. She was also between husbands, Gary Oldman recently divorced and Ethan Hawke yet to come. By 2000 her career was also floundering (but to be fair her career has been a yo-yo of hits and misses since the beginning) but it wouldn't be long before Kill Bill resparked the fires of Umaphilia everywhere.

Nicole Kidman was 28 and most famous for being "Mrs. Tom Cruise" though she had already made Dead Calm and Flirting (pluses in the 'take me seriously as an actress' column) and a few dumber Hollywood pictures. To Die For, the career changer, was just months away. Vanity Fair wasn't too far off with their Class of 2000 idea. Kidman entered the pantheon of true movie stars by 2001 with the triple explosion of Moulin Rouge!, The Others and the shaking off of the Mrs. Cruise mantle.

Patricia Arquette was 27 in 1995 and had won her first significant group of fans through her violent prostitute role in True Romance (1993) and this same year became Mrs. Nicolas Cage. Her stardom didn't really grow much past the level she had already achieved here but as the lead in TV's Medium she's doing fairly well for herself now.

Linda Fiorentino just turning 37 was the oldest covergirl but she had just made a big splash in The Last Seduction. Her smoky sexually charged performance brought her Oscar talk but there was no happy ending to the story. Due to a television airing somewhen somewhere the film was disqualified. Even at the time as a young amateur Oscarologist I didn't think it would happen. I figured 'just ask Kathleen Turner' --she had made an even more successful erotic splash to become a critical darling the previous decade in Body Heat only to be ignored by AMPAS. Fiorentino later appeared in the smash Men in Black but never became a true "star" and hasn't appeared in a film since 2002.

Gwyneth Paltrow was 22 when this cover debuted and somehow got to wear clothes when the rest of the girls were in bedroom gear. Unfair! Aside from her familial connections (daughter of Hollywood players) and strong reviews for her memorable supporting work in Flesh and Bone (1993) she was not well known. 1995 would change all that. She had just begun dating Brad Pitt (they met filming Se7en which would debut in September that year) and in so doing was on her way to becoming a household name and starring in Melissa Etheridge videos. That's what Brad's girls do. Three years later, Brad Pitt-less, she would win the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love (1998), the first of only two women here to do so.

.........But for me in the mid 90s it was all about the last fold.

Sarah Jessica Parker at 30 had been famous for as long as Jennifer Jason Leigh. Four years prior to this cover she had improbably reinvented herself as a sexy sassy supporting movie player in L.A. Story (1991) saving her blah television career from its slow death. Well reviewed turns in Honeymoon in Vegas (1993) Ed Wood (1994) and Miami Rhapsody (1995) kept her star rising but it was the decision to return to television with Sex & The City (debuting in 1998) that made her a superstar. By 2000 she was big.

Julianne Moore at 34 was about to break. She had won a daytime Emmy in 1988 but her rise through the movie ranks was slow: as a star she's been a tortoise rather than a hare. [safe] 's release was a few months away but even that film, crucial to the Moore mystique, took years to build its critical reputation and fandom. When 2000 rolled around, just as the title of this magazine predicted, she was a major leading actress and already a two time Oscar nominee for Boogie Nights (1997) and The End of the Affair (1999).

Angela Bassett on her way to 37 had a huge breakthrough with What's Love Got To Do With It (1993) and her star was shining brightly. After this cover she had two more lead performances in hits both major Waiting to Exhale (1996) and minor How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) --bigger hits than some of the others managed-- but her star still faded. It's maddening (see previous post for more on the plight of black actresses)

Sandra Bullock was fresh off the smash success of Speed (1994), about to turn 31 and prove her own Keanu free bankability in While You Were Sleeping (1995) and would continue to prove it for years thereafter remaining one of the mainstreams favored stars. She hasn't had a big hit since 2002 though and methinks she's transitioning to supporting roles in her mid to late 40s.


median age: 30
collective Oscar nominations before this cover: 2
collective Oscar nominations after: 7 --and most of those are Julianne's. 2 wins: not Julianne's. grrrr
fame levels in 2007 according to famousr, from most to least: Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman, Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Linda Fiorentino

Did you like this trip back in time. Want more?

subsequent episodes: 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001

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