Published 12:00 am Friday, April 21, 2000

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / April 21, 2000

There’s something weirdly wrong about a Tom Hanks or a Julia Roberts yanking in millions of dollars for making a movie. Kind of makes the rest ofus poor working stiffs feel somewhat, well, inadequate.

Like most of my readers, I work hard. I make fairly good money, but I’ll neverbe in Tom Hanks’ league. He’s in a league of his own. Heck, he was IN “ALeague of Their Own.”Now, I’ll grant that it’s hard work memorizing lines and pretending to be someone while cameras and a few dozen crew members and fellow actors are watching. I’ll also give that Tom Hanks’ name is worth a certain amount ofbox office receipts, for that’s why movies are made – not for art but for money. If art accidently slips in, all the better.It takes more than mere talent to make “On Golden Pond,” but it takes sheer greed and knowledge of what people will pay to see to make “Dumb and Dumber.” Guess which made the most money.The movie-making business is fast becoming hotter in Louisiana. From timeto time a film crew even pops into the River Parishes, such as with “Interview with the Vampire,” which shot in Destrehan, Hahnville and Vacherie for various locations. This is great because it gives local actors andwanna-be actors an opportunity to work in a major film for a fleeting few seconds of screen time and the chance someone may notice them and they won’t end up on the cutting-room floor.

It’s the salaries which really get to me, though.

And I’m still wondering whoever thought Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock were some sort of devastatingly gorgeous American icon of womanhood, sexiness and charm. Perhaps the same people who thought Milli Vanilli were talented.To me, they’re rather ordinary with only mediocre talent.

Speaking for myself, I’d leave tracks running over Roberts or Bullock for a Meg Ryan or a Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Tom Hanks’ appeal is likely the same sort which made a star of Jimmy Stewart – a sort of Everyman look where he’s not too pretty or pretentious or too “movie-star,” but someone who wouldn’t look out of place in your neighborhood mall in the hardware store. He’s instantly recognizable, andapparently some people just adore him with a spoon.

And would someone please explain Jim Carrey to me? In my mind, he’s this generation’s Jerry Lewis, who was equally detestable. Then again, they loveboth Carrey and Lewis in France. Then again, they love Roman Polanski inFrance. In my mind, they’re more than welcome to keep all three.I may never be in a movie. My closest exposure was having lunch with JamesEarl Jones and Lukas Haas on a film set at Home Place Plantation in Hahnville.

Across the way, Robert Duvall was working in another scene.

I was in awe, watching the man who provided the voice of Darth Vader munching down lunch. Haas later did a star turn in “Mars Attacks!” teamedwith Natalie Portman who, you may remember, will end up marrying the future Darth Vader in the next “Star Wars.”Funny how that works.

Leonard Gray is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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