YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections
(Page 5 of 7)

Reconcilable Differences

THE RITES OF HOLLYWOOD: Part 17 of a series on life in the entertainment community.


Recalled Holbrook: "I remember thinking, 'I'd like to have this woman for a friend.' I was attracted to her personality before the sex thing because I'd been hurt by the sexy part, with other women. Dixie was a real woman, not actressy. And I was trying firstly to be a friend to myself."

Holbrook's steel-blue eyes got steelier. "I was hard to be with. Because for a man to do well at an acting career . . . the price is his family, period. Luck doesn't happen to grown-ups. A grown-up actor succeeds at the expense of everything else. How do you establish continuity with your family if you come home at night and you are--"

"Mark Twain Tonight?"

The relief was comic, and both actors loosened up. "Dixie is a very powerful presence," said her husband of three years. "More powerful than she knows. She has the gift of being able to talk about anything. And she shared the gift with me."

But what about the skeletons in the closet? The taboos? The downside to joining forces?

"Working together on stage almost destroyed our relationship," said Carter, cringing. The play was Thomas Babe's "Buried Inside Extra," which they performed both in London and at New York's Public Theater. The actors were taking the work home, and taking it literally.

Los Angeles Times Sunday July 19, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Page 98 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
In Paul Rosenfield's "Reconcilable Differences" July 12, the movie "Baby Boom" was referred to as a 20th Century Fox picture. In fact, it is a United Artists release.

"There's meanness in the play," said Holbrook. "We were properly directed to be vicious, which we were, and we hurt each other's feelings. If you dig up terrible emotions, you might want to head for the bottle."

"Put it this way," said Carter directly. "We are not going to do 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' on stage. Ever."


"We are not a problem couple," explained writer Nancy Meyers, who with writer-director Charles Shyer co-wrote "Irreconcilable Differences"--not based even loosely on their own Hollywood lives--and have just finished shooting "Baby Boom," starring Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard. "We are not living on the edge," added Meyers, whose pageboy hair and pearl necklace give her the aura of a successful, smart post-cheerleader. "We are at that point," said Meyers, 37, "where either you've made it--and you want a real life--or you know you are never going to make it--and you too want a real life."

Charles Shyer, early-40ish, looked across the 20th Century Fox editing room, nodding in agreement. The gray-haired, soft-spoken Shyer could be an actor, but he's become a director ("Irreconcilable"). He and Meyers have been together a dozen years--the proverbial Hollywood cliche of six lean years and six good years applies here. Since 1981, after their script for "Private Benjamin" turned around Goldie Hawn's career, this couple has been pretty much in control.

Shyer and Meyers are collaborators but not spouses. Awaiting the birth of their second child in October (the same month "Baby Boom" opens), they share a spacious San Fernando Valley house, much humor, most chores--but not wedding rings. Shyer looked knowingly (and lovingly) at Meyers when the subject arose. "Mrs. Charles Shyer? No, no. . . . " (The first Mrs. Charles Shyer was actress Diana Ewing.)

"Some people become 'Mrs. Somebody Else' and look what happens," added Meyers. "Being a wife is not something I perceive as enviable. Do our friends feel this way? No. Well, Ryan (O'Neal) and Farrah (Fawcett) are our friends and they feel this way. The ironic thing is, we do have this love of tradition."

Meyers means the movies. Even "Private Benjamin" deals with what Meyers calls "what marriage does to women." This couple's bond began with Hollywood images, romantic images. Pressed, they can pinpoint the moment they knew they were in love. "In bed, we were watching Preston Sturges' 'Miracle of Morgan's Creek,' and there was this moment when Eddie Bracken collapsed . . . and Chuck and I both fell out of bed laughing. That was the moment."

Shyer picks another moment as a turning point. In the early '70s, collaborating with a male partner, he was on a deadline weekend of rewriting a film for producer Ray Stark--and Nancy Meyers, Stark's story editor, was assigned to oversee the team's weekend. "At one point she left the room and I missed her."

"You fell in love with me right away."

"I hadn't thought of it before. But there have to be moments when you realize you would rather be together than apart. It's like 'His Girl Friday,' when Roz Russell finally realizes she'd rather be with Cary Grant than Ralph Bellamy. That's how I felt about Nanc. . . . "

The image of Rosalind Russell, careerist coincides with Meyers' own dream: "Any movie that had a desk in it for a woman I liked. Chuck could see the writer in me. He has this way of encouraging writers, women or men, and how many women get encouraged in this community? Also when I met Chuck he needed new blood, and I was the new blood he was stuck with."

Los Angeles Times Articles