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FAMOUS (LISA PICARD IS “FAMOUS”) (director: Griffin Dunne; screenwriters: Laura Kirk/Nat DeWolf; cinematographer: William Rexer II; editor: Nancy Baker; cast: Laura Kirk (Lisa Picard), Nat DeWolf (Tate Kelley), Griffin Dunne (Video Man), Daniel London (Boyfriend), Jack Howard (Commercial Stud), Sandra Bullock (Herself), Carrie Fisher (Herself), Melissa Gilbert (Herself), Penelope Ann Miller (Herself), Buck Henry (Himself), Charlie Sheen (Himself), Spike Lee (Himself), David Holtzman (Himself), Fisher Stevens (Himself); Runtime: 87; GreeneStreet Films; 2000)
“It might not be all new material and the characters do grow somewhat weary after a fast start but, all things considered, it was surprisingly a lot of fun.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Griffin Dunne, actor-turned-director, directs this mockdocumentary. “Famous” was created by two unemployed actors, Nat DeWolf (Tate Kelley) and Laura Kirk (Lisa Picard), which is a fictional story about two unemployed actors who seek fame and fortune. It’s a theme that’s been done often, but in this witty and bitter-sweet comedy the characters are truly endearing and funny.

The project got off the ground four years ago when Nat and Laura were living in NYC and were co-scripting a movie. Mira Sorvino was in the same acting class as Laura and read the script. She laughed so much that she decided to co-produce the project with Dolly Hall, a lifelong friend of Griffin Dunne. That’s how Griffin got aboard and took control, as he was able to get funding and lineup a host of celebs for cameos. The actors improvised a script by doing readings in their apartment and when it came time for filming, they had a tight script which they adhered to about eighty percent of the time. There was one scene they did by an elevator, where a guy who had a bit part in a minor film just became part of the film unexpectedly as he was spontaneously interviewed by Dunne. The film was shot on a digital camera.

Lisa Picard is the focus of a documentary. She’s the potentially famous actor/actress whom the filmmaker, played by Dunne, is searching the streets of Manhattan for: “An actress who would talk to me before she got famous.” He believes it’s imminent that the one who is so willing to talk to him, Lisa, will become famous. She’s already on her way in the business, as the soft porn commercial she did advertising a ‘Wheat Chex’ cereal got her some notoriety. She also by chance got a bit part in Melissa Gilbert’s upcoming made-for-TV movie “Phone Call For Help.” Her gay best friend is also a struggling actor, Tate Kelley. His claim to fame is as an extra on a soap opera, and he is diligently pushing a one-man off-off Broadway play about his anger at the public’s homophobia and to celebrate his own gay pride. He performs in his underwear and gives a shrill performance that is bound to turn everyone off; the filmmaker manages to get in a dig at newspaper theater critics and their supposed good taste, by having one of them give it a rave review. This gets the attention of celebs Spike Lee and Charlie Sheen, who bring it to Hollywood and change the story to the point that they almost leave the dull Tate completely out of the film–as they just credit him with the film based on his play.

What makes the two leads hilarious is that they are ambitious to the point of being narrow-minded and are humorless about their situation. They can’t stop being self-centered. Lisa has a few very funny scenes with her pliable boyfriend (London), who supports the self-absorbed actress through thick and thin and when he is no longer useful to her gets pushed aside by the pushy but not-famous-yet actress. Lisa was also very funny auditioning for an Advil spot which she doesn’t get, as behind the humor it shows how being rejected is part of the business but it is very difficult not to take it as something personal.

The film does a savage raking over the coals job on those who seek fame, by dissecting the unhealthy thirst there is for fame Its storyline is very much New York-ish in attitude and spirit. Buck Henry has some funny comments as a ‘talking head’ on how fame makes you feel good, while noted underground filmmaker, someone who is not famous, David Holtzman, comments he has known famous people tell him their fame is like eating all the time. It might not be all new material and the characters do grow somewhat weary after a fast start.

When at the Williamstown Film Festival, Nat was asked his take on fame and replied: “I bought a tux for the Cannes Film Festival and ended up wearing it the remainder of the year to do catering work.” The two are presently working on two other comedy scripts, but as yet fame has not come their way. The two are still unemployed and are contemplating any offers for a TV series. But they are concerned on how the characters they created would change if a TV series picked it up, as they don’t want to sell out just to get fame–but they do want employment in their chosen field.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”