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She Gets the 'Picture'

September 23, 1989|STACY JENEL SMITH

Denials have become a habit for Tracy Brooks Swope.

According to her, a lot of industry types and Hollywood watchers "would like to believe" that the ego-crunching studio head she plays in Columbia's "The Big Picture" comedy is modeled after Columbia chief Dawn Steel, sometimes known as Steely Dawn.

"But it's really not her," says the energetic blond actress. "It's a compilation of females now in the industry, and also, it's how men often view the female in a position of power." Besides, "when I played the part, I'd never met Dawn Steel."

Originally expected to make its way to the big screen a year ago, "The Big Picture" (which stars Kevin Bacon and was directed and co-written by Christopher Guest) went back before the cameras in January for some additional shots--nearly a year after completing production.

The delay gave Swope plenty of time to meet the woman who was not her role model.

"I found her very pleasant and nice," she says of Steel. "She liked (my) work. We sort of laughed about it."

Swope is the daughter of actress Margaret Hayes ("The Blackboard Jungle") and producer Herbert Swope Jr., the niece of Dorothy McGuire and the granddaughter of four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Herbert Bayard Swope.

For the past 2 1/2 years, she has been married to film maker John Avildsen.

Swope's own professional history began when she started doing stage work at age 10. She appeared in Broadway productions including "A Little Family Business"--as the daughter of Angela Lansbury and John McMartin--while studying acting.

A graduate of New York's High School for the Performing Arts and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Swope has spent most of the past decade working in TV and the theater.

Now, in addition to "The Big Picture," she has Pathe's newly completed "Keaton's Cop" comedy (with Lee Majors) and the Japanese-produced feature fantasy "The White Lion" awaiting release.

Being judged on the basis "of being someone's wife or someone's daughter . . . ticks me off because I'm a hard-working girl," she said. "I've worked for everything in my life, no matter what family I'm from or what I've been blessed with. It's something I'm proud of: No one's given me anything, ever."

She laughs. "I wish they would."

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