One door closes for Troy Beyer, another opens

`Love Don't Cost' director decided to quit acting

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

December 11, 2003|By Donna M. Owens | Donna M. Owens,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Feeling stalled as a Hollywood actress, Troy Beyer decided to create roles instead of waiting for them to come her way.

So the frustrated thespian flipped the script - with great success. Her very first screenplay, B.A.P.S., became a feature film starring Halle Berry. And Beyer launched a new career as a writer, producer and director.

"I didn't have a passion for acting, but I'm so inspired by what I'm doing now," says the 39-year-old filmmaker, whose latest project, Love Don't Cost a Thing, opens tomorrow.

Beyer wrote the screenplay and directed the romantic comedy, a multicultural, hip retelling of the 1987 teen hit Can't Buy Me Love.

The cast includes Nick Cannon of Drumline fame; actress/singer Christina Milian (raised in Waldorf); and comedian Steve Harvey.

"My manager approached me about doing a rewrite, and this was timely," explains Beyer, speaking by phone during a recent press junket in Washington. "I thought, `Wow, this could be a great movie.' "

In Love Don't Cost a Thing, high school senior Alvin Johnson (Cannon) is a brilliant student but a social misfit. He never dates and watches from the sidelines with his equally nerdy friends as the popular crowd at school, the "Elites," have all the fun.

When queen of the Elites Paris Morgan (Milian) wrecks her mom's car, Alvin offers to fix it using his own expertise and cash he's saved working as a pool boy.

The catch? Paris must pretend to be Alvin's girlfriend for two weeks. In the process, she makes him over into a swaggering hunk. But his newfound ego threatens to ruin old friendships, a future scholarship and any chance of a real relationship with Paris.

"I have an affinity for teen-agers, so I loved making this movie," says Beyer, who admits she tapped into her own high school memories while making the film.

She also used her acting experience.

"I often find myself tuning into my own thoughts as an actress to help me communicate with the actors I'm directing," she says. "It allows me to access their world, which helps clarify what's needed for a moment or emotion."

Beyer is a show-biz veteran. Her career began at age 4, as a regular on Sesame Street.

"I was a little girl helping my mom with the rent," recalls the native New Yorker, who now lives in Los Angeles. "I spent seven years on the show."

From there, Beyer landed a small part in Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club and later found fame as Diahann Carroll's daughter in the television series Dynasty.

A variety of TV parts followed, along with leading roles in films The Five Heartbeats and journalist Tony Brown's The White Girl.

But Beyer wasn't pleased with the trajectory of her career.

"I could make a gazillion excuses why I wasn't succeeding," she says. "The bottom line is, if you have the chops, you get the parts."

Looking back, she calls "failure" a good thing.

"The seeds of failure were my seeds of success. I saw that writing, producing and directing was the most valuable thing for me."

Her career looks promising. Beyer wrote, directed and starred in the innovative comedy Let's Talk About Sex, which premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.

Hopes are high for Love Don't Cost a Thing. And she is currently developing a Fox television movie, Rodeo Girl, described as a cross between Bring It On and An Officer and a Gentleman.

Coming projects could fall under the aegis of Possibility Productions, the company Beyer founded six months ago. The name says it all.

Meantime, the single mom (son Jordan is 6) is engaged and looking forward to the future.

"I'd like to be the John Hughes of the new millennium," she says, referring to the creator of such '80s teen classics as Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club. "But I'll try to do anything I'm passionate about. The love of the project is the main thing."

For more film events, see Page 43.

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