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Post-Oscar Poll, Non-Actor Division

Actors regularly reap fame and fortune with an Academy Award. Winners in technical areas find the reaction less predictable.

May 04, 1997|Robert Stevens | Robert Stevens is a Times staff writer

Looking for Bruce Stambler? Try the "Twilight Zone." That's the dimension where the Oscar-winning sound effects editor now lives.

His evidence, submitted for your approval: "It's bizarre," Stambler says. "I went to a preview for a movie I'm doing now and I'm riding back in the limousine with the producer of the movie and he tells me that the limo driver who picked me up at the airport kept the tag with my name on it. And I'm like, 'That is so weird.' I mean, that is so weird!"

In search of Academy Award winner Jessica Yu? Try Wendy's. "I feel like the lady who said, 'Where's the Beef?' or something," she says.

People now know Yu, who won an Academy Award for her short subject documentary, "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien," as the woman who quipped at the Oscars that her outfit cost more than her movie.

And as for Oscar winner David Frankel? Well, unless you've got a time machine, don't bother. Frankel, whose film "Dear Diary" won for best live-action short, is back in junior high.

"I feel like the kid who got his braces off in the eighth grade: 'Wow!' " Frankel says of his newfound industry attention, "Suddenly the girls are talking to me."

Each year millions watch the Oscars. But for the most part, they tune in to see who wins best actor or actress, which picture wins the top award, or just to celebrity-watch. Best sound effects editing, best documentary short subject, best live-action short--these lower-profile contests don't bring in the ratings; these are, as Yu jokingly puts it, the "bathroom break" categories.

When the Oscar-winning actors are cast in their next films, it tends to be widely publicized. But for many of the other winners, the public never hears what comes next for them. Here's how a few of them are doing:

David Leroy Anderson's trips to the pharmacy have been taking longer lately, though he isn't complaining. "The greatest part about [winning] is how it's affected everyone around me that knows me," says Anderson, who won for his work on "The Nutty Professor." "They're proud and excited. . . . I live in Malibu and it's kind of a small town in that you know all of the shopkeepers, and I mean I'm getting hugs from across the counter in every store I walk into."

Anderson, now doing makeup for "Krippendorf's Tribe," starring Richard Dryefuss and directed by Todd Holland for Touchstone, is "basically just a freelance makeup artist." Work for the past few years has been steady, but since the win Anderson gets called about work almost daily. "It's become kind of a joke," Anderson says. "Every day I come home and say to my wife, 'Any offers?' and she usually has a few written down."

But winning an Oscar can have its adverse effects, says three-time Oscar winner Chris Newman. This year the production sound mixer was one of a four-man team that won the best sound award for "The English Patient." "After I won my first Oscar, a lot of people were convinced that I was going to ask for so much money that they were a little reluctant to hire me," says Newman, who won for 1973's "The Exorcist" and 1984's "Amadeus." "I think that it is a different structure with technicians than it is with actors. They say an actor can get X amount of dollars more. I don't think that's necessarily true with a sound mixer on sets. It might put a person more in demand."

Newman says that winning the award this year brought on many more people trying to contact him. "It's interesting to note the difference," says Newman, currently working on Mike Nichols' "Primary Colors" at Universal. "You get more phone calls. I got so many calls this time that the voicemail was full for days." That amounts to about 100 calls, he says. Friends, colleagues and people he didn't know called; congratulations and job offers were made.

The immense amount of calls that Yu, writer-director-producer of "Breathing Lessons," has received has been overwhelming and somewhat frustrating, she says. "I'm the kind of person who likes to return my calls," Yu says. "But it just hasn't been possible, and that causes a bit of anxiety.

"Besides all the personal calls," says Yu, who is presently making "The Living Museum," a documentary about a New York mental institution, "there were also a lot of press requests . . . and then a lot of requests for speaking engagements, and then just people who want to meet you for one reason or another and you don't even know if you should call them back to find out why they want to meet you." After her documentary was nominated, Illusion, one of Oliver Stone's production companies, contacted her about developing "Breathing Lessons" into a full-length feature film. She's now waiting to see if financing for the project comes through.

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