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Reel World

This week in Hollywood -- Lili Taylor, Anne Heche, and Renee Zellweger shone at last month's Sundance Festival

Women shone at last month’s Sundance Film Festival, where a small avalanche of films at the snowy Utah conclave offered more than the wife and lover roles found in so much studio fare. But for a few promising actresses, the plaudits came just as the Hollywood mainstream discovered and cast them — as wives and lovers. On the cusp of newfound celebrity and possible frustration are…

Lili Taylor, 28. A relative veteran among up-and-comers, the Household Saints star had two movies in competition — I Shot Andy Warhol, for which she won a special acting award for her ferocious portrayal of radical feminist Valerie Solanas, and the gritty Girls Town, which won an award for its ensemble cast — as well as a cameo as an argumentative hitchhiker in the Icelandic road movie Cold Fever. Now playing a kidnapper in this summer’s Ransom with Mel Gibson, tiny Taylor admits that girlfriend parts ”don’t always have enough juice to sustain me to the max.”

Anne Heche, 26. Demi Moore’s vivacious pal in The Juror was on view in two comedies, playing a nervous bride-to-be in Walking and Talking and an eccentric dancer in Pie in the Sky. Word of Heche’s biggest break yet broke just before the festival: She’ll play wife to Johnny Depp’s undercover FBI agent in Mike Newell’s year-end Mafia thriller Donnie Brasco. Of the role, says Heche, ”Their love relationship is really involved, because she’s not told what is going on with his life. It’s a wonderful thing to play.”

Renee Zellweger, 26. Even as The Whole Wide World was generating strong buzz, Zellweger received the best buzz of all — a phone call at Sundance from director Cameron Crowe telling her she’d been cast as Tom Cruise’s love interest in the sports-agent drama Jerry Maguire, due out at the end of the year. Other striking talents, like Girls Town’s Bruklin Harris and Care of the Spitfire Grill’s Alison Elliott, haven’t yet heard the summons to wifedom, but they may. Says producer Ruth Charny (Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day) of the festival’s leading ladies: ”They’re interesting-looking, fantastic women you’d like your sons to meet.” Uh-oh.

Gregg Kilday, with additional reporting by Tiarra Mukherjee and Anne Thompson


Holland Is Honor-ific!
What is the real significance of the success of Mr. Holland’s Opus? Is it that Richard Dreyfuss is bankable again? Or is it that Opus broke the Mr. jinx? Given that Mr. Wonderful, Mr. Saturday Night, Mr. Baseball, Mr. Destiny, Mr. Nanny, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Jones all flopped, Disney would have been excused a last-minute title switch. But the hit Mr. Holland has clearly snapped that industry streak. It does seem, though, that Disney is pushing its luck with its next release, an Ellen DeGeneres vehicle called Mr. Wrong.