A LOVE LIKE NO OTHER HEWITT WEARS COMEDY WELL IN 'THE TUXEDO,' BUT DIRECTORS SAY HER TALENT KEEPS GROWING.
MEMO TO THE Hollywood ``attaboy!'' community. Anybody looking to melt the heart of actress Jennifer Love Hewitt might consider the following piece of advice.
Say it with roses.
``If I ever got flowers from a fellow artist just telling me 'congratulations' on something, I would bawl my eyes out,'' says Hewitt, the 23-year-old star of ``The Tuxedo.'' ``I would be so moved, I would keep that card for the rest of my life.''
Hewitt, well-known for expressing admiration for other performers' work, has been on the sender's end of flower delivery. She was so moved by Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar acceptance speech following Paltrow's best-actress win for ``Shakespeare in Love'' that she sent the actress three dozen roses accompanied by ``the only fan letter I've ever written in my entire life. And I'd write one again because of the way she responded.''
Hewitt says, ``I think Hollywood, L.A. and the entertainment industry can be as big and distant between people and business as as you want it to be, and it can be as tight and as close knit as you want it to be. I prefer to just let people know that I appreciate their work. If nothing else, the next time I see them, I automatically have a connection with them and can maybe make a new friend.''
What, you expected a lady who goes by ``Love'' to be un-friendly?
Hewitt is anything but. She's polite, forthcoming and possessed of a laugh that is perilously close to a giggle. Co-stars frequently are identified with a ``Mr.'' in front of their name (as in, ``Anytime I could work with Mr. Anthony Hopkins, I would be honored.'')
Hewitt shares ``The Tuxedo'' with martial-arts star Jackie Chan, a man who has no shortage of charisma himself. It's nonetheless a rather unusual pairing, agrees Hewitt, until you get the gimmick: For a majority of this family-friendly romp, intelligence agent Del Blaine (played by Hewitt) has no idea that her new partner Jimmy Tong (Chan) is actually a bumbling chauffeur, impersonating a spy.
``The Tuxedo'' gently sends up James Bond's sophistication and gadgetry. Jimmy pulls of the scam largely through the use of a magic tuxedo that gives his boss, Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), extraordinary abilities. When an assassination attempt puts Devlin out of commission, Jimmy puts on the tuxedo and assumes Devlin's identity, much to the bewilderment of Del, who assumed she was partnering with a legendary agent.
Del's a water-analysis expert, socially gawky, but with enough martial- arts moves - thanks to some rigorous preproduction training - to kick some butt. Upon reading the script, Hewitt bit immediately, especially after she learned that Chan was attached.
``I wanted the character (of Del) to be a little feistier, which we ended up working on doing,'' says Hewitt. ``She was incredibly smart, kind of an older, more-professional type person. I also liked that she had a really nerdy streak.''
La dee bra
Still, the script by Michael J. Wilson and Michael Leeson didn't let Hewitt escape without having Del experience more than a few cleavage jokes. Ever the good sport, Hewitt played along. She's been dealing with remarks about her upper torso since her days as tight-shirt-wearing teen horror queen in Kevin Williamson's ``I Know What You Did Last Summer'' and its sequel.
``Boobs and things are brought up so much and sort of talked about so much that I almost think of them as a completely different person,'' she says. ``So I don't really think about it or take offense. I wish there was something else about me they could use to make jokes about, or talk about in interviews, but that's kind of not my job. If that's what they respond to, then fine.''
An appreciative Kevin Donovan, ``The Tuxedo's'' director, understands that Hewitt doesn't want to be ``the T and A'' girl. ``I think she's willing to make fun of her body and she trusted us to a certain degree,'' the director says. ``She's certainly anything but a floozy.''
A native of Waco, Texas, Hewitt began her career on the TV series ``Kids Incorporated.'' She spent five seasons as Sarah Reeves on the Fox show ``Party of Five'' and one more on its spinoff, ``Time of Your Life,'' which she also produced. A musician as well, Hewitt's fourth album comes out on Jive Records in October.
The on-screen transition from teen to adult has been challenging, particularly given Hewitt's recent choice of roles. In 2000, Hewitt found herself under a critical microscope when it was announced she would play the title role in - and co-executive produce - ABC's ``The Audrey Hepburn Story.'' The reviews were mixed, but Hewitt takes pride in the accomplishment.
``I grew so much as an actor, whether people realize it or not, and I was proud of myself for doing something that I was absolutely afraid to do. Because normally that's not how I am.''
And that would be ...
``If I'm afraid of things, normally I just won't do them, simple things like roller coasters and things like that,'' she continues. ``Here was something I was terrified to do, and I actually stuck with it and did it anyway.''
``Hepburn'' director Steven Robman, who also had worked with Hewitt on ``Party of Five'' and ``Time of Your Life,'' remembers the pressure, the inevitable Hewitt-Hepburn comparisons and how overbooked his star was. ``Making a lunch date with Love Hewitt requires computerization,'' he says.
``She was always a terrific actress and very professionally responsible, all the stuff you hope for as a director,'' says Robman. ``I believe completely she can grow and stretch in a way that few actors are capable of doing. Will she manage her career to show off her depth and range? Only she and her representatives can tell you that.''
Citing her ready-to-go demeanor and perfectly memorized lines, ``The Tuxedo's'' Donovan says that Hewitt was almost too professional. He was always pleased to see the playful, slightly goofy Hewitt emerge.
``As a child actor, you learn to be composed. Your mother's always telling you, 'Don't act like a stupid kid,' '' says Donovan, who calls Hewitt a ``complete joy to work with.'' ``My job, in a lot of ways, was to have her be more spontaneous and have more fun, to get those bits of her into the movie.''
Hewitt insists she's enjoying herself, albeit in an exhausted kind of way. The summer saw her splitting her time between publicizing ``The Tuxedo'' and her new album, ``Bare Naked.'' A remake of ``The Devil and Daniel Webster'' directed by Alec Baldwin and starring Baldwin, ``Mr. Anthony Hopkins'' and Hewitt as Satan, is completed, but is the subject of legal disputes. Hewitt's production company is developing a romantic drama that Hewitt would produce and star in. It would go before the cameras in London at the end of the year.
And don't think Hewitt doesn't find the behind-the-scenes work seductive.
``My dream is one day I'll have this great desk and this amazing production company that will have started from a one-room office and is now like an entire building somewhere,'' says Hewitt, ``and big people are coming to me and saying, 'Will you produce this movie?' And I'll be like, 'Let me think about that. Yes, I will.' ''
(1 -- cover -- color) Getting her kicks
JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT makes her formal action debut with JACKIE CHAN in `The Tuxedo'
(2) no caption (JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT)
(3) Jennifer Love Hewitt plays an intelligent agent in ``The Tuxedo,'' which opens Friday.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 26, 2002|
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