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Hopscotch Pictures, Inc.
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David Jackson, President
Shauna Shapiro Jackson, Executive VP
21800 Oxnard Street
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Woodland Hills, CA 91367

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Sunday, March 14, 1999

Can a Star of Walk Be a Star Who Talks?

It's not quite right to say that Carolyn Murphy's face is unfamiliar to filmgoers. She is widely seen on popcorn bags sold in movie theaters, advertising Calvin Klein khakis and other clothes.
   But next fall, Ms. Murphy, one of the world's top models, will be on the silver screen itself, in what is described as a substantial role in "Liberty Heights," Barry Levinson's forth film set in working-class Baltimore, this time in the 1950's.
   "The part was described as a young Grace Kelly," said Ellen Chenoweth, the casting director. "We saw a lot of actresses, but that certain quality wasn't there, so we started seeing models."
   Ms. Murphy, who is on the cover of the March issue of Vogue and is photographed inside in a fashion feature inspired by a film set, agressively
sought the part. She went to see Ms. Chenoweth the same day the casting director called, and she returned numerous times for readings and screen tests. "Carolyn did everything you do to get into the movie business," said Paula Weinstein, a producer of the film. "Barry felt she was a natural. Right away he felt he'd found someone new and exciting and talented."
   Filmmakers have been down this road many times, smitten by stars of the runways and cosmetics advertisements and casting them for publicity value or in hopes that their stunning beauty will rivet viewers.
   But experience suggests a hard lesson. The model Angie Everhart has twice played a hooker - in "Jade" (1995) and "Bordello of Blood" (1996) - but neither performance hooked audiences. The appearance of Elle Macpherson in "If Lucy Fell" in 1996 prompted some to suggest a new name for the film, "If Elle Could Act." And there is the cautionary career of Cindy Crawford, who had her first real film role in "Fair Game" (1995), cast as a brainy maritime lawyer. Or rather, stunningly miscast, in the opinion of most critics. "She had a great time, but in the end she didn't like it as much as she thought she would," Ms.Crawford's publicity agent, Annett Wolf, said carefully.
   Have these cinematic train wrecks caused filmmakers to cool on giving supermodels speaking roles? Hardly. Lately, so many A-list catwalkers have been moonlighting in the movies that the Cannes Film Festival may come to resemble fashion week in Bryant Park. Besides Ms. Murphy, well-known models cast in forthcoming films include Claudia Schiffer ("Black and White"), Frederique Van Der Wal ("The Wild Wild West"), Shalom Harlow ("Cherry"), Michele Hicks ("Twin Falls, Idaho"), Esther Canadas ("The Thomas Crown Affair") and Eva Herzigova ("For theTime Being").
   A few make cameo appearances, playing - surprise - models, and say they are going Hollywood for a lark. But most of the others have serious aspirations. Despite the high-profile embarrassments of the past, there are well-known success stories, too, including those of former models like Andie MacDowell, Cameron Diaz and Kim Basinger. One big difference is that those successful actresses had marginal careers as mannequins. Today's crop with crossover dreams includes many supermodels. Maybe they're just looking for revenge: with Hollywood stars increasingly pushing models off the covers of fashion magazines, the shortage of work for "the supes" could be driving them to invade their rivals' turf.
   Jon Glascoe and Joseph Pierson, who cast Ms. Harlow in the lead of "Cherry," a low-budget romantic comedy that will have its premiere on April 18 at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, said that the model's publicity value was "definitely a factor in our decision."
   "We were doing auditions and this fascinating young woman showed up," Mr. Pierson said. "Our casting agent didn't tell us who she was. Afterwards we were, like 'Whoo scary - a supermodel! But by then,we were already captivated."
   "This movie is independently financed, but at the end of the day you need to sell it to somebody. Her name recognition was a factor. People seem fascinated with the concept of supermodels, although I'm not one of them."
   Ms. Harlow, who had a small part in "In and Out," has a Hollywood agent, Clar Ryu of the United Talent Agency, to build her film career. "It makes sense," Ms. Ryu said. "We're seeing more and more actresses who look like models, and vice versa. But it's a shame that people still have preconceived notions about models. People like to hold on to the belief that models are stupid creatures."

   The models are often the first to acknowledge that directors seek to cast them for their novelty value, and sometimes they resist. Eva Herzigova, the face (and torso) of Wonderbra, said she turned down a role in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."
   "He only called because he needed a model," she recalled before the director's death last week. "The part called for three scenes: in the first, I'm OD'ing; in the second, I have an intense 20-minute dialogue with Tom Cruise, and in the third, I'm dead - and I had to do it all totally nude. I just didn't want to start out that way. I really tried to bargain with him and say, 'Couldn't I just wear a little something?' but he said no."
   Instead, Ms. Herzigova pursued and was given the lead role in a low-budget film, "For the Time Being," a first feature by Gil Brenton. Mr.Brenton himself resisted - for a while. "Frankly, after seeing Cindy Crawford in 'Fair Game,' I wasn't interested in models," he said. "I did not want to meet Eva - no way." But once he did, he was charmed and made up his mind on the spot that she was right. He predicted that she would be a movie star - but meantime, he must finish his movie and find a distributor.
   At the opposite end of the budget spectrum, Barry Sonnenfeld, who made the hit "Men in Black," gave a part in his next film, "The Wild Wild West," to Frederique Van Der Wal, a Victoria's Secret model. Based on the 1960's television series of the same name, the $90 million film stars Kenneth Branagh, Will Smith and Kevin Kline, and opens on July 2. Ms. Van Der Wal plays Amazonia, a henchwoman helping plot the assassination of the President.
   "I've got a lot of screen time, though not a whole lot of dialogue," Ms. Van Der Wal said. "Do I feel like an actor? No, not yet, but I'm taking baby steps towards that. It's a long road, and an interesting one."
   Ms. Van Der Wal first started taking acting classes out of curiosity, but now she's working mainly on her speech. (She has a heavy Dutch accent.) She is secure enough in her modeling career to have a refreshingly realistic view of her prospects for movie stardom. "Being a  model doesn't mean you can act, as has been proven on numerous occasions, " she said. "There's an overall negative feeling about models going into acting sometimes, but I think it depends on how you present yourself. Of course, there's even more rejection in this business than in modeling."

   Ms. Schiffer, by contrast, is already sounding like an old hand on the set.
   "You never know where it's going," she said. "You just study, build your craft and try to get experience."
   Or: "I've been very lucky. Everytime I like a script I've been able to read for the part. But it's as difficult for me as for everyone else who's just starting out."
   Well, maybe. But what was Ms. Schiffer doing in the cast of "Black and White," along with celebrities like Mike Tyson, Marla Maples and Allan Houston of the New York Knicks?

   On her first day, in October, she filmed with Mr. Tyson in the Lemon restaurant, a real-life model hangout on Park Avenue South. Between takes, the director, James Toback, offered pointers - "Make it more fluid," "Let her ravish you" - while a handler fed Mr. Tyson from a sack of Twizzlers. Mr. Toback said he hoped to finish the $3.5 million film in time for Cannes in May.
   Ms. Schiffer plays a European anthropologist who goes to New York to study hip-hop culture. After the director called "Action!" on the same scene for the 12th time, she began once more with the line "In the Paleolithic era...."

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Sunday, March 22, 1998


The Making of ‘Cherry

The movie "Cherry," filmed in Manhattan and Hoboken, N.J., doesn't have a chance of winning an Oscar tomorrow night (it's not finished, let alone nominated). But film buffs can learn a lot about the current state of independent film making by visiting the Making Cherry Home Page.

For the makers of a low-budget picture, every day is a battle against cost.
The Web site is an almost day-by-day journal, from Dec. 8 to March 11, of the shooting of "Cherry," a romantic comedy being made on a budget...low by Hollywood standards. Coming next month is a journal covering the editing and post-production work.

The film, which its makers hope theaters will release next year, stars Shalom Harlow, a fashion model who won good notices for a brief role (as a fashion model) in last year's comedy "In and Out." She plays Leila, a young woman who wants to become a single mother. David McCallum, perhaps best known for his starring role in the 1960's spy series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," also stars, playing one of Leila's two gay uncles.

The Web site, which went up in December, is the brainchild of Peter Kreutzer, a freelance writer and friend of the film's co-directors and producers, Jim [sic] Glascoe and Joseph Pierson (all three studied film at New York University [not true!!!]). "The filmmakers wanted to create a buzz about the movie and I wanted to get a book out of it," Kreutzer said.

WHAT YOU SEE The journal begins with Kreutzer's noting that he was inspired by and hopes to emulate Lillian Ross's classic book, "Picture," about the filming of the 1951 movie "The Red Badge of Courage," directed by John Huston. He says he hopes God doesn't strike him dead.

As the crew prepares to shoot, Kreutzer is amused that the directors plan shots by playing with dolls in a doll house. He also discovers that for the makers of a low-budget picture, every day is a battle against cost. The photography unit saves $500 a week by renting the oldest Panavision cameras possible. The casting unit arranges crowd scenes on Screen Actors Guild "waiver" days, when less restrictive union rules apply, so more extras can be hired for the same money.

Outdoor location shooting is a struggle. A scene at the "Alice in Wonderland" statue in Central Park is constantly interrupted. "Another plane can be heard now," Kreutzer writes on March 3. "Everybody, after their feverish half-hour of work, waits, as planes pass overhead and then a siren passes on the park transverse and children nearby kick a soccer ball exuberantly. Just as their voices fade, a helicopter can be heard approaching. You can feel more than hear the crew's collective sigh."

One unexpected complication of casting a fashion model as the star: Harlow needs space heaters. As one crew member says, anonymously: "She has no body fat. She gets cold very quickly."

OUTSIDE LINKS One, to David McCallum's fan club, the McCallum Observer.

WHAT YOU GET A buff's look at moviemaking that can occasionally veer into inside baseball.

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NEW This week, March 13, 1998


There are 8 million stories in New York City; half are being made into low-budget movies, and at least one is on the Web. Ragged but right, the site lets you follow the day-to-day progress of Cherry, an indie romantic comedy starring model Shalom Harlow and ex-Man From U.N.C.L.E David McCallum. While only a handful of the cast and crew pages feature photos or credits, and the entire script would have been nice, the daily journal really does convey the pretensions, pitfalls, and stop-and-go aggravations of your average shoot. All that's missing is the on-set gossip. C'mon, guys, who's been sleeping with whom?   --Ty Burr

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February 23, 1998

As the Camera Turns

Got the hots for indie movies? Before buying a light meter and applying to NYU film school, surf over to "Making Cherry". Cherry is a comedy starring model Shalom Harlow and Jake Weber, and its producers are posting a shooting diary with script excerpts and snapshots. The log is most entertaining, though, when it wanders to more, shall we say, tangential, terrain. A riff on James Joyce reveals that he "invested some of his slight capital in the first moviehouse to open in Dublin;" another entry notes that "if you're a real celebrity, maybe you'll end up with a picture of your belly button online."

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June 1998

LIKE A VIRGIN:   In her second film, Shalom Harlow
plays a frumpy, virginal homebody. Yes, it was a stretch.

When Shalom Harlow, supermodel, made her big screen acting debut (in last year's In and Out) she played... a supermodel.

But in her second movie, Cherry, she plays a frumpy, Harvard-educated muffin shop proprietress--who's also a virgin. So much for typecasting.

"There are no stilettos on this set," says Shalom during a break in filming.

Her character, Leila Sweet, is a woman who was left standing at the altar when she was 18. Still single a decade later, she decides it's time to have a baby--the natural way. Cherry follows Leila through those tricky shoals. "She's just a regular gal with her Hush Puppies," says Shalom, who's wearing Leila's typical scruffy costume of jeans, sweater and suede shoes. "The movie is about a woman who has turned her back on romantic love and, through the course of trying to become pregnant, opens her heart again. It's a kind of coming-of-age story."

Although Shalom may still be a relative novice on a movie set, she's obviously no stranger to the camera. "I'm used to being around this sort of environment--the set and the lights and all--it's just bigger on a film set," she says. But the irony is, Shalom took up acting as a break from all that.

"In August, everyone in fashion takes holidays," she explains. "Instead, I took an acting workshop. Each day, the other students would come in and say 'I went out for this audition or that casting,' and I had nothing to share. So I did the audition [for In and Out] more for the sake of practice than anything."

Her effort nonetheless made an impression on the movie's screenwriter, Paul Rudnick. "We'd seen many dazzling beauties," he recalls. "Then Shalom appeared, looking like a goddess." And she was not prissy about throwing herself into the role. Reading for one scene opposite Matt Dillon, she leapt on top of him "with sheer physical abandon," he says.

Isaac Mizrahi, who has cast Shalom as the face of his collection for three years, isn't surprised that she has made the jump to movies. "I predicted the whole thing!" he shouts. "This first time she ever came for a go-see, I was with Manolo Blahnik and my mother, who were dying for her. I said, 'You're not even a model, you're an actress.' What I love about Shalom is if you say to her, "Fall in a puddle,' she knows how to do it."

If being a real supermodel gave her a leg up for In and Out, she had no such advantage at the auditions for Cherry (which will hit the festival circuit this fall). "The casting director snuck her in among the usual suspects," says co-director Jon Glascoe. "I didn't know the fashion world, so I didn't know who she was. In glasses, her hair a mess, she looked absolutely plain." When Glascoe was preparing for the final callbacks, he asked his staff for a briefing on Shalom's background. "Go home and ask your wife," replied the casting director.

"As soon as I found out she was a model, red flags went up in my head," he says. "But if there is a stereotype of models, she doesn't fit it."

Shalom, in fact, has grown surprisingly fond of mousy, unglamorous Leila. "I feel like I have a new best friend," she says. "I wish she really existed."

          --Kevin West

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Brill's Content
December 1998 / January 1999

"Making Cherry" (as the site is named) gives an insider's view on making an independent movie. Visitors can read daily dispatches covering the first three months of production, or turn to reports on the post-production phase. A romantic comedy starring Shalom Harlow, Cherry is set to hit theaters next spring.

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INDIE: The Monthly Guide to Independent Film
July/August 1998

The seventies brought us magazine cover girl Cybill Shepherd in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show. In the eighties, Revlon spokesmodel Andie MacDowell charmed us with her performance in Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies and videotape. And now in the nineties, no less than a former Breck girl, Kim Basinger, is the proud owner of an Oscar for her turn in L.A. Confidential.

With all these role models blazing the trail, what is cover girl Shalom Harlow to do? Get off that runway and on to an indie film set, of course. After easing into acting as, yes, a supermodel in last year's comdedy, In & Out (which spurred screenwriter Paul Rudnick to praise her ability to combine "couture sophistication with gawky high spirits"), Harlow landed a starring role--and surely a more substantial acting challenge--in Cypress Films' romantic comedy, Cherry.

Casting the bratty, bulimic tendencies of her In & Out character aside, the new actress plays an idealistic young woman jilted at the altar at 19, still a virgin at 29, and hoping to have a baby by the time she's 30. Eventually, she decides to forgo the burdens of love and marriage and have a child the new-fashioned way--by finding some quality, no-strings-attached sperm.

"Shooting Cherry was pretty grueling," says Jon Glascoe, co-director with Joseph Pierson. "Shalom was in virtually every scene. She showed incredible stamina, professionalism and great comic instints." Who knows, maybe Indie will write about her when she steps up to the podium some Oscar night in the 21st century.
                         --Thomas Pierce

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What indieWIRE said on December 17, 1997:


Cypress Films, Inc. began pre-production this week on a new independent film, CHERRY. Producing partners Jon Glascoe and Joseph Pierson make their directorial debut with CHERRY, based on a screenplay by Terry Reed.

CHERRY is a romantic comedy about a woman, model SHALOM HARLOW, who swears off men after being left at the altar. Until she decides she want to have a child, the "natural way."

CHERRY begins principal photography in New York in January 1998.

In addition to producing JULIAN PO, starring Christian Slater and Robin Tunney, Cypress Films, Inc. produced the mini-series THE SOUND AND THE SILENCE for TNT and HARRISON BERGERON, based on a Kurt Vonnegut short story, for Showtime.

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What Daily Variety said on December 15, 1997:

HARLOW PICKS 'CHERRY' ROLE Shalom Harlow, the model hailed for her comic turn in her feature debut as Matt Dillon's girlfriend in the fall's comedy "In and Out," has come down the catwalk for her first leading role in Cypress Films' independent production "Cherry."

In the romantic comedy, set to start shooting in New York in January, Harlow will play a woman who has shunned love and romance after being abandoned at the altar when she was 19. Ten years later, and still uninterested in love, she decides to have a child, and places a classified ad to find a man who will provide paternal services, but no emotional commitment.

Producers Jon Glascoe and Joseph Pierson are making their directorial debut with the low-budgetter, from a script by frosh scribe Terry Reed.                           --Paul Karon

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What the New York Post Said on December 11, 1997:

Shalom: Hello Hollywood

CHALK up another supermodel for the United Talent Agency. The Hollywood powerhouse is cornering the market on theatrically-minded mannequins. Having first signed Christy Turlington, last week the agency took on Claudia Schiffer, and now Shalom Harlow is following suit. Harlow, who made her big screen debut in "In and Out" and is set to star in the independent romantic comedy "Cherry," felt she needed more of a Tinseltown presence. She will continue to be represented by Elite for print work."