Fatale Attraction: Anne Archer

Actress Anne Archer has it all: elegance, sophistication, wit, a wonderful family, and a taste for fine cigars.

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"There used to be a joke at ABC: There were no red lights in Terry Jastrow's life. And it's true today. He can't fail. He just makes it so right. I'm probably sane today because of him. He's very enthusiastic, very dynamic." Jastrow is now president of Jack Nicklaus Productions, which handles the legendary golfer's many business ventures and also produces broadcasts of golf tournaments.

At one point, Jastrow was the producer for Howard Cosell's sports magazine show, "Sports Beat," on ABC, and Cosell introduced him to the joys of smoking fine cigars. Archer quickly took to sharing a cigar with Jastrow, usually after dinner and preferably in some lovely tropical place. "Cigarettes bother me," she says. "But cigars are different. You don't inhale, the tobacco is good, there are no chemicals and it's only an occasional thing. So I like it. It's a social, relaxing event for me, not something I turn into a habit."

As with a great wine, or a great Port, Archer believes "you have to pay a certain kind of homage to smoking a fine cigar." She and Jastrow are part of an informal group of aficionados who meet from time to time at cigar friendly restaurants around Los Angeles. In Jastrow's home office, they have installed a special ventilation system so he can smoke in comfort. Archer says she has only two rules about cigar smoking: "Not in the car or in the bedroom."

At holidays and birthdays, Archer often gives Jastrow cigar accessories, such as cutters and ashtrays. Once she gave him a picture of himself smoking a cigar. On another occasion she gave him an engraved silver cigar case. His favorite smoke: Montecristo No. 1. Archer prefers a smaller Montecristo. "There are other cigars I like better; I just can't get them here," she says with a laugh.

Archer says she never smokes alone; for her, enjoying a fine cigar is something social and convivial, and usually festive. "We're pretty much a cigar smoking group, at least the men are," she says. "I'm usually the only woman smoking. I'm just very comfortable with cigars; I always have been. It's relaxing, it tastes good, it's just very enjoyable. And I love to blow smoke rings!"

For Archer and Jastrow, cigars are often an important part of a night out in Los Angeles. They like to go to George Hamilton's wine and smoke shop, for instance, or have dinner at Drai's, one of their favorite local restaurants. The food is good, and after dinner, Drai's has a pleasant place to sit and enjoy a cigar, Archer says. Above all, though, smoking a cigar is something she likes to share with her husband. "Ninety-nine percent of the time I smoke a cigar, I smoke it with Terry," she says. "And we love to smoke outdoors in the evening; I especially enjoy it in a tropical setting like Hawaii or the Caribbean." The sea breezes, the wine, the cigar after dinner; now there's a formula for keeping a marriage young.

Living with Jastrow and her two sons, Archer has become accustomed to being the only woman in a world of males. "What happened to the ballet and cutting out paper dolls? I miss all that femininity a little bit," she says, "but I do enjoy being the only woman, too. Because you do get adored when you're the only woman in the family. You get a lot of attention and you don't have to share it with anybody!"

Being so feminine and yet so comfortable around men may well have had an important impact on Archer's career. When she read for the part of Michael Douglas' wife in Fatal Attraction, the producers and Douglas immediately saw the fit. Here was a woman who was smart, compassionate and very attractive, just the kind of wife Douglas' character would hate to lose. Working with Douglas, actress Glenn Close and director Adrian Lynne was the high-profile acting challenge Archer had spent so many years preparing for; being nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actress was just icing on the cake.

"The time I was making Fatal Attraction were the happiest years of my life, without question," she says. "I'm my happiest in the actual moments of acting when it's going well. That's the happiest I ever feel. It's an aesthetic high that's better than sex. When the film was so recognized, and I got those accolades, that was a really fun time. And I don't think I realized how rare it is; I took it in stride. I see now that those are rare moments in life."

Then came the Clancy movies. Archer took what might have been a minor character and brought depth and intelligence to her role as the wife of CIA agent Jack Ryan, played by Harrison Ford. "I knew Harrison and I would be dynamite together," Archer says. "I knew that on the screen we would really look like a couple." But playing the role twice, she also knew the danger: The role could stamp her indelibly--and destructively--as the good wife, just as her mother had been stamped as the wife of Danny Thomas.

"I knew it could be death and it was exactly as I predicted," she says. "I got a lot of attention from those Clancy movies, but they really stamped me deeper into that mold." Some of the attention she got, though, was especially welcome. Gregg Archer, a pilot with Delta Airlines, had always taken his sister's acting career rather lightly. But he and his pilot buddies are fervent Clancy fans and she says those two films made her a hero to them.

Robert Altman's Short Cuts gave Archer a welcomed break from playing the sympathetic wife, and so did Mojave Moon, a film she recently finished with Danny Aiello. It's a romantic picture in which Archer plays a naive dreamer living in a trailer camp in the California desert. "I call her my ice cream girl," Archer says. "She's sensual, tasty. And she has a Monroe quality about her, lovable yet a bit off-center. She'd just love to have somebody love her. And that happens in the movie."

Still, Archer yearns for more. "Women characters don't have to be only victims, prostitutes or wives. What about great stories about interesting people who just happen to be women? And now there's a new twist: putting women into roles where they have to behave like a man. We're missing the point. Let's just create a rich character who's had a rich experience."

At the close of the interview, as Archer and Henry get up to stretch, one wonders if Archer has been tempted to try her hand at writing the kind of sophisticated roles she would most like to play. She has shied away from the idea. In the early 1980s, she and Jastrow wrote, produced and starred in their own movie, Waltz Across Texas, and while she feels it was a worthwhile experience, she's not eager to try it again.

Still, one can hope. As articulate as she is and with such a wealth of insight into Hollywood, actors and the perils of beauty, one can picture Archer writing a wonderful screenplay. Perhaps about a thoroughly '90s woman out on the edge and trying to have it all, as actress, wife and mom.

Or how about this: a warm-hearted mother-daughter saga about three bright, beautiful American women from the same family. Each would be from a different generation and yet each would pursue the same dream of finding creative and personal fulfillment through the craft of acting. An intimate look at Broadway, Hollywood and the crazy, often tumultuous lives and loves of a merry band of actors and artists, "the special people." Sounds like a winner.

Paul Chutkow, a freelance writer based in northern California, is the author of Depardieu, a biography of French actor Gerard Depardieu.

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