must it be like to be Gwyneth Paltrow? When you sweep into a room
(and, sweep she does), conversation stops, and the whispers begin:
"There she is! There she is!" Maybe it's the way she carries
herself: tall, poised, cool as ice. Like Grace Kelly (with whom
she is often compared), Paltrow is elegant, ethereal, untouchable.
It's an image she has perfected in her films, often adopting a clipped
British accent and period costume. Yet the image we see onscreen,
and staring back at us from paparazzi photos, couldn't be more different
from the person in real life. Friends and colleagues tell of a girl
who giggles uncontrollably at bad jokes, adores her "mommy
and daddy," and buries her nose in books. She's just sentimental
enough to cry in public (witness her tearful Oscar acceptance speech),
playful enough to party with gal pal Madonna, and tough enough to
survive in a business that eats pretty young things up faster than
you can say "It Girl." How has the glorious Gwyneth managed
to stay sane? "A good upbringing -- my parents are the best,"
she's insisted. "And I've been incredibly lucky." Clearly,
behind the regal bearing, Paltrow is the real thing.
Blond, beautiful, and born with a Hollywood pedigree,
Gwyneth Kate Paltrow was destined for stardom. The only daughter
of Tony-winning actress Blythe Danner and producer-director Bruce
Paltrow (St. Elsewhere) came into the world on September 28, 1972
[BH - correct birthday is Sept. 27]. She and her younger brother
Jake, a fledgling director, had an idyllic early childhood living
with their parents in Los Angeles and summering in the Berkshire
Mountains of Massachusetts where Danner performed in summer stock
at the famed Williamstown Theater. It was there that Paltrow's earliest
acting aspirations surfaced. She made her first onstage appearance
at the theater at 5, with a walkon role; she took on larger roles
during subsequent summers. She also became fascinated by filmmaking
while observing the goings-on on the many movie sets she visited
growing up. One of her fondest memories, she says, is the many months
she spent in 1979 in Beaufort, South Carolina, where her mother
was filming The Great Santini with Robert Duvall. But there was
time for fun, too. She loved poking around in Spanish moss and playing
she was eleven, her family relocated to New York and settled into
a tony townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Paltrow (who was
named after an English child her mother befriended growing up in
Philadelphia) was enrolled at the prestigious all-girls Spence School,
where she was part of an a cappella singing group called Triple
Trio. Another member of the group, public relations exectuive Julia
Cuddihy, who was been one of Paltrow's best friends since they met
in the seventh grade, says that her talent was plainly evident every
time they performed. "Gwen had the prettiest voice out of all
of us," she remembers. "She acted in a few plays and we
took some acting classes together, but I said to her, 'forget this
acting thing, you should be a singer.'" When the group performed
in New York City restaurants Paltrow could often be heard leading
the girls in her favorite song at the time, Billy Joel's "Uptown
Despite having all the advantages of a privileged
upbringing and the popularity she enjoyed as a high-school student,
Paltrow was anything but spoiled. "She always shared everything
she had," says Cuddihy. Whether it was spending her time teaching
me how to sing or lending me a skirt for a school dance, she always
thought of how she could help her friends. She even shared her family
-- some of the best times we had were at her parent's Christmas
parties where we all sang together around the piano.
proud of her tight-knit family, Paltrow has always valued her relationship
with them above everything else in her life, saying, "My family
always comes first." Gorwing up, her parents made sure she
was a well-rounded child -- not a precocious child actor. "It
was important to my mother that we children have culture in our
lives," she's explained. "She took us to the opera, which
I hated at the time but appreciate now. She wanted to show us the
world and its possibilities. I love her for it." It's clear
Paltrow admires her mother for making the choice to put raising
a family ahead of her acting career. "It makes me feel loved
and important because a lot of people wanted her to work, but I
never felt like it was a sacrifice for her."
After graduating from Spence, Paltrow attended
the University of California at Santa Barbara to study art history.
In the summer of 1991, having completed her freshman year, the 18-year-old
appeared opposite her mother in Picnic at Williamstown. Her performance
earned her good reviews and sparked her decision to give up college
to pursue acting full time. While both parents, at first, strongly
objected ("I always wanted to be an actress to be an actress
and my mother wanted me to be something like an anthropologist"),
they were impressed enough by her performance in Picnic to give
their daughter their full support.
Later that summer Paltrow got her first big break
when she and her father went to see Silence of the Lambs with family
friends Steven Spielberg (whom she calls "Uncle Morty")
and Kate Capshaw. Spielberg was in the process of making the movie
Hook, based on the story of Peter Pan, and was searching for a young
Wendy. Paltrow said she could do it -- and he offered her the role
on the spot. That same year she also appeared in Shout with John
Travolta. In 1992, she landed a lead role in the television miniseries
Cruel Doubt only to find out later that her mother was to co-star.
While Paltrow was happy to work with her mother again, she worried
that Hollywood would credit her roles -- unfairly -- to family pull.
flurry of film work that followed left no doubt that while Paltrow
may have inherited the acting gene from her mother, she had her
own unique presence and talents. In 1993, she appeared as a doomed
college student opposite Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman in Malice
and played James Caan's grifter girlfriend in Flesh and Bone. In
1995, she followed up these small but notable parts in three films
which offered audiences a glimpse of her growing range as an actress:
Jefferson in Paris, Moonlight and Valentino, amd Seven.
It was on the set of Seven that Paltrow became
a full-fledged celebrity: she and co-star Brad Pitt fell in love.
When the actor won his Golden Globe in 1996 for his work in 12 Monkeys,
he thanked "my angel, the love of my life." By the time
they attended the Oscars later that year, the duo had become Hollywood's
golden couple of the moment. Their two-and-a-half year relationship
included an engagement in 1996; they called it quits a year later.
Neither would comment on the breakup. Paltrow did vow to never again
speak about her romances in public, preferring to pour out her feelings
in her private journals. "I said things about being in a relationship
[with Brad Pitt] that felt wrong to me even as I was saying them,
but [now] I've realized that absolutely no good can come from my
talking about it," she told Entertainment Weekly.
While her personal life was in a state of flux,
Paltrow's professional life was flourishing. As Jane Austen's heroine
in Emma, she established herself as an actress with an affinity
for accents and a bona fide star. She became known as "the
first lady of Miramax" and the film marked the beginning of
the kind of partnership reminiscent of the studio system of the
'30s and '40s (she has since made several films with the studio).
Paltrow, grateful for the opportunity, said at the time, "When
everybody was [saying] 'She's the next thing!' I wasn't getting
any jobs. Miramax stepped up and gave me jobs."
not to be typecast as "the sweet girl," Paltrow followed
up her performace with a gritty role as a prostitute in Hard Eight,
and ice-princess in a contemporary remake of Great Expectations,
and a bride on the brink in Hush, which she candidly calls "an
appalling movie." After consciously avoiding big-budget releases,
she signed up to co-star with Michael Douglas in A Perfect Murder,
but found that the experience was less than satisfying. "It
sounded like fun but looking back there wasn't anything to sink
my teeth into," she said.
She returned to making independent films, which
she has described as "more my thing." (She wisely turned
down the role in The Avengers that eventually went to Uma Thurman.)
Her next two projects -- Sliding Doors, a dramedy, and the romantic
comedy Shakespeare In Love -- required her to once again affect
a British accent. The New York Times heralded her work in Shakespeare
as "her first great, fully realized starring performance."
The part of the masquerading Viola, which was originally intended
for Julia Roberts, won Paltrow the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Winning the Academy Award in 1999 was the climax
of what had been a very difficult year for Paltrow. Both her father
and beloved paternal grandfather Buster (who passed away last year)
were seriously ill, and Paltrow was consumed with worry over both
of them. To make matters worse, she was shooting The Talented Mr.
Ripley in Italy, far away from her family. Director Anthony Minghella,
who rewrote the part of American expatriot Marge expressly for Paltrow,
says, "I knew about her concerns, but nobody else on the crew
did. She just tried to keep her head above water throughout and
did it with a great deal of dignity and without a big song and dance
about it. I'd like to work with her again without the shadow of
that anxiety coloring the experience." Cuddihy, who was Paltrow's
assistant on Ripley, says everything finally took its toll. "It
was a year of extreme highs a lows," she says. "It was
a lot to deal with all at once." Overwhelmed by it all, Paltrow
was sick in bed for ten days after the Oscars. "It was a strange
period. I just felt exposed and embarrassed. I was wrestling with
a lot of stuff," she told Premiere earlier this year.
it wasn't long before Paltrow returned to work. A month later, she
signed on to star in the upcoming Bounce, a love story about two
people whose lives converge after a plane crash, with her on-again,
off-again boyfriend Ben Affleck (they began dating in December of
1997 and frequently double-dated with Winona Ryder and Matt Damon).
The film marks the first time the couple has played onscreen lovers,
and Don Roos, the film's director, says audiences will see more
than two actors playing their parts. "It's clear they were
in love with each other as characters but I don't know how much
you can really make up. This is pretty real." Roos was struck
by the closeness Paltrow and Affleck displayed and believes their
romance reignited on the set. "By the end of filming, I think
they were back together. They'd go off to lunch together, holding
hands, and certainly gave every appearance of a couple in love.
Whether they end up together or not, they will be in each other's
back pockets for the rest of their lives." The director credits
the film's inspired casting entirely to Paltrow. "She wanted
to play the part more for Ben than for her," he insists. "She
really thought it was important for Ben to play this part so she
kind of pade him do it. She said she knew he'd be really wonderful
in it. He wanted to do a big action movie, so we owe her a lot."
Roos also has high praise for Paltrow's down-to-earth
personality. "She drove herself to the set every day [in a
Mercedes SUV, however], lined up and ate with the crew who she knows
by name, and has a great sense of humor," he enthuses. "She's
very self-deprecating." And not one bit the material girl:
for her birthday party on the set last fall, she asked that people
bring her books, not baubles. The director notes, "I thought
that was the nicest thing, to take the burden off the people coming
to the party."
In addition to Bounce, Paltrow has two other films
schedule for release this fall. Duets, a comedy about karaoke singers
(ex-fiance Pitt was originally slated to be her co-star but the
part is now played by "Felicity"'s Scott Speedman), gave
her the chance to work with her father (who directed the film) for
the first time and to show her singing ability. To help out childhood
pal and screenwriter Caroline Doyle (Paltrow was a bridesmaid at
Doyle's wedding this spring), the actress agreed to make a cameo
in Doyle's independent film Intern where she appears as herself
and parodies herself as a style icon. "Just having her in it
for one second was great," says associate producer Jill Kopelman.
"She just lights up the screen."
unabashed lover of fashion, Paltrow has been spotted at the runway
shows of Calvin Klein ("if I could only wear one designer the
rest of my life, I'd pick Calvin"), Giorgio Armani and Donatella
Versace and appeared in Dior's advertising campaign last spring.
"She is a style role model for her generation," says Kate
Betts, editor of Harper's Bazaar, who chose her as her first cover
girl for the revamped magazine. Paltrow's lean, lithe 5'10"
frame has made her a fashion industry favorite, although she bristles
at being considered a designer's mannequin. "I only wear what
I want to wear," she insists.
These days the 28-year-old Paltrow is happily settled
in her impeccably decorated New York City Greenwich Village apartment.
When she's not working, she attends yoga classes six days a week;
plays with her 6-year-old black laborador retriever, Holden; and
spends time with her girlfriends, many of whom she's known since
childhood. This year she's picked up the tab for her three best
friends to join her at their "Second Annual Girl's Weekend"
in St. Bart's in the Caribbean over the Fourth of July holiday.
Gwyneth, the dutiful daughter, loving sister, loyal
friend, and accomplished actress, has clearly come into her own.
But she'd be the last one to sing her own praises. "I'm just
a person doing my best, trying to be the best I can be every day,
and take care of myself and the people that I love," she said
earlier this year. "I understand that I am incredibly fortunate
and I feel very grateful. I heave a great life, parents who love
me, and a great career. I'm in a great spot right now -- it's all
sort of just starting to fall into place."
"Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable
in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick."
"It changed me more than anything else. You
don't want to get to that place where you're the adult and you're
palpably in the next generation. And, this shoved me into that."
- about her father's struggle with throat cancer.
"It really changed my life. When we split
up, something changed, permanently, in me. My heart sort of broke
that day, and it will never be the same." - about her 1997
break up with Brad Pitt.
"I try to remember, as I hear about friends
getting engaged, that it's not about the ring, and it's not about
the wedding. It's a grave thing, getting married. And it's easy
to get swept up in the wrong things."
"I find 'Sex and the City' irreverent and
shocking. It's one step beyond how girls really talk. I would do
a cameo on that show in a flash."
"I realized life is so short and precious,
you should do things that make you feel inspired, that push you
and teach you something. I'd rather not have a big house, a huge
closet of clothes, diamonds and a private plane, and instead a body
of work that I'm proud of."
"I'm glad that some day my children will be
able to see my father and hear his voice, get a sense of who he
was. One of the things that disturbs me the most about the fact
that he's dead is that I feel like a statistic. I sort of feel like
one of those people who was unfortunate and lost their father when
they were 30, and life goes on. But he was so unique and so incredible,
I don't like to think about it in those terms."
"I worked so much in my 20s and I really burnt
the candle at both ends. I wasn't too picky about what I did and
I was lucky that I did some really good films, but I also did some
really rubbish films, I think part of the downside about being so
successful and winning the Oscar at the age of 26 is that I sort
of became insouciant about the things that I chose. I thought 'oh,
I'll just try this, it'll be fun or I'll do that for the money....'
Things like that now I would absolutely never do."
"The simpler things are, the happier they are."
"The work gets more difficult as you get older.
You learn more and you gather more experiences, there is deeper
pain and higher highs."
"There are certain women in this business
who have children and I just think, 'You must never, never see them.'
You can't do movies back to back and see your child if they go to