'Naked Hollywood' strips away web of myth tinseltown weaves around itself


July 27, 1991|By STEVE MCKERROW

All you need to sense the accuracy of a revealing documentary about the movie business on basic cable this weekend is to remember how often you've seen Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer.

The man has been everywhere! Plugging his latest hit, "Terminator 2," he's been doing the television talk shows and making the covers of magazines both slick and pulpy. And just this week he also popped up in the news pages for the birth of his second child (a daughter, to celebrity wife Maria Shriver).

Did the couple time the blessed event to coincide with the "Terminator" publicity push? You would be excused for wondering after watching "Naked Hollywood," which makes its North American premiere on the Arts & Entertainment network Sunday night at 8.

"If someone gives you $50 million to make a movie, then you have the responsibility to go out there and sell it," says Schwarzenegger candidly in one clip. Yet he also happily concedes that what he is really best at selling is himself.

By contrast, the show asserts, disdain for the star production process left Oscar-winning actor James Caan ("The Godfather") without work for years in a career crash from which this year's "Misery" may or may not have rescued him.

"The Actor and the Star" is the title of the first segment of the five-part "Naked Hollywood," a sometimes savage BBC documentary by producer Nicolas Kent. (Future segments, all at 8 p.m. Sundays, examine the roles of studios, agents, screenwriters and directors.)

The premiere show opens with Hollywood wheels discussing the difference between being an actor and being a star.

"I don't know what it is," confesses Universal Studios chairman Tom Pollock. But he knows he had better recognize it if he wants to putout hit movies.

"A star has two things an actor does not have: charisma and the ability to sell tickets," says former Paramount president Ned Tanen. Eddie Murphy has both, he suggests, while gifted actor Robert DeNiro perhaps does not.

Who else has star quality? Danny DeVito, Robert Redford and Michael Douglas are mentioned -- and then there's Arnold.

Although "Naked Hollywood" was made more than a year before the "Terminator 2" hoopla -- we see Schwarzenegger on the set of last summer's hit, "Total Recall" -- clearly he is as big today as then. And nobody talks about whether his father was really a member of the Nazi Party or whether the star took steroids as a body builder.

"Naked Hollywood" offers both those tidbits as things the Hollywood press machine is able to squelch when a popular personality really gets rolling.

We see Arnold lunching with critics during a media junket, for example, as writer Elizabeth Kaye notes such events involve "a bunch of editors [who] agree to allow their reporters to be paid for and wined and dined by a party, a movie studio, about whom they're supposed to be objective."

And again in contrast, we see tabloid headlines alleging a host of unhappy personal problems for Caan.

"I wish I did half the things I heard about myself. I would've had a hell of a time," says Caan wryly.

At times his bitterness is painful to watch, as he says in one breath that making a star of a former muscle man "really makes light of what I do," yet assesses the industry in the next breath as "a silly business, after all, for a grown man."

After his "Godfather" Oscar in 1972, Caan says, he turned down lead roles in both "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" because he thought they'd be bad pictures.

"Most actors are not known for their taste," he notes.

But neither is Schwarzenegger much known for his acting. Critic John Powers of L.A. Weekly suggests sarcastically that the star's emotional range "goes from 'A' to almost about 'B.' "

In his earliest roles, in fact, Schwarzenegger's Austrian accent was so thick his screen voice was dubbed.

But Schwarzenegger says that after the 1977 success of "Pumping Iron," director George Butler's documentary profile about the muscle man, "I really laid out a plan on how to market myself," taking acting lessons and "accent removal" lessons.

Marrying Shriver and joining George Bush's campaign effort didn't hurt, either.

And an elegantly nasty sequence regarding his wedding pretty much sums up the arch tone of "Naked Hollywood." As grainy clips of the nuptials appear on screen, the sound track is playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the greatest fantasy movie ever.

In other words, Hollywood is an Oz to which we can escape -- as long as we've got the cash for a ticket.

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