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Fatale Attraction: Anne Archer

Actress Anne Archer has it all: elegance, sophistication, wit, a wonderful family, and a taste for fine cigars.
Paul Chutkow
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

Featured in Women of CA gallery

Anne Archer has no liking for Hollywood flash or glitz. She and her husband, businessman/TV producer Terry Jastrow, live in a quiet, rustic corner of Brentwood, on a country lane surrounded by ranch houses, stables, horses and trails leading back into the wilds of a large canyon. From the outside, their house has the look and feel of a lovely country cottage, such as you might find in the south of France or on a hillside in Tuscany. A high wooden fence surrounds their yard; in front there is a simple wooden gate. When it opens, there is Henry, Archer's devoted white Labrador, greeting a guest with nothing more menacing than a warm slobber to the wrist.

The day before, at lunch in Beverly Hills, Archer was dressed to kill, in a smart designer suit, her hair freshly styled, her makeup just so. She looked ready to audition for a role as a high-powered '90s businesswoman. Not today. On her home turf, she's kicked back and comfy, dressed in black slacks, a gray polo shirt and a hooded black sweatshirt. Her hair's a bit mussed and she's wearing almost no makeup. Which only accentuates her stunning natural beauty and the intelligence in her eyes.

By Hollywood standards, Archer has performed what amounts to a miracle. In Fatal Attraction, she played Michael Douglas' betrayed yet understanding wife, earning an Academy Award nomination in the process. In two Tom Clancy blockbuster hits, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, Archer won popular acclaim as Harrison Ford's savvy, all-enduring wife, balancing her career as an eye surgeon with the difficult demands of being married to a CIA agent being hunted by Irish terrorists and Colombian drug lords. In Robert Altman's Short Cuts, in which Archer's character worked as a clown, the actress revealed a gift for quirky, offbeat comedy that made you wish Ernst Lubitsch and Cary Grant were still around.

Through these performances, Archer has established herself as one of the most respected--and classiest--actresses in the movie business. Remarkably, she has done so without becoming known in the business as an egomaniacal pain-in-the-arse prima donna. Even more remarkably, Archer has managed to maintain a happy, enduring marriage and a stable family life for her two sons, Tommy, now an adult, and Jeffrey, 11. She's even a devoted hockey mom who hauls her younger son off to games at 5 a.m. So when we settled into her den to talk about her life, her work and her love of fine cigars, one question was uppermost in my mind:

How in heaven's name has Anne Archer managed to have it all in the crazy world of Hollywood without losing her balance, her dignity or her sense of humor?

"It's in the genes," she says with a laugh. "My mother started out on Broadway at the age of 17. My father was also in the theater in New York and later made movies. So I learned some hard lessons about Hollywood when I was still very young."

As Archer talks, it becomes evident that she had a delightful, somewhat tumultuous childhood and an upbringing that admirably prepared her for the capriciousness of Hollywood, the inevitable highs and lows of an acting career and the cruel dilemmas that the movie business reserves for beautiful women with minds of their own. These days, Archer sometimes feels a bit trapped; she is tired of being typecast as "the good wife." As the accompanying photos make clear, she has a whole other side, a sexy, daring side that urges her to kick aside that good wife image and sprawl out on tables in the most fetching sort of way. This is the serious actress looking for growth, this is Archer's artistic streak searching for fresh oxygen and stimulus. It is a search that, like her grandmother and her mother before her, she knows only too well.

"My grandmother always wanted to become an actress," Archer says. "She was eccentric, volatile, mischievous and full of fun." She was also very beautiful and a talented dancer; by the age of 18 she was giving dancing lessons in San Francisco and performing in clubs under the stage name of Billie Lyon. At one critical moment in her young life, Archer's grandmother got on a train to Los Angeles, to see a Hollywood agent. This was a radical, rebellious act for a young woman of her generation, and on the way south, she was overcome with fear and guilt. Reaching Los Angeles, she turned around and came straight home, without ever seeing the agent. Her acting dreams ended right there.

Archer's mother, actress Marjorie Lord, had a similar dream, and she was not about to be deterred by fear, guilt or anything else. She started dancing lessons at the age of three, threw herself into the world of art and, at 16, left home bound for New York and Broadway and determined to see her name in lights. She made a name for herself in the New York theater and met and married John Archer, a dashing young actor who had several lead roles on Broadway before going to Hollywood to make movies. Anne was born a few years later, in 1947. But the strains of maintaining a household with two working actors proved to be crippling; Anne's parents divorced when she was only four.

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