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Jerry Hall Starts With 'Bus Stop' : The model has landed her first major acting job--on the London stage in a role made famous on film by Marilyn Monroe

April 08, 1990|DAVID GRITTEN

LONDON — There's a star on the dressing room door, and inside, an overpowering scent from massed bouquets of flowers. Notes are pinned around the mirror, with scrawled endearments such as "Break a leg!" from the likes of Ben Kingsley and Tom Conti.

It's all so very . . . actressy.

"Ah just lerv all this," says Jerry Hall, with genuine enthusiasm infusing her Texan drawl.

As well she might. Hitherto, Hall has been best known as an international model and as the constant companion of Mick Jagger and mother of two of his children--in other words, someone who's well-known for being well-known.

Now, at 33, Hall is also being taken seriously as an actress. She's starring at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in a production of "Bus Stop," the 1955 William Inge play about a group of lonely souls stranded in a Midwest diner overnight during a snowstorm.

The drama was memorably adapted for film--and Jerry Hall has taken Marilyn Monroe's role of the self-styled "chantoose" Cherie, the vulnerable small-town showgirl with big-time aspirations.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 15, 1990 Home Edition Calendar Page 99 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
The credit for the photograph of model/actress Jerry Hall in the April 8 edition was erroneous. The correct credit is Sven Arnstein of the Katz agency.

Given that she's a fledgling actress coping with a starring role, and that she's also stepping into Monroe's high heels, expectations for her West End debut did not run high.

But Hall has received praise from London's theater critics, even those who did not feel Inge's play has aged well. There's been a lot of talk about Hall's deliberately bad rendition of the classic song "That Old Black Magic," dressed in a provocative showgirl costume.

"All the critics said I could act," notes Hall. "They grudgingly admitted it. But that was nice."

Although many reviews compared Hall's portrayal to Monroe's, Hall insists: "I'd look silly if I tried to copy Marilyn Monroe. I hadn't seen the movie for a while. I liked it, but I didn't want to watch it and try to pick up any of the things she had done.

"I think a lot of the critics were expecting the movie, which is completely different from the play," adds Hall. "It's a delicate play. Not a lot happens. It's about lonely people looking for love." (The film also omitted a crucial character, the middle-aged pedophile Dr. Lyman, and downplayed the sexual aspect of Cherie's relationship with her brash cowboy lover, portrayed here by Shaun Cassidy.)

Still, advance bookings for "Bus Stop" are sufficiently healthy to ensure it will complete its scheduled six-month run.

And that's reason enough for Hall to be beaming as she sinks into a chair in her dressing room. She's clad in a tiny red mini-dress, which accentuates her height (around six feet), her svelte frame (achieved without aerobics or fitness routine), and her legs (about half as long as Piccadilly).

She has softer features in person than in photographs, which can make her look angular. Her long blond mane often cascades over one eye, Veronica Lake-style. She flings her arms about to emphasize a point in mock theatrical gestures, and adopts a vampish, tongue-in-cheek demeanor, allowing her Texan vowel sounds full rein.

"I always liked acting," she says. "Throughout my modeling career, I always tried to get acting parts, but it was always a small role where I was a model, I walked on, said a few lines and walked off again. Nothing substantial.

"My first big break was given to me by Lorne Michaels, producer of 'Saturday Night Live.' He asked me to host the show, which was a really heavy-duty thing for me. But Lorne liked me and had faith, and I did it and everyone said I was real funny.

"Then I was asked to do a pilot for NBC. It was a sitcom, and I was a model. I'm glad it didn't get picked up actually, because it was typecasting. Instead they picked up 'ALF'--you know, the dawg from outer space? You know you're in trouble when you're beaten out by a dawg ."

She had a small part in the movie "Batman," and made her debut in "Bus Stop" in 1988 at the state college Theaterfest in Montclair, N.J.

Phil Oesterman, the production's director, saw her in New York on "Late Night With David Letterman." "I had no idea who she was, she was just this blond, fabulous woman," said Oesterman by phone from New York. "Then she and Letterman started talking about Mick, and I realized it must be Jerry Hall.

"Tommy Tune had told me about her, because she had gone in to audition for him for the Twiggy part in 'My One and Only.' Tommy told me she couldn't sing or dance well enough, but there was something special about her.

"After the Letterman show was over, I lay in bed wondering what would be good for her, and I eventually realized 'Bus Stop' would be ideal. I called her agent the next day, she came over to read about noon, and that was it. I felt I'd known her all my life. She was born about 20 miles away from me in Texas, so it was like there was this spiritual bond or something."

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