a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Posts tagged “Claire Danes

Gwyneth Paltrow’s second conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow

No, she’s not getting another divorce, since she hasn’t remarried (though there are rumors of that on the horizon).

But Gwyneth Paltrow is saying goodbye to GOOP. (Should that be GOOPbye then?)

The 43-year-old lifestyle guru is separating from her brand to spend more time with her spa treatments, home redecorating parties and splurge vacations in Saint-Tropez.

Seriously, no reason was given for her change of strategy. Just a few months ago, in fact, she had stated that she’d basically retired from acting to make GOOP her full-time endeavor.

I’m not sure how this is possible. The website has her initials, or some strange variant thereof, said to be a nickname the actress likes. Then again, she named her daughter after a fruit. Or maybe it was her favorite laptop.

She really believes she got where she did the same way as, say, Claire Danes did. “[My father] said, you know, ‘You are completely on your own.’ He never gave me anything…So, the idea that I am spoiled or that I didn’t work for what I have is just not accurate.” I’m sure no one on the receiving end of her phone calls and auditions knew who her parents were. And the fact that her first substantial appearance to the world was in a film made by her godfather, who also happens to be Steven Spielberg, is complete coincidence.

To me her “lifestyle” choices largely have the ring of celebrity New Age hedonism. Not that that isn’t very popular—everyone today wants to be famous—but she sometimes acts like her website’s mission is to save the world. But she has more followers than I do, so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

There’s nothing wrong with splurges. But when GOOP calls a woodburning backyard pizza oven or a facial that costs more than most house payments a “splurge,” when its holiday gift guide would make even George Soros blink at his credit card statement, you have to wonder what world this chick lives in.

The Gwynnie who says she’s got it tougher than most people, and that other moms can keep themselves in the flawless shape she does if they really work at it appears to be rather tone-deaf to the very people who made her rich and famous, spending their weekend crusts to see her Miramax movies at cineplexes in suburban cities she probably despises. Not to say there aren’t media outlets that are very sympathetic to this sort of lifestyle. Their readership is exactly the demo that goes for such very blonde, very New England-y inhabitants as those who seem to come to GP’s soirées. Most such rich people just enjoy this lifestyle quietly, however, and don’t feel the compulsion to rub others’ noses in it.

As for GOOP, “My dream is that one day no one will remember that I had anything to do with it,” she recently said. Amen. But perhaps it wasn’t her dream. Perhaps it was the dream of others, business partners who came on board and possibly suggested the uncoupling. I have no idea if that actually happened, but the about-face stance seems very sudden and, to me, very un-Gwyneth. What’s she going to do with all her free time, Shakespeare in Love 2: Viola Returns from Virginia? (Actually, that could be pretty good.)

I am sad that now I won’t know where to get the best colon-cleanse, but I guess I’ll just have to use Yelp or ask my tony friends.

Meanwhile, join me in saying goodbye to GOOP as we know it.

 

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Jennifer Lawrence, meet Welsey Shaw…

When I was writing Entertaining Welsey Shaw, one of the most pressing questions for me was why would Welsey, insanely famous actress, want to hang with an ordinary schmo. (And if you don’t understand the relevance of that question, click on the link above to read a synopsis of the plot of Entertaining Welsey Shaw.)

I finally settled on the reason that he was grounded, he was normal, a respite from her crazy world filled with phonies. But I wondered if it was believable. After all, most celebrities tend to hang with other celebrities. Then again, a lot of celebrities are more delusional and narcissistic than Welsey Shaw.

So it was refreshing to read that Jennifer Lawrence is very similar to my fictitious thespian. Like Welsey, the young star has experienced meteoric fame—and has had to adjust. She says “I have a very small circle,” she says. “The moment I feel like someone is using me or is in it for the wrong reasons, I have zero guilt about just cutting them the f— out of my life.”

(Like Welsey Shaw, J-Law has a salty vocabulary.)

Lawrence says, “My bullshit detector is phenomenal. None of my friends bullshits me. Everything in my life has to be real.”

Lawrence says it’s hard to let people to get close to you when you’re famous—something Welsey knows. “People start to feel a lot less guilty when you become bigger or have more money,” she says. “People feel less guilty taking from you because it’s like stealing a Snickers from Duane Reade [a drugstore]. People forget about the personal drain or attack that you feel.”

But with that wariness comes loneliness. As her fame has expanded, her circle of people she can trust has shrunk.

The same is true for Welsey Shaw. And that’s why she comes, every Wednesday, to just happen to “bump into” a very ordinary guy from small-town Callicoon, NY. Just because.

Because, as Clarie Danes has said in a somewhat similar context, “Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found.”

Welsey loves acting too. But it isn’t the answer that it is for Claire. And I suspect it isn’t quite a satisfying answer for Claire either.

For people like Welsey (and Claire, and Jennifer), its’ a strange paradox that life’s possibilities in some ways are very limited. And there’s nothing they can do about it.

 


Rejection

CCD

Before Claire Danes (Homeland) was famous, she was famous (My So-Called Life). But in-between there was a long period where nothing happened with her career. She was in non-event movie after non-event movie. Some of them (Igby Goes Down) were very good, and should be better-known. Some of them (The Mod Squad) are probably not her favorite topics for dinner conversation.

It seems incredible to know when we see a famous person, someone we’re used to watching on the red carpet or emerging from stretch limos, that so much of their life has been spent hearing rejection, getting hung up on, being told they weren’t good enough or weren’t good at all. That’s because Entertainment Tonight and TMZ don’t profile these types of moments. They remain invisible, not part of the legend.

But any career in the arts—well, any career in anything, really—entails a lot of rejection. Since my novel Entertaining Welsey Shaw is now making the rounds among literary agents, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Unless your name is Kardashian you don’t have a guaranteed built-in audience for your project. And maybe someday God will reawaken from his slumber, and even the Kardashians will lose their luster. Or even be smited.

Here’s an interesting clip from when Claire was “in between” fames, somewhere after My So-Called Life and Romeo+Juliet, somewhere before Homeland. She talks about rejection and how she copes with it. Knowing a famous star has to deal with the same kicks in the teeth as you—except she’s probably had to deal with many more—puts things in perspective just a bit.

 

For Claire things got so bad that for a while she actually had to shill for house paint and do commercials for eyelash enhancements. And now she’s got more award bling than she can count, thanks to her Showtime series and the HBO movie Temple Grandin. But Claire is smart and aware, and I’m sure she knows some day she may hear—likely will hear—phones hang up again. I once knew a television news producer, himself a winner of more than a couple Emmys, who said to me, “I’m only as good as my last newscast.” Substitute movie or TV show and you could be describing many stars in Hollywood.

It’s not necessarily an easy life, despite how glamorous it looks from the outside. Perhaps that’s why Welsey Shaw quit the biz.

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Balancing fame

 

It’s adorable, really. A cherubic 15-year-old Claire Danes rollerblading around Venice Beach promoting her brand new TV show, My So-Called Life.

Entertainment Tonight dug the video out of their vaults for the 20th anniversary of that short-lived show that nonetheless refuses to die. It probably has more fans now than it did when it ran on ABC.

Claire Danes had was not yet the “it” girl she’d soon become. In fact, this was her first regular acting gig. Rumor has it several years earlier she turned down the role of the little girl in the red dress in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, because she felt she’d just be a “glorified extra.” I love to think this story is true because if it is it shows just how focused Claire was even as a little kid. She wasn’t interested in stardom. She wanted to be an actress.

Even back in 1994 she seemed to already be aware of the hazards of fame.  “I just want to be a sane person,” she says. (Interestingly, she sure has played more than her share of people who are quite psychologically strung out.)

Even as a teen, Claire had a grown-up’s list of aspirations that are quite impressive:

I don’t want to be an actress. I want to be doing good work that is well written and has good people in it. I want to be learning. I want to be getting a good education. Somehow, I want to be able to manage all of that. I want to have a good balance of things.

Clearly not your average 15-year-old. Even then, Claire Danes was remarkable.

There used to be a Charlie Rose clip on YouTube of a college-aged Claire Danes where she spoke about growing up different and loneliness and all sorts of other things in a way you wouldn’t expect from a college freshman. Unfortunately it’s gone now, but it illustrated how deeply she thought about things even then. And how she was aware she was “different.”

This is something Welsey Shaw knows well. She too is aware she is different. She too feels loneliness and emptiness often, though she can’t quite pin down the reason why.

Not that Welsey is Claire. Welsey is a smashup of many people, and part imagination. Certainly I don’t know of any star as tart-mouthed as my heroine (in a witty sort of way).

But it’s nice to know Welsey has a basis in reality, in actresses who are still with us today, at the top of their game, searching, finding, creating.

Angela Chase would be impressed.

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Isolated

Hating the paparazzi

Bella Swan expressing herself to the paparazzi.

Kristen Stewart took the words right out of my mouth.

The Twilight star says in a recent interview she and most actors feel isolated by their fame.

She tells the new issue of Loaded magazine that famous people aren’t seen as approachable by…well, the rest of us…and as a consequence they spend a lot of their time being very lonely.

Not that the average person, seeing them surrounded by flashbulbs and adoring crowds on the red carpet, would think so. When the studios are packaging and presenting them, they appear to be people who have it all, who live the perfect lives we all want.

“Actors become so isolated. It’s like people aren’t allowed to talk to us. Like if you’re a big star, or whatever, if you’re like a famous person, it’s kind of lonely. Like people don’t want to talk to you.”

She goes on: “You’re just constantly thinking about what other people are thinking about you. I think it’s people who want to be movie stars – and this is such bullshit – but the life really is a huge driving force in so many actors and actresses. Solely. And they won’t be happy at the end, because they’re not doing anything for themselves, everything is for someone else.”

I was struck by how much this sound like Welsey Shaw.  There’s a scene in my novel—which is going out into that mysterious place called Agentland right now—where she quotes a mantra from her therapist, the one stabilizing force in her life. “My therapist constantly warns me against confusing fame with love,” she says. “He tells me that fame isn’t love, that love comes from someplace else.”

This is a riff of a quote from Claire Danes, who once said, “I think people confuse fame with validation or love. But fame is not the reward. The reward is getting fulfilment out of doing the thing you love.”

But Stewart takes it even further. She talks about the need for validation and approval in ways I’d have thought, if I’d put it into Entertaining Welsey Shaw, would have been too over-the-top. Apparently nothing in Hollywood is over the top.

“I’ve seen people hire a friend. Literally, like, you hire someone. They’re your assistant but then lines start to blur and now they’re a co-worker, an associate, an employee, my friend, my sister, somebody that I’m attracted to.”

Wow. Friends for hire. Maybe that’s something for the sequel.

In the same magazine, another superstar actress, Keira Knightly, talks about her own issues with fame. She claims all the trappings of celebrity—she’s married to a hot-shot Britush rocker—don’t impress her, and says hubby handles it better than she does even as she says it’s different for men: “I think it’s a very different thing for male bands, male folk. They get adulation on stage and they might get a couple of people outside, but they’re not dealing with a media that is obsessed with female celebrity.”

I’ve written about Knightly before. She seems to keep herself distant from fame and its distortion of reality, going so far as to “hang out” in places like coffee shops and cafes watching other people, so’s not to get out of touch or find herself in a bubble. Again, this is straight out of my novel. I’m glad I seem to have hit the nail on the head, at least as far as how some celebrities handle their fame. There are those who will always live just for the spotlight, even though they have precious little to offer it (won’t name names, but I can think of a whole family of daughters that does this, driven by a very business-minded mom whose very life is a TV show taunting you to keep up with it). The difference between people like that and Knightly and Stewart is enlightening.

Knightly was asked in the Loaded interview about the first time she realized she was famous. She said, “Luckily it was so long ago that I can’t remember what it was like when it happened.” But, “I’m still alive and I’m not a drug addict so it must have been all right.”

As Stephen Sondheim might say, I’m Still Here.

Read more about Kristen Stewart’s interview here. And read about Keira Knightly here:

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