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PROFILE : The Amy Chronicles : After years in the shadow of her parents, not to mention ex-husband Steven Spielberg, Amy Irving is now secure in her own identity. 'I've never been so alive,' says star of Arthur Miller's new play, 'Broken Glass'

April 17, 1994|PATRICK PACHECO | Patrick Pacheco is a regular contributor to Calendar who lives in New York. Judy Brennan, a regular contributor to Calendar, contributed to this article

About this time, Irving met Spielberg through George Lucas (she had auditioned for but lost out on the part of Princess Leia in "Star Wars"). The attraction was instantaneous but volatile from the start, exacerbated by the director's growing profile. After several years together, the two split up in the early '80s. Irving gave up the role she was set to play in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and took stock of her life in an adobe house high above Santa Fe.

"You start out being Jules Irving's daughter," Irving said at the time, "and you finally break away from that to become Amy Irving, and then you become Steven Spielberg's girlfriend, and, well, I was having an identity crisis. I had to take positive action and get a new sense of myself."

The positive action led her to the New York stage, earning good reviews and, more important, her exacting father's approval, when she took over the role of Constanza, Mozart's wife, in "Amadeus" in 1980.

Irving says it was one of the happiest times of her life, and more success followed in movies, including Barbra Streisand's "Yentl" (1983), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress, and Joan Micklin Silver's "Crossing Delancey" (1988).

"I didn't want to do 'Yentl' at first," Irving says now. "I thought Hadass was just this submissive and pretty little airhead, but Barbra's a hard woman to say no to."

Irving's successes on film and stage gave her enough confidence to resume her relationship with Spielberg in 1985. When she became pregnant with Max, the couple decided to tie the knot in a private civil ceremony in Santa Fe later that year.

While Spielberg continued to develop and oversee projects in his film empire, Irving opted largely for television ("Anastasia," "Far Pavilions") and theater ("The Road to Mecca"). She received few film offers, but she did get a chance to try out a sultry vocal technique when she dubbed in the singing voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," for which Spielberg was an executive producer.

The marriage, however, soon started to show the strains of an ambitious couple pursuing their private agendas. And Irving continued to rankle under her unofficial status as consort to the Prince of Hollywood.

"During my marriage to Steven, I felt like a politician's wife," she says. "There were certain things expected of me that definitely weren't me. One of my problems is that I'm very honest and direct. You pay a price for that. But then I behaved myself and I paid a price too."

Irving made it clear, however, that it was she, more than her husband, who placed those pressures on herself. The marriage ended amicably in 1989 amid reports in the press of a divorce settlement of about $100 million. Spielberg married actress Kate Capshaw in 1991.

Irving almost immediately became involved with director Barreto ("Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands"). They met when he cast her for the role of a spirited Puerto Rican television reporter who uncovers political chicanery in "A Show of Force," which was critically panned and fared poorly at the box office.

Their relationship, however, bloomed. Suddenly, Irving was dancing samba and singing in full costume at Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, speaking Portuguese in the couple's home in the coastal resort of Buzios, north of the city.

"I think I was just as surprised as everybody else," she says. "I didn't want to get involved that quickly, and Bruno and I tried to keep our relationship professional at first. But being exposed to this Brazilian world has enriched me in multiples. I've enjoyed it--a lot ! This has been the happiest relationship of my life."

Barreto has been supportive of her professional life, even if that has meant occasionally uprooting family. But the film offers, somewhat to her chagrin, remain meager. Acknowledging that she finds the self-promotion necessary for stardom to be "hideous," Irving says that at the same time, she is frustrated by her lack of options.

"I was out there trying," she says. "I couldn't get meetings. I couldn't beg through the door."

Could Hollywood's cold shoulder have been caused, at least in part, by her split from the powerful Spielberg?

"I think it hurt being Steven Spielberg's wife," she says, "and then it hurt being the ex-Mrs. Steven Spielberg. It was awkward for a while. I don't know why. I only know that I felt nonexistent."

In addition, Irving has had a reputation for being difficult with some producers.

"I absolutely never found that to be the case," says Micklin Silver, who directed Irving in what is widely considered to be her best film role, "Crossing Delancey." "Amy is a pleasure. She has a great delicacy as an actress that I appreciated. She was never on a star trip, always the professional and generous to a fault."

But Irving is the first to say that some producers wouldn't agree.

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