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She's After the Other Sweetest Thing

Movies* Christina Applegate's 'hot babe' image isn't holding her career aspirations back.


Christina Applegate barely pads in the door of the Coffee Bean on Sunset and pays for her tea when the assault begins. "Oh, no," she says, ducking her head, her pale eyes searching the busy cafe for a place to hide. A large man in filthy clothes has spotted the former teen star and is yammering at her in a loud voice.

As if that weren't awful enough, a tall woman with stringy brown hair begins harassing her too. "Hey, I'm bisexual!" she shouts.

The scene is both frightening and telling. For Applegate, it shows the dilemma she still faces in trying to escape her "Married ... With Children" image as just a lusty babe.

It's an image that gets updated in her new movie, "The Sweetest Thing," a gal pal comedy that also stars Cameron Diaz and Selma Blair, in which Applegate plays a sexy divorce lawyer named Courtney Rockliffe.

Courtney would probably slap the scary guy at the cafe with a restraining order or at the very least demand that this hirsute giant and his nasty friend get out of her face. But Applegate does no such thing. Looking scared, she gently talks to the man as though he were a disturbed child.

A few minutes later, safely seated at a table outside, Applegate explains that the man, Travis, is a vagrant from her old Laurel Canyon neighborhood. "He used to talk to me forever," says the 30-year-old actress. "He wants to hang out with me."

Applegate was then 17, a year into her role as Kelly Bundy on the raunchy sitcom series "Married ... With Children," and had just moved into her first house after living with her mother.

"There were a lot of vagrants around that area," she says. "One of them broke into my house. He got arrested. I don't know if Travis got arrested. But he was in this circle of bad boys who'd hang around and drink and bother people."

Now calmed down, Applegate finally gets to the reason she's here: to discuss her new movie.

Dressed in ratty jeans, a tank top and flip-flops, her face bare of makeup, she looks tiny and delicate. She's also thoughtful, low-key and nice. It's hard to connect the serious woman sipping tea with the sexpot she played on TV for 11 years.

In "The Sweetest Thing," which opened Friday and took in $10 million at the box office over the weekend, Applegate and her girlfriends swear a lot, pursue one-night stands and run around in their underwear. In short, it's single gals in their 20s as you've rarely seen them, more "American Pie" than "America's Sweethearts."

"I read the script, and I died laughing," Applegate says. "I loved the way that it really shows the women I know who are stuck in that stage of life where you're going from being a girl to a woman. You're looking for more mature relationships, and you're not really sure how to do that."

The film is being marketed by Sony as a goofy romantic comedy, so audiences may be surprised by its gross gags and coarse language.

But to Applegate, that's part of its bracing charm. "Women, I think, talk dirtier than men do behind closed doors," she confides. "I think women are more willing to use language that isn't really acceptable with each other. I loved the fact there was that banter."

Understandably, it's not a movie she's going to take her 80-year-old Italian grandmother-in-law to see. "I just don't think it's the humor of her generation," she says. "I think she'd be offended by it." Her in-laws, however, were to attend the Los Angeles premiere. "So we'll see if they still talk to me," she jokes.

Last October, in a small ceremony in Palm Springs presided over by a Catholic priest and a "metaphysical person," Applegate married her longtime boyfriend, actor Johnathon Schaech, who has a cameo in the movie as a hunk she picks up in a club.

Applegate is the kind of person who says things like: "It's not what happens to you in this life, it's what you do with it." "She's really got it together," says "Sweetest Thing" director Roger Kumble. "I don't think she'd mind me saying this, but she's a very spiritual person."

After a trail of largely forgettable movies, Applegate hopes her movie career is finally taking off. Next fall, she'll appear in "View From the Top" with Gwyneth Paltrow, a comedy about two trailer-park girls and their antics as flight attendants.

Applegate says this is a great time in her life, regardless of the success of her films. "I love being married," she says. "It's the biggest joy in the world. I love understanding what love is. And I don't think any of this," she says, meaning the movie, "would make any difference in my life if I didn't have that understanding at home."

Applegate's been working almost nonstop since she was little, when her mother took her along on her own auditions because she couldn't pay a baby-sitter. Her parents, actress Nancy Priddy and former record producer Robert Applegate, split up shortly after she was born, and Applegate lived with her mother. For a time there wasn't much money..

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