Natasha Richardson Star of The Parent Trap

Art and life have a strange habit of converging, sometimes to the extent where you can't tell one from the other. For Natasha Richardson, scion of one of British acting’s most respected families, this is truer than for most of us. Growing up the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson, she witnessed the rarefied nature of her parents' celebrity, and was a constant visitor to film sets and theatre dressing rooms.

’I think in some ways it would have been more natural for me if I’d rebelled and gone in another direction,’ she muses, ’because growing up we were so immersed in this world. But acting has always been exactly what I wanted to do.’

Now having safely escaped the shadow of her family background, one gets the impression that comparisons between her immediate family rankle a little, and that’s one reason why she and husband Liam Neeson have settled in New York. 'I don't have any of that family baggage there,‘ she adds, candidly.

Of course there are things she misses about home, but her ability to exert some control over her life clearly counts for more. She has two sons (aged two and three) with Neeson, so could easily identify with the maternal instincts of her latest screen character, the bemused mother of twins in The Parent Trap.

On screen, she and her former husband (played by Dennis Quaid) have begun a new life with a twin each, keeping the existence of an identical sister a secret from each girl. Only when they happen to meet do the girls both portrayed wonderfully by Lindsay Lohan - engineer a plan to bring their parents together again.

While busy in her career, a happy home life is perhaps Richardson’s proudest achievement in direct contradiction to a recent story about a split-up with

Keeping mum: Lindsay Lohan and Natasha Richardson in The Parent Trap

Neeson that proved costly for one national newspaper. This, it seems, is another quality she shares with her Parent Trap character.

’I'm an optimist and a romantic,’ she says, ‘so of course I think it’s possible to combine a happy family with a successful career, as you see it in the film.’

Art intrudes upon Natasha Richardson’s life in one more respect too. The idea of twins in the film echoes an experience of deja-vu that occurs with some people meeting her for the first time.

’I often get people telling me I look just like someone else,’ she explains, bemused. ’l’m mistaken for other actors sometimes, or I’m told I look like some person's cousin, or their best friend. I'd be horrified if I eventually met this lookalike, but I must just have that kind of face.’ (Anwar Brett)

“‘1 General release from Fri I I Dec

Streep's ahead: Pat O'Connor directs Dancing At Lughnasa

Pat O’Connor

Director of Dancing At Lughnasa

Theies gift-en an extra ".Vf‘lqlll of ff",j)(}.",'s'liilll,’ piac ed on the ‘sftiitlitft'l‘; of a drier tor '.'.'ho's maker; the film version of a popular play On stage, each performance has its own subtle I differences, on si reen, it's set down for posterity When the play in question is Dancing/1tLughnasa, Brian Friel's story of five sisters in rural Ireland, and it has been a hit at home, in London's West End and on Broadway, then

36 THE lIST 3 ll bet I , ,a

expectations run high

’You are absolutely av.iare that the play is very well known] admits film director Pat O’connor, ‘but what I'm doing, totally selfishly, is trying to make a very good film so that I’ll t‘,() down in posterity Ididn't really think about the play at all once we started I didn't feel was ()()|n(] into a tabernacle in \\.‘fll(ll I had to be overly respectful You always try to make a f:lm that will resonate in some way, that will connect with people's experiences They don't have to have been born in Donerjal, but they are connected to it.’

His film has been very well received by Irish audiences, who don't seem to have minded the fact that the five Donegal women are played by three English actresses, one American and one from north of the border Mind you, when the American in question is Meryl Streep, you can’t complain O’Connor -- whose past work includes Circle Of Friends and Inventing The Abbots »- is certainly happy with his casting,

’We looked in Ireland, but the casts who were predominant in the original theatre productions are now ten years older, and some of them have never been successful in film,' he says 'I figure that, if actors are good enough, if they've got the skill emotionally and have the talent at their disposal, they would be able to make that into a family If you said, "I'm (]()lll() to (jet five Donegal women With similar noses", you’re (wing to have a pure- Iookinij family, an interesting connectedness Visually, but you're not going to have what's most important - the characterisation ' (Alan Morrison) Glasgow Fi/ni Theatre and Edinburgh Fi/nihouse from Fri 4 Dec See revrew.

Jackie Chan Star of Rush Hour

The relief on Jackie Chan’s face is evident. After years of trying to prove himself in American movies, and in spite of consistently being described as the world's biggest film star, he has made it. Rush Hour delivers an Americanised version of what fans of his Hong Kong action films always knew he could do bone-crunchineg dangerous stunts and a degree of good-natured humour.

He and motor-mouthed actor Chris Tucker make a winning team, even if they are playing out a routine ’mismatched cops' plot. The film has taken $130 million at the American box office, and looks certain to be just as popular here. So what makes this different from Chan's previous efforts?

'It never worked before because nobody would listen to me,’ Chan explains, With no hint of arrogance. In his own movies he routinely directs the action and regularly performs the stunts himself.

'I’ve been making action movies for 37 years,’ he adds, ’and those other times the young stunt guys would try to teach me how to throw a punch. And whenever I suggested all the comedy things, nobody listened to me. I got very depressed. They didn't concentrate on my fighting, or my acting, only my English. But now it's different. The director let me speak Jackie Chan English, and he let me do almost whatever I want to do with the action scenes, the stunts, the comedy.’

People are certainly listening to Jackie Chan now, but there is at least one thing that he cannot do in American inovres that he does at home the trademark stunts that frequently end in injury, which are played over the end credits Significantly in Rush Hour, the out-takes concentrate more on the banter between Chan and Tucker, or Jackie's problems With his English SCflpl

’When I do stunts in America they have to negotiate With two insurance companies. Then they have to spend three or four hours putting the safety equipment down,’ he sighs, incredulous ’In that time I could have done it already.’ (Anwar Brett)

General release from Fri 4 Dec. See


Cunning stunts: Jackie Chan in Rush Hour