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HOLLYWOOD NOW | CLASS OF '98

The Kids are All Right

A new generation is finally sweeping into Hollywood. Here are some names to watch on both sides of the camera.

March 22, 1998|Steve Pond Renee Vogel..AU: Gregg Kilday and Dave Gardetta and Renee Vogel

Angelina Jolie

She's got the bloodlines, though you can't tell from her last name. She's had the breakthrough roles, though you won't have seen them if you restrict your moviegoing to the local multiplex. But Angelina Jolie, daughter of Jon Voight and the star of HBO's "Gia," TNT's "George Wallace" and the Rolling Stones video for "Anybody Seen My Baby," has parlayed exposure in unconventional outlets into a serious Hollywood buzz.

"She is beautiful, and she is great," says "Gia" producer Marvin Worth. "It's that simple. If she picks her next pictures right, I see her as a movie star, absolutely. Because she can do comedy, and she can do drama, and she can move."

Jolie's bravura performance as the troubled '80s fashion model Gia Carangi in HBO's recent film served notice that Voight's 22-year-old daughter couldn't be confined to the small roles she'd had in such forgettable films as "Hackers," "Playing God" and "Foxfire." It was also the second half of a one-two cable TV punch that began with her Golden Globe-winning performance as Cornelia Wallace. "Those films were the first time I saw the grand scale of what you can attempt, and what you can achieve," she says.

Jolie took more than six months off after wrapping "Gia" to clear her head and take night courses at NYU. She's now working on "Pushing Tin," a comedy from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" director Mike Newell, with Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack. Despite the rave reviews for her recent projects, she says Hollywood still isn't quite sure what to make of her.

"Even though people respond more to my work now, they don't know what to do with me," she says of her new stature within the industry. "There aren't too many roles like Wallace and Gia out there. So it's not like I suddenly fit into all the regular movies. It's almost like I don't fit even more." She laughs. "I've proven that it's that much more complicated to have me just play the wife, or the mother--which I'd love to do, and I can."

-- Steve Pond

Christina Ricci

The transition from child star to serious actor can be a minefield, and few performers have navigated it with the assurance Christina Ricci showed last year. The 18-year-old, best known for roles in such kids' stuff as "The Addams Family," "Casper" and "That Darn Cat," quietly stole the show in director Ang Lee's brooding "The Ice Storm," playing a confused 14-year-old tentatively exploring her sexuality.

Ricci insists she didn't feel as if she were doing anything new. "The movies I did before that were comedies, but I never felt like I was trying to be funny. This time I was in a hard-core drama, so it finally came out that I really was a dramatic actress."

Ricci is following "The Ice Storm" with a barrage of independent projects. At this year's Sundance Film Festival, she won acclaim for a pair of dark comedies, "Buffalo 66" and "The Opposite of Sex." Upcoming are roles in John Waters' "Pecker," Terry Gilliam's film version of the Hunter S. Thompson classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and Morgan J. Freeman's "Desert Blue," in which her character, she says delightedly, "wears all black and has a punk rock haircut and blows things up and says really dirty, nasty things to everyone."

Which means it may be time to say goodbye to Casper's sweetheart and welcome a gifted young actress with a serious dark side. That should become even clearer when she gets around to directing "Asylum," a film she's been writing since she was 15. "It started out about obsessive love between a brother and a sister," she says. "But it became more about childhood--about how when you stop being a child, a huge part of you dies. Some people can overcome that and become functioning adults, and some people can't." Ricci is frankly unsure which category she fits into.

"I feel dead," she says flatly of her nearly spent childhood. "But at the same time there's hope, because there are moments when I feel really adult and really alive. Right now I'm sort of in transition, waiting to see if I survive."

-- Steve Pond

Brendan Fraser

After five years of building a resume that ranged from ernest preppy drama ("School Ties") to light romantic comedy ("Mrs. Winterbourne") by way of occasional stage assignments (the Geffen Playhouse's "Four Dogs and a Bone"), 6-foot, 2-inch Brendan Fraser stripped down to nothing but a loincloth and goofy grin for last summer's "George of the Jungle." As the surprise hit climbed to $105 million in domestic grosses, the Industry finally took notice: Here was a good-looking guy who could swing from button-down Ivy League types to dim-witted innocents without missing a beat.

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