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'High School' Confidential

What if two hot actresses like Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino hook up on a set and don't fight? On location at 'Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.'

August 04, 1996|Carla Hall | Carla Hall is a Times staff writer

Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino emerge from their trailers at the same time, and that alone puts an end to one piece of tawdry gossip: the tabloid report that had Kudrow refusing to set foot on the set of "Romy & Michele's High School Reunion" if Sorvino wasn't there first.

"Whoa! Oh my God, I can't imagine," Kudrow says. She and her co-star are well aware of the published report about their supposed rivalry.

But first-time movie director David Mirkin, whose on-set mantra is work hard but make a lot of jokes, can't resist taunting his two stars.

"Now that you're here," he assures a reporter in front of them, "this will be the one day they won't feud." The two actresses balk in unison.

They certainly appear friendly. As the two stand on a Beverly Boulevard sidewalk waiting for a cue, they chat and giggle. And just in case anybody missed the point, Kudrow calls out breathlessly: "Swear to God, we're friends! Swear to God!"

Indeed, Kudrow and Sorvino have more in common than their starring roles in Mirkin's new film, being touted by its cast and producers as a smart female-buddy comedy. Kudrow has gargantuan TV fame from her role as the cleverly ditzy Phoebe of "Friends." Sorvino won an Oscar playing the trashily ditzy prostitute in Woody Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite." They both graduated from elite East Coast schools--Kudrow from Vassar, Sorvino from Harvard.

"Smart and smarter," Kudrow nicknamed the two of them.

"Smarter," Kudrow says, pointing to Sorvino.

"Smarter," Sorvino says, pointing to Kudrow.

"Smarter," Kudrow says and points to. . . .

Oh, all right, girls, enough--we get it.

"People always think women are going to fight," says the film's screenwriter, Robin Schiff, who also serves as executive producer. "These two get along great. The key to this movie is their connection and their believability as friends. Without that, the whole movie doesn't work. So they damn well better find a way to connect for their own survival."

They may not be as fiercely bonded as the title characters they play--two eccentric friends who survived high school together and have been roommates ever since--but Kudrow and Sorvino currently share that fairy-dusted aerie in the Hollywood skyline reserved for hot stars of the moment. Janeane Garofalo, who just starred in "The Truth About Cats & Dogs," rounds out the cast, playing the kind of sardonic, biting character that has become her forte and won her legions of fans among smart people who like smart comedy.

So for several weeks this summer, a movie that languished in development for four years was suddenly rolling with three hot actresses and a little frisson of excitement--as much as Hollywood can muster for a film that centers on women (eeew!) instead of aliens, Marine pilots and prison convicts.

"The dailies are very popular," says director Mirkin's agent, Robb Rothman, who dashed over to the Hollywood location shoot from a meeting. Touchstone is considering releasing the film next summer.

For both Kudrow and Sorvino, it is a first chance at leading roles in a major Hollywood film. At 33, Kudrow has wound her way through improvisational comedy, theater and television. In six years, Sorvino has gone from college graduate to movie star--with all its attendant perks and worries.

Age must be one of the latter. Sorvino says she's 26, but the 1990 Harvard yearbook indicates she's just two months shy of her 29th birthday. (Sorvino could not be reached for comment; her publicist, Heidi Schaeffer, said, "We've never really discussed her age.")

Being hot when you're making a movie means having an audience before you're done--the visiting reporters, the camera-wielding snoops, the stars of similar status who wander by to have a look.

Between takes, Sorvino rarely loses sight of a reporter, solicitously offering long, earnest answers to questions or worrying self-consciously about her conversations with the director being overheard.

"There was only one film I had done up until last year that ever had any behind-the-scenes-making-of," Sorvino says, referring to "Barcelona" (though she also had a small part in the high-profile "Quiz Show"). "I was used to working in isolation with the crew and the director. And I felt like it was completely our baby until it was done. And now it's this thing of sharing the process with the public. That's been a little unnerving for me."

She's also reluctant to have her father, actor Paul Sorvino, or her filmmaker-beau, Quentin Tarantino, see her at work.

"I hate it," she says. "It's the idea of them watching me act and thinking about it critically--not that either of them would. But I think that they are."

Sorvino did let Tarantino go to a night shoot for the film--but he arrived just as the cast and crew were wrapping up.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, he's coming, don't let me see him when he arrives,' " she says. "But then I became so paranoid I kept looking for him. I was like, 'Wait, is that him? Did he get here?' " She laughs. "It totally threw me."

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