Jason Cochran
April 04, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

”It’s not difficult to see talent when it’s there in front of you.” Easy for Pat O’Connor to say. The Irish-born director of Inventing the Abbotts has an enviable knack for spotting actors on their way up. He hired Kenneth Branagh more than a decade ago in A Month in the Country and put 1994’s Oscar nominee Helen Mirren in 1984’s Cal. With Circle of Friends, he introduced Minnie Driver to American audiences and stamped Chris O’Donnell as a leading man. Keep your eye on Abbotts‘ five young costars — since they’re beautiful, that should be no problem.

JENNIFER CONNELLY, 27
[PREVIOUSLY]
Adventurous good girl in The Rocketeer; floozy in Mulholland Falls
[IN INVENTING THE ABBOTTS]
Rebellious middle Abbott sister Eleanor. ”I’d seen her when she was about 12 in Once Upon a Time in America,” the director says. ”Such wonderful eyes. I think she’s a great beauty.”
[NEXT]
September’s futuristic noir thriller Dark City, with Rufus Sewell

BILLY CRUDUP, 27
[PREVIOUSLY]
Acting school to Broadway to the big-budget Sleepers in just over a year
[IN INVENTING THE ABBOTTS]
Vengeful lothario Jacey Holt. Long Island-born Crudup stunned O’Connor as a Brit in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. ”I thought he was English,” O’Connor says. ”And I lived in England for 12 years!”
[NEXT]
The title role in the second Steve Prefontaine biopic, this fall’s Pre

JOANNA GOING, 33
[PREVIOUSLY]
B-grade TV princess (Going to Extremes, Dark Shadows)
[IN INVENTING THE ABBOTTS]
Prim elder Abbott sister Alice. ”While she was reading, I thought, Click! There’s Alice,” O’Connor says. ”And if it doesn’t click, they don’t get the job.”
[NEXT]
Everything’s clicking. Six flicks are in the can.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX, 23
[PREVIOUSLY]
Troubled teens in Parenthood and To Die For
[IN INVENTING THE ABBOTTS]
Sensitive younger brother Doug Holt. ”A real original,” says O’Connor, who cast him after Leonardo DiCaprio passed.
[NEXT]
Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, due out in August

[ACTOR]
LIV TYLER, 19
[PREVIOUSLY]
’96 It Girl for Heavy, Stealing Beauty, and That Thing You Do!
[IN INVENTING THE ABBOTTS]
Gorgeous, loyal baby Abbott sister Pamela. O’Connor heard buzz on Tyler but hadn’t seen her act, not even ”the famous video where she’s wiggling her bottom or whatever.”
[NEXT]
As Hollywood’s odds-on ingenue, she’s biding her time

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