Versatility is not a virtue that Americans seem to prize highly among their star performers. A change ofimage is therefore a risk. A change ofcareer positive folly. However. since singer Cher decided to forsake the Vegas sequins for the pursuit of acting the results have won her endless applause and vindication.
In 1981 she appeared in the play Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean. Jimmy Dean and the subsequent film version directed by Robert Altman. Her role in Silk wood brought her an Oscar nomination. Mask earned her the Best Actress Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and now The Witches of Eastwick is one of the biggest grossing films of the year in America. She has two films awaiting release. two films in production and a new album due out in November. She is 41. looks 25 and displays the energy ofa teenager revelling in the demands of a dream career come true.
Mask was a moving story of the relationship between a hideously disfigured youth and his unconventional biker mother. Cher should have won the Oscar for her performance in it and I express my surprise and disappointment that she wasn‘t even nominated. ‘I was surprised and disappointed too. ‘ is her perky rejoinder. ‘I think it was a combination offaetors. Universal just didn't do the film justice. It was supposed to play HBO. have a limited release at nomination time. go on cassette and just none of those things happened at the right time. It had been out about ten months before the nominations so people just had a hard time remembering it.‘
IfMask didn‘t result in the ultimate glittering accolade it should have guaranteed a constant stream of offers. yet there has been a two-year gap before the appearance of Witches. ‘I didn‘t work for those two years because there really wasn‘t anything that I wanted to do. I think Mask made people more aware of my potential but the competition is really strong when it comes to good women's roles. I think it‘s getting better but there are more good actresses out there than good actors.‘ Witches is virtually unique in offering three strong women‘s roles as a trio ofsingle Eastwick inhabitants inadvertently conjure up a ripe and randy devil in the shape ofJack Nicholson. ‘In the original script the roles were pretty interchangeable. they could be switched like shoes. Michelle Pfeiffer was cast and I only really wanted to play Alexandra because I thought I could do a better job with it. When Susan Sarandon was cast. her character ofJane was completely rewritten. The three of
us sat down with the writer Michael Cristoffer and helped delineate the characters a bit more. to make them more individualistic as we became more keyed into our parts.‘
Witches is distinguished by a high level of performances and marred somewhat by director George Miller‘s unnecessarily exuberant over-indulgence in special effects. ‘That wasn‘t something we were very
Appearing in the film Witches ofEastwick is just one example of Cher‘s expanding career. Allan Hunter
talked to the indefatigable singer turned actress.
aware of. As an actor you just react and there‘s nothing there. that‘s all done afterwards and we didn‘t know anything about it until we saw it for the first time. ldon't think George has a clue about acting. He used to be a doctor and at rehearsals came up with all these graphs and things that nobody understood. He was just interested in the positioning ofthe camera and the technical side of things. I don’t think he ever talked to me about the character or my performance. It was chaotic and I was ﬂabbergasted that it turned out so well. but just watching Jack and everyone else I knew there was some good acting going on there that had to show in the finished film. Jack‘s very easy to work with: I’ve known him a long time. We used to be neighbours in Aspen and went skiing
together. Susan was someone I knew slightly and Michelle I‘d only met once at a birthday party but we all got on very well.‘
The conclusion of Witches leaves open the possibility of a sequel. a prospect Cher finds unlikely. ‘I don‘t think any of the people involved would want to return for a sequel. I suppose they could take our children and make them grow up into Matthew Broderick and Matt Dillon. The reason it was left open was that although they loved Jack they knew he was no good but the battle between men and women continues.‘
After her two-year hiatus. Cher is back with a vengeance and in 1988 is likely to be seldom absent from our cinema screens. Already in release in America is Suspect ‘a thriller with
some redeeming social commentary’ in which she plays a public defence attorney defending a Vietnam veteran on a murder charge. A forthcoming attraction. laden with Oscar potential. is Moonstruck. ‘I think it‘s the best movie I’ve ever done. I play an Italian Brooklyn accountant who is about to be married to a guy that she doesn’t really love. She is a woman with a lot of character in many ways but she‘s trying to just settle down. do what is expected of her and have some kids. Then in the course of a day her life is turned inside out when she meets someone else.
The acting profession may be a competitive one but Cher seems to be attracting her fair share of the plums and as ifthat isn‘t enough to satisfy her ambitions she has just made an album entitled. appropriately enough. Cher.’ I really didn‘t want to do another record. I've always liked singing but it was no big deal; you just opened your mouth and it came out. Acting always involves preparation and thinking about your character. singing just happens. Anyway. Geffen Records kept asking me to do an album. I kept saying no. no. no. they kept saying yes. yes. yes and they had such faith that I found myselfsaying yes too. I‘m really happy that I did because it's the best one I‘ve done. it comes out in America on November 3rd.‘
Apparently indefatigable. Cher has directed the video ofthe first single from her album and has two film projects in development for her own company.‘ They're both books and true stories. Rain or Shine is about a very popular figure on the
rodeo circuit in the Thirties and Forties and I hope to do that with Dennis Ouaid who‘s also in Suspect. Forever Sad Heart is about an American nurse who went to work in a private hospital in Vietnam that turned out to be run by the CIA with the doctors undercover CIA agents. When they pulled out. the nurses were left to run a hospital and orphanage on their own. That film has been the hardest one to sell because studios were wary of doing another Vietnam film and it was the first from a woman‘s point of view but Paramount have picked it up and we hope to make it soon.‘
One longstanding ambition is to remake the 19405 romantic classic The Enchanted Cottage. When Cher last did the British media blitz her hopes were on an imminent production with John Malkovich.
Two years later the dream lingers on ‘I cannot begin to tell you the troubles I‘ve had with that film. I alone have been trying to negotiate the rights to it since 1980. I‘m really attracted to it and every time I become excited about it the guy who owns the rights goes insane. Then I think. ‘I don‘t need to do this, I have other work to do‘ but I become excited again and he knows he has me over a barrel. I hope to win by just outlasting him.‘
The Witches ofEastwick continues at the Grosvenor in Glasgow and the Cameo in Edinburgh. See cinema Listings for Details.
6 The List 30 Oct — 12 Nov