Behind the Scenes

'Only You': Love Among the Ruins

Is Marisa Tomei the new Audrey Hepburn?

Sleepless in Seattle's $127 million box office take established it as the gold standard of modern romance. And its clever use of An Affair to Remember established a new cinematic recycling technique: Who needs fresh emotion when you can simply refer to a three-hankie weepie?

It was only a matter of time before someone noticed the coattails on Roman Holiday. That most romantic 1953 film won Audrey Hepburn an Oscar as a princess who flirts with the commoner's life — and with Gregory Peck. Forty-one years later, Only You, starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. (and filmed by Sleepless cinematographer Sven Nykvist), does more than flirt with Holiday. First-time screenwriter Diane Drake says Holiday only ''inspired'' her $1 million script; it took script doctor Malia Scotch Marmo (Once Around) to flesh out the connection once director Norman Jewison decided Only You needed to be ''a bit more sophisticated.'' But a close inspection of the two movies suggests that Only You's brand of flattery is very sincere.

Leading Ladies *Roman Holiday: Swanlike beauty with a gamine bob plays a princess who runs away from her duty to her country and finds love on Rome's streets. *Only You: Faith, a swanlike beauty with a gamine bob, acts like a princess, runs away from her duty to her fiancé, and finds love on Rome's streets. While Jewison won't say he aimed for a Hepburn surrogate, he admits Tomei ''has the neck for it'' — a point costume designer Milena Canonero won't let you forget. Tomei even dons a pert little scarf identical to one Hepburn wears.

Leading Men *Roman Holiday: Peck is a journalist named Joe Bradley who masquerades as a salesman so the publicity-shy princess will spend time with him. * Only You: Downey is a salesman named Peter Wright who, masquerading as Tomei's dream lover Damon Bradley, entices Faith to spend time with him. Drake says she named the character after Peck's, adding, ''I just wish we could have had Gregory Peck do a cameo.''

Shoe Biz *Roman Holiday: Meeting with boredom at a diplomatic function, the princess slips out of one shoe, then loses it in the folds of her dress; she wears sensible flats with ankle laces for knocking about. * Only You: Trying to meet Bradley at a restaurant, Faith runs after him and slips out of one shoe, then loses it in a crowded square; she wears sensible flats with ankle laces for knocking about.

Courtship Rituals * Roman Holiday: Bradley and the princess ride in a carriage, dance cheek to cheek, and tempt the jaws of Rome's Mouth of Truth, which according to ancient lore swallows the hands of fibbers. * Only You: Mr. Wright and Faith ride in a carriage, dance cheek to cheek, and tempt the jaws of Rome's Mouth of Truth, alternately reciting Peck's lines. ''I thought of Audrey Hepburn a lot,'' says Tomei, ''but I don't compare this to Roman Holiday. That's in a class by itself.'' *

Originally posted Oct 28, 1994 Published in issue #246 Oct 28, 1994 Order article reprints
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