Miércoles 31 de Agosto de 2005, Ip nº 124

The Simple Life
Por Belinda Luscombe

Gwyneth Paltrow, the golden child of independent film, has an Oscar, a rock-star husband, a beautiful baby and homes in two countries. Who needs movies?

Standing outside Gwyneth Paltrow's airy California childhood home is a lithe, shirtless rock star. Inside, Paltrow's 15-month-old daughter toddles around, all eyes and cheeks, so fresh and juicy looking that her name, Apple, immediately makes sense. Paltrow offers tea. Her mother, veteran actress Blythe Danner, frets that there are no almond cookies to eat and instead suggests a peach. Chris Martin, the aforementioned rock star, who is Paltrow's spouse and Apple's dad, wanders in and chats about how there might be "people" (that is, paparazzi) outside. Paltrow mentions there is a journalist in the house. The air snap-freezes.

That is the dilemma facing Paltrow these days. Fame has brought her many of the things she holds dear. Her famous mother and producer father guided her down career avenues that were closed to others. Her celebrity, as well as her talent, helped bring her interesting work, the cutest guys (including her husband, who fronts the band Coldplay and whom she met backstage at one of his concerts), homes in New York City and London, a Best Actress Oscar and such close friends as Madonna and Jude Law. But Paltrow, who will turn 33 this month, has now had her fill. Fame is an asset of which she wishes to divest herself. "Everything I wanted to achieve, I achieved," she says, all legs and elbows and neck and tiny little daisy head propped in a poolside chair. "I'm not one of those people who keeps raising the bar. Am I supposed to say I'm going to become the biggest movie star that ever lived? I don't want to."

Her most recent movie choices should keep her from that fate. They're all passion projects not calculated to draw a crowd: Sylvia, a biopic about Sylvia Plath; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, an arch, retrofuturistic movie in which all the acting was done on an empty soundstage, then all the scenery added by computer; and her new film, Proof, about a woman whose life is almost the direct opposite of Paltrow's. She plays Catherine, whose years of caring for her mentally ill, math-genius father (Anthony Hopkins) have left her bitter, maybe nutso. After her father dies, she falls for a winsome former student of his (Jake Gyllenhaal) and gives him a brilliant mathematical proof that no one believes she has written.

The glum, cardigan-swaddled Catherine doesn't sound like the right kind of role for Paltrow, whose most successful movies give her the sort of sweetly wispy presence one associates with cirrus clouds. This is more the forbidding thundercloud area of Mary-Louise Parker (who originated the role on Broadway and who some thought was unfairly overlooked for the movie). Paltrow was in the later London version of the play, directed by her old Shakespeare in Love comrade John Madden, and two years after was cast in his film version.

In those two years, however, Paltrow's life changed completely. Her father Bruce, whom she idolized, died unexpectedly. Shortly afterward, she fell for a cute guy. Suddenly there were all sorts of eerie resonances with her character in Proof. And just as abruptly, Paltrow started seeing things differently. "It was kind of like my life going upside down and the dust settling and things being really clear to me," she says. "I do not want to waste time. I want to do things that are really inspiring and that I feel are going to give something to the world. But they don't have to be sad. They can be something silly and highly comedic."

"Silly and comedic" is a pretty good description of one of the new things Paltrow is trying: directing a short film. She wrote the film for a Glamour magazine project called Reel Moments with her childhood friend Mary Wigmore (with whom she used to throw toys off the balcony of her home into the neighbor's chimney). Dealbreaker details the reasons a young woman breaks up with various boyfriends. The climactic scene involves a man, a bathroom visit and unused toilet paper. Shakespeare in Love it ain't. "Basically it's filthy," says the auteur. "Poop filthy." But Paltrow says the film reflects her real character more than the soigné woman she sees in magazine profiles of herself.

That is, she likes potty humor, not that she casts off guys like toilet paper. In fact, ever since she and Brad Pitt broke off their engagement in 1997, Paltrow has trod gingerly on the subject of her men. "I learned my lesson at 24," she says. Thus, although she dated tabloid catnip like Ben Affleck, there was no "Beneth." There wasn't even a "Pittrow." "It would be a lot easier on Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston now," she says, "had they not talked to the press about each other and everything to begin with."

But for a power couple like Paltrow and Martin, keeping the press at bay isn't easy. As Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein puts it, nicely capturing the paradox, "They are as ordinary as you can be and be in one of the best rock bands in the world and be one of the best actresses in the world." Mr. and Mrs. Martin do not appear together at big public events. They do not like to be photographed together. "When I presented at the Oscars last year," she says, "everyone would say to me 'Where's your husband? Is there trouble in the marriage?' And I was like, Why on earth would I bring my husband?" After she got pregnant, the couple reportedly had a friend take paparazzi-style shots of them to give to magazines so that photographers wouldn't stalk them. "Our marriage is between us. If we decide to continue being together or not, it's our business," she says.

The desire for privacy, the peripatetic life of a rock-star wife, her newfound contentment and, most of all, motherhood are all conspiring to keep Paltrow out of movies, or at least the sort of glossy romances she became famous for. She has a couple of tiny roles coming up and another film, Running with Scissors, in the can, and that's it, at least for now. "I could not have fathomed working Apple's first year. I look at certain women, and I think, How do they just go and do films back to back to back?"

Paltrow knows that stepping away from the business for a moment, much as her mother did when she was born, can be fatal. "If the work peters out, it peters out. But you have to understand that I worked so much for so long. I achieved a lot early. And I wasn't very happy. At this point in my life, I have a life. I have a real life. I'm sure I could balance it out and do films. But I don't know. Every time I see a movie, I think, Would I have wanted to be in that?" Elsewhere in the house, Paltrow's husband is giving an impromptu Coldplay concert on the piano for Apple, who plinks in a few discordant additions. Paltrow giggles. Unlike Catherine, she has nothing to prove.


  29/08/2005. Time Magazine.


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