Features

The Lady Vanishes

Gwyneth: mom or movie star? -- Just as she draws attention for two upcoming films, Gwyneth Paltrow is stepping out of the spotlight to focus on a different sort of drama: motherhood.

Gwyneth Paltrow looks happy. Baby Apple, pink lips puckered in sweet dreams, is asleep in her arms. ''Sorry she crashed,'' murmurs Paltrow, palming her 4-month-old daughter's little blond head, ''but her daddy is working today, so it's just us.'' Daddy is Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and the two married in a secret shotgun wedding last December, five months before Apple's birth. She turns fierce when the ballyhoo over her daughter's name is brought up: ''To me the name Apple is so beautiful and sweet, and people are named Rose, people are named Lily, Ivy, June, May. People are named nouns all the time. How can people say, 'Oh, it's so bizarre'?'' Paltrow hasn't worked in close to a year, and she wears her time off well. When I first met her last fall in London, where she was wrapping up the shoot on the adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof, she looked every bit the Oscar-winning actress: Gucci blazer, intense Christian Dior black stiletto boots, that gorgeous drape of yellow hair. Today, tucked away at the Four Seasons in Carlsbad, Calif., where she's in town for a friend's wedding, she's relaxed in a frizzy ponytail and flip-flops.

''It's really funny hanging out this weekend with all my girlfriends from when I was little,'' she says. ''Everyone's like, 'Duuuude. . . you have a baby.''' After Apple was born, in a hard delivery that stretched on for 70 hours, Paltrow says she broke into spontaneous sobs for about three weeks: ''It's like being the most in love you've ever been,'' she says, smoothing out the skirt of Apple's white dress, ''but mixed with the worst heartbreak because she's so tender, because life is filled with so much difficulty, because one day you're not going to be together anymore.''

So Paltrow has spent a quiet summer with Apple by her side. ''I can't imagine going back to shoot a movie,'' she says. (Somewhere, two hours north in Los Angeles, blood seeps from her agent's ears.) ''I don't imagine that I'm going to take on something very big in the next 6, 8, 10, 12 months,'' she continues, laughing as she adds more and more multiples of two. A big night out on the town for the new parents was when they bundled up their daughter and went to see Fahrenheit 9/11. (Just think, when a baby squawks during a crucial scene, you could be cursing out Gwyneth Paltrow.) Apple's attention span inevitably drifted, and they spent the second half of the movie dancing around with her in the lobby.

But with two high-profile movies opening, the bluescreen 1930s adventure Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (see story below) and, later in December, the heady performance piece Proof, Paltrow will soon be taking off her yoga pants and putting back on her movie-star getup. Apple will go with her everywhere, even to Miami for the MTV Video Music Awards, where Paltrow presented the show-closer Video of the Year award. (The 31-year-old seems mystified by the invitation: ''Doesn't that seem incongruous? I don't think 15-year-old skateboarders even know who I am.'')

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