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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

(continued from page 2)

"I preached that to her," Lord says. "I always felt that who you are as a human being is more important than success in the theater or whatever people see up there on the marquee. At one point I remember saying to her, 'You know, my dear, you have to learn to live a full life. Otherwise, you won't have anything to bring to the theater.'"

By the time she was a teenager, Archer had heard the message loud and clear. "All I wanted was to grow up and have a relationship and be loved by somebody. And be a big, successful actress and a great actress at the same time. I was a kid daydreaming. Creating fantasies. And it really started making me nuts at about age 12. That's puberty. Your hormones are talking, but you gotta sit it out for about eight more years. As a result, I was a very unhappy girl in high school. I was confused. I paid lots of attention to boys--and yet there were no boys in my life."

But nothing derailed her ambitions, or her dreams. After she graduated from Marlborough High School in Los Angeles, Archer remained in Southern California and went to private colleges, taking classes at Pitzer College and working in the Scripps theater department. She threw herself into her acting classes and participated in all the school plays and productions. Toward the end of her years at Scripps, she fell in love. Hard.

"He was older, handsome, mysterious, from a very, very wealthy blue-blood family in Los Angeles, and he was extremely eccentric," Archer says. "In fact, he was a bit of a lunatic. But he loved history and culture and he opened up whole new worlds for me." After graduation, they got married, and Archer had her first son, Tommy. Right away she came to understand, in a more profound way, her mother's message about the difficulties inherent in trying to balance an acting career and a family:

"If I hadn't been married, I'd have gone to New York and tried to work in the theater," she says. Instead, with a husband and baby, Archer chose to stay in Los Angeles. Through her mother, she found an agent who sent her scripts and sent her out on interviews. She got her first big break almost immediately. In 1972, she read for Jon Voight and director Charles Eastman and got a lead role in The All-American Boy, a major picture. The movie bombed, but Archer was on her way.

Over the next several years, Archer did theater, some smaller movies and a bit of television, and she continued to study acting. Along the way, she worked with some of the most prominent leading men in Hollywood: William Holden, James Coburn, Sylvester Stallone and Ryan O'Neal and, in later movies, Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland, Sam Elliott and Joe Mantegna. Still, Archer was a woman divided.

"Most actresses went through a pretty wild fling of it for the first 10 years," she says. "And they were up and down with boyfriends and live-in relationships and a different kind of living. But I had this kid and from the moment he was born I just felt this huge change in me. I felt a woman of the world, I felt that I understood life and I felt permanently changed. I also felt very protective of my child. The word 'tigress' would definitely apply."

Archer ran into a problem: It was the 1970s and directors weren't looking for urbane, sophisticated women of the world. "The kind of movies I would have been ideally castable for were really made more in the 1940s--sophisticated comedies with sophisticated actresses and snappy dialogue. I had this womanly quality, but it just wasn't fashionable at that time," she says. "When I came on the scene, what was fashionable was that you had to take all your clothes off and expose your breasts, which I was extremely conservative about. In the '70s, that's what everybody did. And the kind of star, the quality that was looked for, was kookiness. You know, Goldie Hawn. Or you played a hippie and were very eccentric, like Karen Black."

There was another aspect to the problem as well: the curse of beauty in Hollywood, something Archer's mother and countless other actresses before and since have faced.

"You're pretty, and you thought it was your plus, your ace in the hole to get you in the door,'' Archer says. "But it was really the thing that kept you limited as an actress." As she explains it, the studios are always trying to wedge actresses into narrowly confined niches. "If you're pretty, you've gotta be a sexpot and take your clothes off. So they want to cast you as a hooker. Or you can play the elegant, untouchable one and still take your clothes off. By way of choices, that was about it. Or, of course, you could be like Farrah Fawcett. You know: furniture."

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