Lost in La La Land, the Brits who find fame for 15 minutes

Don't send your daugher to LA, Mrs Worthington, she'll be flavour of the month and then never get cast again. Lucy Broadbent reports on the notable failure of British actresses to make it big-time, long-term (because let's face it, there isn't a single bankable British female star in the Hollywood firmament)

"IF HOLLYWOOD is an airport called Stardom, there are hundreds of British actresses in a holding pattern somewhere over Pasadena." So says British Hollywood screenwriter Sean Macaulay. "Everyone might think that British actresses are hot because we've got four Best Actress Oscar nominees this year," he continues. "But you only have to look at the track record to see how quickly actresses get spun out here. In Hollywood it's 'Here today, gone by power brunch'."

It remains to be seen whether Olivia Williams, who was plucked from relative British obscurity to play Kevin Costner' s new leading lady, will be left marooned in the twilight world where disillusioned actresses go. Costner's latest movie, The Postman, was so badly received in America that when President Gorbachev was given a preview screening during a Hollywood visit last year, so the joke went, it set East-West relations back ten years. Making less than $5 million, the film disappeared without trace from American cinemas in less than three weeks.

There can be few worse fates than entry to the micro-celebrity fringe club whose membership, a large percentage of whom are British, have been given a taste of stardom, billed as the next big thing, and then abandoned. It only takes a flick through a few back issues of the Hollywood Reporter to prove the point. In 1987, after Wish You Were Here, Emily Lloyd was feted as the next Julie Christie, with a dazzling future ahead of her. But apart from an appearance in A River Runs Through It, her talents have gone largely unappreciated since. Gabrielle Anwar was also the toast of the town when she danced with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, but unless U-Boat, a dismal TV movie with Stephen Baldwin, counts as success, her name can also be filed away in the "micro-celeb" section. Hollywood is full of such tales. Julia Ormond was the new Audrey Hepburn when she was cast in the remake of Sabrina opposite Harrison Ford, but her latest effort - Smilla's Feeling for Snow - fell way below both British and American audience's radars, as have the names of Caroline Goodall, once revered for her role in Schindler's List, and Martine Beswick who did, at least, make it into two James Bond films.

Not all members of the "fringe club" fade into obscurity. But there are plenty that do disappear. Four years ago Thandie Newton was billed as "the hottest British import to hit the US since Natasha Richardson" after playing Brad Pitt's first delicious victim in Interview with the Vampire. But where is she now?

"Not even an Oscar nomination guarantees success in this town," says Hollywood film-maker Sacha Gervasi, referring to British actresses Brenda Blethlyn and Jean-Marie Baptiste, who were nominated last year. "The big English films that do well here bring attention to the stars. They might get offered small parts in Hollywood films. But very few can parlay that into a long-term career before being dropped off the face of the earth. Hollywood is so 'of the moment', that anyone can be forgotten by the next day. This is a very hard town to make it in."

British women also have to jump through more hoops, according to Hollywood observer William Cash. "One of the hardest things for them is the technical difficulty of the American accent. For some reason British actresses also make the mistake of dressing down and wearing no makeup for auditions. They think it's all in the talent, darling. American women, meanwhile, make every effort possible to look good. They know that's what's going to get them the part. There are an awful lot of British actresses who come to Hollywood for their big break. Just recently they were looking for a British girl to appear in the TV sitcom Friends - over 300 British girls turned up. It takes a degree of desperation to make it here. Kate Winslet, for example, is downright pushy. She used to regularly phone up James Cameron and demanded her part in Titanic. Sleeping with the right people is the other the way to the top, of course. One feted British actress, who shall remain nameless, is known to have done just that."

The problem for British girls is that they can get marooned in Hollywood after moving out here. "They don't like to go home again, because they're too proud. They feel they can't go back till they're superstars," says Macaulay. "If they were smart enough, they'd marry a film producer, but most of them end up having a dalliance with their co-star, which gets them no-where. So they end up living in Santa Monica because the air is cleaner down by the beach,attending acting classes to keep their hand in, and chasing agents and managers." Minnie Driver, nominated for best supporting actress for Good Will Hunting, was spotted buying a new Jeep down there last week in celebration of her recent success. She better make sure she can keep up the repayments.

News
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Extras
indybest
News
i100... and no one notices
Arts and Entertainment
Friends reunited: Julian Ovenden, Richard Cant and Matt Bardock in rehearsals for the Donmar revival of 'My Night
with Reg'
theatrePoignancy of Kevin Elyot's play being revived just after his death
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 5/6 Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

    Year 5/6 Teacher

    £21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...

    Business Analyst (Systems/ Incident Analyst)

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Business Analyst r...

    SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently looking for a PERMANENT S...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor