Career Advice for Young Hollywood


March was Young Hollywood Month at Movieline Magazine.  In the March ’92 issue of the magazine, writers Rebecca Morris and Kevin Hennessey offered free career advise to some of Hollywood’s hottest young stars.  A few of them needed all the help they could get.  Some did just fine on their own.  And at least one should have been warned about the dangers of shoplifting.

ryder - night on earth

WINONA RYDER‘s entire career to date has been just one surprise after another, almost all of them pleasant. Who’d have guessed that the talented young tomboy of Lucas and Square Dance would turn up as the irresistibly deadpan, morbid teen daughter in the comedy smash Beetlejuice?

Or that she’d not only emerge unscathed from the disastrous Great Balls of Fire!, but win hearts in the process with that loopy, wide-eyed child bride routine? And yet none of that prepared anyone for Ryder’s development into both a real beauty and Hollywood’s drollest comedienne in the it-only-gets-better-with-age black comedy Heathers. Ryder continued to surprise everyone with Mermaids, where she deftly stole the whole show from Cher (no small feat–name another teen who could have done so) while managing to make such vintage gags as going gaga over a beau’s leather jacket seem mint fresh. Of course, Winona did let her Beetlejuice director Tim Burton demonstrate, in the otherwise inventive Edward Scissorhands, that she could be made to seem as bland as any other generic blonde cheerleader (gee thanks, Tim). But the next rabbit out of Ryder’s hat surprised us most of all: After departing Godfather III (thus paving the way for Sofia Coppola–gee thanks, Winona), she was the first to sign up for Coppola’s next film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Our Advice: She’s the most versatile actress in her age group, but she has yet to make that jump to the adult roles that will turn us all into faithful fans forever. Natalie Wood, to whom Winona compares, did it, and we’re betting Winona can too. She won’t do it by making a movie like Night on Earth for outre director Jim Jarmusch, no matter how good she or it is. She will do it by working with top Hollywood director Francis Coppola in popular fare (Dracula), and with top director Martin Scorsese in grown-up class (The Age of Innocence). In terms of her film choices, Winona is doing the right thing. So our advice is: Get lots of rest, take vitamins, don’t fall in love too fast, and don’t ever walk off another movie.

RIVER PHOENIX One of the reasons teen movies are so bad is that the teens they’re aimed at can’t bear realistic portraits of their usually unattractive existence. What teens identify with are cliched, simple-minded, idealized versions of themselves. No wonder, then, that River Phoenix never appeared in a strictly teen movie–shallowness is one of the areas outside his ken. Phoenix cut his teeth on teen roles in crossover or wholly adult movies like Stand by Me, The Mosquito Coast, and Running on Empty. And so he is the sole well-known young actor who has nothing to prove as he emerges out of adolescence into mature roles. He’s the serious actor of his generation, and his skill has already been recognized by critics as well as by an Academy Award nomination. Moreover, he’s showing steady growth. His portrayal of the hapless narcoleptic gay hustler in last year’s My Own Private Idaho lifted that film from the level of an inspired shambles to the level of half-a-great-movie. The less seen Dogfight, released at the same time, was an equally sensitive, unvain performance. Other actors may mature as they approach 30–roughly the age at which most of them begin to show more interesting stuff–to give River Phoenix competition for roles that contain a complicated psychological dimension, but for now they’ll have to take the hand-me-downs.

Our Advice: Hopefully, Phoenix’s next, Sneakers, with Robert Redford, will let him show some more of his impressive comic timing–we wouldn’t want him to exclusively brood. One thing River needs to pay attention to right now is the thing other young actors probably pay too much attention to–appearance. River’s looked like hell in his past two movies, and while his characters justified this, it was a bit too convincing. If he wants to go around in real life looking like a bag person, that’s his business–and it’s the fashion among hip young actors (who naturally think they’re above fashion). But on-screen, things are different. River need not worry about being taken for just a pretty face. He should realize he can’t do with less than a great face, either.

fonda - single white female

BRIDGET FONDA demonstrated early on that she was capable of following in the footsteps of Aunt Jane and Grandpa Henry. She moved with ease from a knowing comic spin in Shag to more sophisticated turns in Scandal and Strapless. Since then, for the most part, she’s shown a taste for a career more in line with Papa Peter’s–i.e., the wisecrack “If Roger Corman still made movies, she’d star in them” actually came true for her when she played a dreadful Mary Shelley in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound. The almost straight-to-video Iron Maze made it perfectly clear that Bridget, like most actors, requires a script and director. When it looked like Fonda had lucked out by winning a role over Madonna in Godfather III, her part was then cut drastically (and, in any case, Madonna may have been the lucky one with that film). But Bridget’s small, hilarious contribution to last year’s Doc Hollywood shows she still has everything she needs to deliver on that early promise. Perhaps Cameron Crowe’s Singles or the upcoming thriller Single White Female will turn the tide.

Our Advice: Bridget should meditate on the meaning of the adage “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” and stop kidding herself that she’s “learning her craft” in low-rent, quirky flicks. She needs to show what she can do in films that deserve her. Singles or Single White Female could make the difference, but if neither does, maybe she could borrow cash from Aunt Jane (and Uncle Ted?) so she can hold out for the better parts in better films with better directors. And she should wait for the right leading man. Anyone out there remember the fireworks when she was all too briefly in the same frame with Andy Garcia?


KEANU REEVES may not be a great actor in the Robert De Niro mode, but he is definitely a movie star. Just rent Point Break and you’ll see. In this knee-slappingly awful nonthriller, Reeves does not manage to acquit himself better than any other game actor in the hands of a tone-deaf director might; he does, however, manage to be compulsively watchable no matter what’s coming out of his mouth. Actually, Reeves is quite a good actor in the right part and in the right hands, and he’s one of the very few young actors who’ve already been in several films that are likely to endure: River’s Edge (already a classic), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dangerous Liaisons and Parenthood. He’s sweetly and loopily gifted at comedy (I Love You to Death and Tune in Tomorrow, as well as those mentioned), and he can wrench tears too. He recently compared unfavorably to his co-star River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho, one of the bigger risks he’s taken, but Phoenix was, after all, only given the very difficult to do by director Gus Van Sant–Reeves was given the impossible. It’s clear by now that there are some large areas that are thin ice for Reeves. Playing Harker in Coppola’s Dracula might be one of them–Reeves’s affect is very of-the-moment, very un-19th century. Still, one of the interesting things about his career is that he’s tried to do a variety of roles. His instinct to go far and wide of Ted, even in a risky part, is correct.

Our Advice: Comedy is tricky, and Reeves is fast outgrowing the goofiness that’s made him famous, but he should still look for good comedy scripts because he’s got a naturally droll comic presence that will take over where the goofiness ends. Reeves should also look for the project that will establish him as a romantic leading man–he’s drop-dead gorgeous from head to toe on-screen, he looks like nobody else, and the camera seems to want to take him to bed. He should avoid all scripts that ask him to declaim at any length on any subject. And he should now stick to the best that Hollywood, not independent film, can offer him.

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Posted on March 6, 2017, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This was an interesting read! It’s fun to see how some of these actors were perceived 25 years ago.

    Though, the casual note about River Phoenix “looking like hell” in his latest roles about a year and a half before his death was eerie and poignant.


  2. Great article for this site, especially due to a few appearances of “What the Hell Happened?” subjects. I didn’t know Nicole Kidman was compared to Sigourney Weaver back in these days here; I don’t see much similar with them at all.
    Other than the River Phoenix part being a bummer (it always is with him) I thought this read was fun and interesting, and may comment more on it later, since it’s kind of juicy.


  3. Okay, commenting already: I thought “Singles” was really good in 1992, and back then I didn’t know about or was part of the type of scene that was being portrayed in the film, and I still believe it holds up. I’d say that was a good role for Bridget Fonda.
    As for Keanu Reeves, I’ve never had any complaints about the way he’s conducted his career, then and now. He’s done some deep stuff, some action stuff, some goofy stuff; that’s Keanu Reeves, the actor.


  4. If Charlie Sheen’s film career stopped in 1992 (in a way it kind of did), at that point his resume was looking awful good (glad “No Man’s Land” was mentioned in this article, as I really dig that film, and I thought Charlie Sheen’s Ted character was pretty scary and ruthless).


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