Friday, June 16, 2006

Lindsay Lohan; W June 06

It's late afternoon at a photo studio in New York's Chelsea, and Lindsay Lohan is carefully reviewing a little stack of Polaroids at the end of a day in front of the camera. She is pleased with the results, although she does fret about the influence on younger fans of one picture of her with a cigarette. "A girl with asthma, smoking," she says. "Great." Of the bunch, her favorite image is the one on the cover of this issue. It shows Lohan and Meryl Streep, her costar in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion, in an intimate embrace that Lohan likens to that of a mother and child. The double portrait was, in fact, an idea that Lohan herself pitched to the magazine, and she marvels at the contrasts it reveals between herself and Streep—"the old and the new," she says. One could also say elegance and sex appeal or SPF 40 and Mystic Tan.

Suddenly Lohan looks up at the W team.

"What are you going to call the story?" she asks, pausing just a moment before she offers her suggestion. "Lady and the Tramp?"

The line gets a big laugh—it's funnier than she seemed to expect—if only because it perfectly captures this moment in Lohan's rather exceptional career. The former moppet just recently graduated from the Disney academy (last year's Herbie: Fully Loaded was surely her last kiddie role) and here she is playing Streep's daughter in a film by one of America's most esteemed directors.

To date, Lohan, still just 19, has notched up commercial success (Herbie grossed $144 million worldwide) and released two albums, but she is arguably better known as the hottest paparazzi bait among the generation of actresses too young to drink legally. (Not that the law seems to have slowed her down.) If every teenager believes that her personal dramas are matters of national import, Lohan knows that hers actually are, whether the subject is her jailbird father, her boyfriends or her weight. She is understandably ambivalent about her kind of fame and seems anxious to arrive at some future stage in her career when she will look back on these days from a safe distance.

"I'd love to be in Meryl's position," she says. "I want people to know me for the work that I'm doing, not for this party girl image, which is just vile and disgusting and not fair, because I work so hard. Maybe someone will look at my life one day and say, 'Why don't I do a cover with Lindsay Lohan?'"

In years to come, A Prairie Home Companion will likely look like just the right film at just the right moment. It not only launches a new, grown-up phase—her next role will be in Bobby, the story of Robert Kennedy's assassination, with Anthony Hopkins—but also introduced her to an important role model in Streep.

"Lindsay hung on Meryl almost like a mentor," recalls Altman, a director known to love actors and barely tolerate the media. "And she was very respectful of all the people she worked with. It's the press that makes news of all that other stuff. But I think she's great and I'd work with her again. She's a great talent with a really sexy voice."

The day after the photo shoot, the two actresses plan to meet for lunch at Nobu, with Streep arriving first for a short solo interview. She enters dressed in an ample cardigan and wearing plastic glasses that obscure her nose's Renaissance splendor, as if she intends to pass herself off as an artsy New York mom. (The 56-year-old actress has four children, ages 14 to 25, with sculptor Don Gummer.) Streep says she was convinced Lohan would be "perfect" for Altman's film, even before meeting her. "I think I'd seen Freaky Friday maybe seven times," she says. "I have three daughters, and it's the Lindsay Lohan fan club at my house. I thought—I think—she is a terrific actress. It's something that you could see even when she was little-bitty."

A Prairie Home Companion is a congenial film adaption of Garrison Keillor's long-running radio show of the same name. The movie's storyline, such as it is, ambles backstage at the Fitzgerald Theater as the show's cast and crew, including Keillor himself, prepare for their final broadcast. (It's a fictional conceit: After 30 years, the NPR radio show is still going strong.)

Among the film's most vibrant characters are Streep and Lily Tomlin, who play the two surviving sisters of a famous singing family. Lohan, blond on film for the first time, is Streep's daughter, a sulky teenager who writes poetry about suicide but who eventually shines through as the face of a new generation—and a pretty reliable hope for the future, at that.

Streep, as if adopting her maternal screen role, is mildly defensive when asked if Lohan's party exploits ever interfered with her work on the set.

"Lindsay knew her lines better than we did," she says firmly, then continues in a slightly more indulgent tone. "She's very young. It's a great sort of coin to have, a wonderful time in somebody's life. I'm aware of the tabloid stuff because my kids tell me—but I don't read it, and frankly, I couldn't care less. When they say 'Action,' Lindsay is completely, visibly living in front of the camera, and that's all anybody really cares about."

She compares Lohan with, of all people, Cher as a young performer. Both actresses have a brazenly confessional manner that leads them to fling away intimate secrets. And yet, Streep says, both are unexpectedly self-contained, and Lohan's psyche, like Cher's, has deeper contours than some would expect—guarded places that serve as her storehouse of creativity.

"She's in command of the art form," Streep says with high seriousness. "Whatever acting is—I don't know what it is—she's in command of it. I think she could do anything she puts her mind to."

A few minutes past the appointed hour, Lohan arrives in a rush and Streep calls out to her: "Hi, Peanut!" But Lohan is agitated and breathless when she plops in her seat, and pulling a knit cap farther over her hair (dark again now), she tells how she was followed from her hotel to the restaurant by paparazzi. Streep gets as flustered as a wet hen. "This is outrageous!" she snaps. Her maternal ire calms Lohan somewhat, but still she doesn't eat, claiming she had gorged on a late breakfast. (Later, after Streep leaves, Lohan will say that her recent confession of bulimia in Vanity Fair was "not true, or taken out of context or whatever it may be.")

On the subject of A Prairie Home Companion, Streep says that she has been listening to the show for years, and she heartily endorses Keillor's effort to keep live radio on the air, even if individual shows may be, in her judgment, "hit or miss." Lohan, on the other hand, had never heard of Prairie Home when she got the part; she called her grandmother for a quick rundown.

The radio show, a spoof of small-town Midwestern life, is broadcast from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, where, according to the Prairie Home mythology, "the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are above average." The movie that Keillor wrote for Altman is like much of the director's earlier work in that it is less concerned with pushing forward a plot than with allowing actors to play off one another. Keillor says that he adopted the "last broadcast" structure because it was the simplest storyline he could imagine. "It's a movie that's not about the story," Keillor says. "It's about all these little acting turns, a variety show made into a movie. We're aware of the story as much as we need to be: It gives us the ending."

The biggest character on set was perhaps Altman, who is now 81. The grand old man had hired director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) as his day-to-day assistant—one who could finish the film if he became indisposed—and found humor in exaggerating his decrepitude, Lohan says. "The first thing Robert said to me when we met was, 'I'm probably going to croak any day, so this is Paul Thomas Anderson,'" she recalls, adding that she was speechless until she realized he was kidding.

Both Streep and Lohan thought the director was kidding again when he announced that he intended to shoot 10 pages of script in the first day on set. The idea seemed preposterous, Streep explains, since a page or two a day is the typical pace on most shoots. But Altman commenced with Prairie Home's juicy opening scene, in which Streep, Tomlin and Lohan sweep into their dressing room while talking a blue streak. "We didn't have time to have any nerves," recalls Streep. "We were just scrambling for our lives. And when we couldn't remember our lines, we would just make something up."

"I remember saying, 'Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this,'" chimes in Lohan, as she sips ice water. "I was scared to death. But all of these things that weren't scripted in the scene happened, like when we ended up crying in one of the takes. I have never been happier than after that day."

Lohan pauses, then deepens her voice as much as a 19-year-old girl can to imitate an 81-year-old male director.

"That's adequate," she croaks.

Streep bursts out laughing and does her own imitation—slightly more credible—and explains that "adequate" is Altman's highest praise.

Despite the director's crusty ways, both actresses gush about the experience of working with him, and Lohan, especially, was thrilled to be part of an ensemble cast that includes Tomlin and Keillor, as well as Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen and Woody Harrelson. But Lohan especially credits Streep for showing her how an actress ought to comport herself.

"One of the main things that I noticed is that she's so appreciative of everyone who is on set," Lohan says. "Just the way she interacts with people, always smiling, always laughing, always with good energy. When Meryl comes on the set, it sets the tone for the crew and everyone that day."

Streep, who has received a record 13 Oscar nominations and two statuettes, groans under the weight of this praise as if she can't stand any more.

In a funny twist of fate, Streep's next role will take her to a place about which Lohan might teach her a thing or two—fashion's front row. Streep will play a powerful fashion editor in the screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's tell-all The Devil Wears Prada. Streep did not enjoy being in the fashion world, she reports, least of all dressing the part every day.

"I just found it exhausting," she says, "all the attention to details that might as well have been jet engine parts, for all that I cared. Which bag? Which shoes? Which ring? Which earrings? How does it all look?" A more surprising revelation is that Streep does not model her performance on Vogue's Anna Wintour, who is transparently the titular she-devil in Weisberger's book, a work that Streep holds in low regard.

"I thought it was written out of anger," she says, "and from a point of view that seemed to me very apparent. The girl seemed not to have an understanding of the larger machine to which she had apprenticed. So she was whining about getting coffee for people. If you keep your eyes open [in that situation[, you'll learn a lot. But I don't think she was interested."

Streep adds that what fascinates her is the "special venom" that society reserves for powerful women—women like Wintour, Martha Stewart or Hillary Clinton. "The culture wants to cast them as cold," Streep says, "as if somehow they've lost their maternal bearings, their essential womanhood, to occupy this space. As if they've had to cut off their…whatever it is…to succeed."

In Lohan's next screen appearance, in Bobby, she plays a young Vietnam-era idealist who marries men to keep them out of the draft. One of her screen husbands is Elijah Wood, who earns the immortal distinction of sharing Lohan's first cinematic make-out.

"His girlfriend was there," recalls Lohan. "I felt really bad. And my [12-year-old] sister was there, and I made her walk off set. She said, 'Ewww! I saw you kissing!'" Lohan's nine-year-old brother, however, was thrilled to know that Sis got busy with "the guy from Lord of the Rings."

After Bobby, Lohan is slated for another heavy role, as a girl molested by her stepfather in Garry Marshall's Georgia Rule, with a cast that tentatively includes Felicity Huffman, Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine. Lohan's character can't get past the pent-up anger because she doesn't tell her mother what happened. Still, Lohan promises that it's not a "depressing movie."

"It's witty and quick," she says. "There's swearing in it and everything, but it's like what a real family would be. If I were to win an award, I could only hope that people would recognize me for this type of film."

With such statements, Lohan may sometimes let her ambitions run ahead of her accomplishments, but she can be forgiven for believing that she has been groomed to receive Hollywood's golden baton. Her agent, CAA's Richard Lovett, also represents Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. In the lead-up to this year's Oscars, she met her hero: Madonna.

"I met her at Bryan Lourd's," Lohan reports, referring to the A-list pre-Oscar party given by the CAA superagent. "When I first met her, I was in shock and I didn't know what to say. I looked at her and was like, 'I love you so much. Can we be friends?' She's so cool and down-to-earth and normal, like Meryl. Madonna is someone I would love to tour with."

That same week she took Donatella Versace with her to Teddy's, and lately she and buddy Natalie Portman are working on a movie idea they would like Streep or maybe Anjelica Huston to direct.

Lohan admits her head is spinning pretty constantly, and she insists that she will not let anyone dampen her giddy highs. "I just want to enjoy every moment of it," she says, winding herself up into a defense of her night life, "whatever way that comes across to people. I'm just doing what I really love."

As for the ongoing drama with her father, Lohan acknowledges that she hasn't spoken to him. He did, however, make a bizarre attempt to contact her recently. While she was on the set of Bobby, Lohan reports that her father managed to send an envelope to her—via her stand-in. When she opened it, though, there was no letter, just a return address. The pain caused by the broken relationship with her father is something she tries to suppress.

"I use it when I'm singing or acting," she says. "That's when I let it out. It's one thing that I've learned to hide. Because my father's a grown man and I'm his daughter and I can only do so much. You can only worry about someone so much before you've washed your hands clean. He's got to learn that on his own. He's a big boy. When he's better, I'm sure it will be the right time for him to come and make amends, and we'll see what happens."

As a final thought on the subject, Lohan wonders why it is that so many young actresses come from dysfunctional families. She says that not every one of them is "mental" but admits that the gypsy life of the film business only exacerbates most actors' "schizophrenic" nature.

"I've become such an indecisive person," she confesses, "to the point where [in a restaurant] I order water, regular soda, tea and a drink. I never know what I'm feeling like, and I want to get everything because I'm so used to being so many different people. It's strange. You go into this movie for two months and you change your whole existence."

At such moments of confusion during the shooting of Prairie Home, Lohan would sometimes find solace with Streep, who seemed to intuit when the younger woman needed a little burst of motherly concern.

"She'd pull me aside sometimes and say, 'Are you okay?'" Lohan recalls. "And I'd say, 'I'm okay, but I'm dealing with some personal things.' I'd talk to her about guy issues. And she'd say, 'You know what? Don't think about it right now. And if you think about it, use it for how it will help you in the scene.'"

But why, then, given the level of trust between Lohan and Streep, doesn't the older actress take a more active role as a mentor, counseling her, for instance, to skip the parties, stop reading her own press and to think about the long haul?

Streep casts a pitying look across the table when the question is posed to her. As a mother of three daughters, she says, she knows that any sentence beginning with the phrase "You should" will lead a young woman to do the exact opposite. And teaching by example has its limits, too.

"You just try to live your life," Streep says. "If they care to look, they care to look. And if they don't, no amount of browbeating is going to help."

Kate Bosworth; W July 06

Like many Hollywood stars whose rises to the top have been reduced by the media to a few short anecdotes, Kate Bosworth has nuggets of lore that follow her everywhere she goes. First, there is the physical oddity: She has heterochromia iridium, meaning that her eyes are two different colors—one hazel, one blue. Then there are her Schwab's Pharmacy-tinged beginnings. A horse lover at 13, she scored the role of Scarlett Johansson's best friend in Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer (the character is killed, naturally, in the film's first scene) after she brought a family Christmas card featuring her photo as her head shot to the audition. Then came her Flashdance moment when she decided, against the wishes of her father back in Cohasset, Massachusetts, to defer her acceptance to Princeton University in favor of going after a part in the surfing confection Blue Crush, which—lucky lady—made her a star. Now we can add another yarn to this already well-knit biography. Bosworth actually tried to persuade director Bryan Singer not to cast her as Lois Lane in this summer's much awaited blockbuster, Superman Returns.

On June 28, Bosworth enters the annals of comic-book and film history as the latest incarnation of the fast-talking, cigarette-smoking, nose-for-a-story journalist. This time around, Lois has a child, who may or may not be the son of the Man of Steel. "Well, that's the million-dollar question," Bosworth says, giggling, as she sits in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel in New York, digging into some French toast. Compact and petite with perfect skin, Bosworth seems softer and less painfully thin than she has in recent photographs.

When I suggest that it's more like the $200 million dollar question—the reported budget for Singer's adaptation, the first Superman film since 1987—Bosworth recoils in mock horror and covers those piercing eyes and glorious cheekbones.

"Don't say that to me!" she exclaims. "It freaks me out!"

Bosworth has a lot riding on Superman Returns, even though she believes her name on the marquee will have little bearing on the film's success. "It won't be because of me," she says. "It'll be because of Superman." But, like Spider-Man did for Kirsten Dunst, Superman has the potential to turn the former lacrosse-playing, bubbly blond girl next door into a worldwide star. Bosworth will undoubtedly be trailed by comics-obsessed dweebs for years to come, adding to the attention already generated by her four-year, on-and-off relationship with British dreamboat Orlando Bloom. The prospect has filled her with dread ever since Kevin Spacey, who plays Lex Luthor in the movie and directed her as Sandra Dee in his 2004 Bobby Darin biopic, Beyond the Sea, proposed her for the role of Lois Lane.

"When I met with Bryan, I was really freaked out because I had never been in anything so big," recalls Bosworth. "I didn't know if I'd be completely giving up my privacy. I sat down with him and I said, 'I think you're going to make an amazing film, and I'm such a huge fan of yours, but I don't really feel like I'm ready for something of this magnitude, so good luck and thank you very much. I appreciate your time.'"

Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) convinced Bosworth to sign on by emphasizing that the characters were more important to his story than the special effects. "That said," says the director, "it's a little strange and overwhelming—the scope of these films, the sets and the rigs and the army of people involved. It's intimidating. But I call Kate the Machine—the Acting Machine. She turns it on, and suddenly she's a working mom and a fiancée with a long-lost love who's Superman. And the moment we're done, she becomes a 23-year-old girl again."

On set in Australia, where she lived on her own for a full year during the shoot, Bosworth says her uncertainty continued. "Up until I had two months in the can, I was waiting to be replaced," she insists. (She had to dangle from the rafters, free-fall and fly in a harness while looking "romantic and idealistic for hours, even when everything starts to go numb.") "When there's so much money involved, and so much pressure, you sort of wonder, When is the real actress supposed to come in and take over?"

It's hard to believe that Bosworth, who has spent nearly a decade in the business, would be so self-doubting, especially opposite newcomer Brandon Routh, who plays Clark Kent and his alter ego. But in contrast to the transparent false modesty that celebrities often use to mask their outsize egos, Bosworth's insecurities seem real, and she confides that they're exacerbated by the interview process. "You're being asked things and you're wondering if you're sounding somewhat eloquent or like a complete idiot," she says. "I almost envy people who say whatever they want. They don't give a s---. They don't have any guards."

Bosworth herself has plenty. At one point she says she loves to be "passionate." About what? "I knew you'd ask that, and all of a sudden I don't know." Later, I ask her where she goes from here, and she begins discussing her flight back to Los Angeles. When I tell her that's obviously not what I'm asking, she says, "Well, it's easier to answer it that way."

According to Spacey, Bosworth is anything but withholding, at least while she's on the job. In Beyond the Sea, he says, "she was completely open, she was trusting, she f---ing delivered. I think she's going to be around for a long time."

If there's a thematic thread in Bosworth's recent crop of films, it's the harsher realities of stardom. In Beyond the Sea her Sandra Dee is all perky onscreen, but, having been sexually abused by her father, she's a box of neuroses. And in the gritty Wonderland Bosworth was cast in her darkest role to date, as Dawn Schiller, the drug-addled girlfriend of the infamous porn star John Holmes who is caught in a murderous, downward spiral. Even in the innocently sardonic comedy Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! Bosworth was depicted as all-smiles supermarket clerk Rosalee Futch, mesmerized by an actor who in real life is not the romantic hero he plays in the movies.

"Hollywood is not a place that's particularly easy to navigate," Bosworth offers. "But I don't think life in general is easy to navigate at 23. And to be in a position where everyone's watching you live your life is even harder."

One perception that distresses her is the idea that her role in Superman Returns proves she has finally "made it" in the industry. "The thought of that is so alien to me," Bosworth says, sipping her mint tea. "Then what? You're Lois Lane, you've made it, where the hell do you go? Or you fail and everyone hates you, so now what?" She still feels she has to work hard to score the roles she wants. "There's never been a part that people have said, 'We want you for it.' It's always been, I want to be involved, and I'm about to fight for it. And I feel that's probably how it will be for a long time." (Even for the role of Lois Lane, Bosworth wasn't necessarily Singer's one and only choice: The director also reportedly considered Claire Danes, Keri Russell and Lost's Evangeline Lilly.)

Bosworth adds that she's tired of playing wide-eyed and wholesome. "To be honest, it's really annoying," she says of the occasionally milquetoast roles she's offered. "I hate it. I don't want to be seen as wholesome. I feel like I'm a good person, but I'm not that."

John Stockwell, the director of Blue Crush, was initially concerned that the actress looked too flawless for the role of Anne Marie Chadwick, who, at one point in the movie, is referred to as Malibu Barbie. "I thought other girls wouldn't be able to access Kate, that she's too unapproachable," Stockwell says. "But my daughter is mixed race and told me, 'I want to look like that.' Every girl wants to be her."

Not so when Bosworth was growing up. She admits without prodding that high school wasn't a particularly easy time for her. "My parents were amazing and wonderful, but there was a lot of pressure to do my best and in every way possible," she says. "I grew up in a small town where everyone wanted to be the same or look the same and was afraid to be different." On the set of The Horse Whisperer, however, "there wasn't that fear. That was very freeing for me as a 15-year-old-girl. The people interacted in such a close-knit, caring way." After finishing the movie, Bosworth, with typical self-effacement, ruled out school plays. "I just felt like I'd probably get crucified, setting myself up to be criticized on a huge scale." Instead, "I played sports. I wasn't very good, actually."

Being in Australia, on her own and "out of my comfort zone," she says, helped her to overcome some of those insecurities. "I learned a lot about myself," she says. "I learned being perfect is complete bulls---. You're going to fail; you're going to succeed. You've got to just live your life and keep doing what you want to do. If you get too caught up, you're really going to f--- yourself."

The production also took place while her friends were graduating from college, something that made her particularly reflective. "It's interesting to think I could have gone one way or another," she says. "But I've done so much in that same period." When she visited Princeton after being accepted, she stayed with a student who was studying nuclear physics. "I thought, Oh, my God, what am I doing here? I felt so intimidated. Thinking back on it, I'm kind of glad I didn't go because [Princeton] was too similar to the way I'd grown up my entire life."

Bosworth recently took another step toward growing up: She bought a house in Los Angeles. At the time of our meeting, her best friend from high school, Ary, was about to move in with her and begin a job at PMK/HBH, the public relations firm that represents Bosworth. "When you're away for so long, there's something about wanting to really nurture things at home," Bosworth says. "I've been feeling really domestic lately." While some of her friends are about to marry, Bosworth, who stays mum about her relationship with Bloom, isn't sure she's ready. "It's certainly on the horizon, but I'm not engaged, let's put it that way," she says. "I do know that I'm happily in a relationship, and there's nobody else I want to be with. We're both equally supportive of one another, which I think in any relationship makes things easier and seem less daunting."

There have been reports that Bosworth has been dabbling in Bloom's adopted religion of Buddhism; she remains unspecific when she refers to philosophies she has been studying to figure things out. Whatever they are, however, they seem to be helping. "You have to have confidence. You can't be someone who's so insecure that she's a basket case," Bosworth says. "It's a hard line to walk. That's why I always say that you have to have a strong heart, a clear mind and a tough skin. And that's a lot to try to maintain."