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Here and Now

Can you name every A-lister's B-list clone?

May 29, 2003|Jim Brooks | Times Staff Writer

Call it the "Hollywood Doubles" game. Or, the more snarky "She's a Huge Star, So Why Am I Voicing a Squirrel?"

The players: Renee Zellweger and Joey Lauren Adams.

Joey Lauren who?

Exactly.

Seven years ago I fell for Zellweger in "Jerry Maguire." She had me at "hello."

The next year I fell equally in lust with Adams when she dallied with Ben Affleck in "Chasing Amy." Same corn-fed, blond good looks. Same crinkly smile. Same mix of spunk and vulnerability. Same good reviews.

This month Zellweger, basking in back-to-back best actress Oscar nominations, returned in the lavish "Down With Love" opposite Ewan McGregor.

The last thing I saw Adams in, well heard her in, was "Dr. Dolittle 2" -- she was the voice of a squirrel

It's a cruel, cruel world -- Hollywood-style.

Such is the fickle finger of fate in a town that always seems to have a B-league doppelganger for each of its starrier denizens. Who ultimately works the main room and who gets the lounge is decided by any number of factors.

Sometimes it's talent. Sometimes luck. And it's hardly new.

What was Joan Collins but Liz Taylor-lite? (No jokes, please.)

Jayne Mansfield? A poor man's Marilyn.

Fabian? Elvis sans the dangerous pelvis.

At a party recently, the subject came up. Someone recalled when Broadway babies Barbra Streisand and Lainie Kazan once were mentioned in the same breath. (That must have given The Voice shingles, even then.) Just imagine Streisand today bellowing through "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

For a time, Jon Cryer ("Pretty in Pink") threatened to topple the similarly tousled Matthew Broderick as the big screen's reigning cheeky boy of mischief. But the unfortunate "Famous Teddy Z" ultimately proved no match for "Ferris Bueller."

Broderick even got the girl, Sarah Jessica Parker, who, before partaking of "Sex and the City," toiled in confusion with Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker (at least in my brain).

Flash forward to this century and there's the Reese Witherspoon/Alicia Silverstone vortex. Or as one party wag noted, "Reese Witherspoon is Alicia Silverstone if she could act."

Maybe he's on to something. What else accounts for Silverstone's career, which careened from "Clueless' " peak -- a fluke perhaps? -- to the unfortunate "Excess Baggage" and something called "Rock My World," which has been a Showtime cable filler of late. (Maybe her stock will rise with NBC's recently announced "Miss Match," a light romantic drama for the fall, though that title is a punchline waiting to happen.)

Meanwhile, Witherspoon has hopscotched from "Pleasantville" to "Election" to "Legally Blonde" to the $15-million-paycheck club.

Of course, the phenomenon isn't limited to movies. The entertainment industry as a whole often seems to work on the maxim that mimicry is the sincerest form of praise -- or at least the easiest path to profitability.

Ever seen Britney Spears and her lesser-sister-in-song Jessica Simpson in the same room? More pertinent, can anyone over 25 tell the two pop divas apart? Simpson was even heard voicing relief when the more salesworthy Spears recently went brunette. Yeah, that ought to help her cause.

And isn't Justin Guarini, last season's "American Idol" runner-up, Justin Timberlake before he cropped his hair?

You too can turn the Hollywood Clone Wars into a party game. A trivial mind helps.

Say "Johnny Depp," for example. If your first thought is, "Whatever happened to Skeet Ulrich?" you're in the club.

Jim Brooks can be contacted at jim.brooks@latimes.com.

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