(With Photo - Glenn Close)

Glenn Close

By Joey Berlin
Copley News Service

       Although Glenn Close embodies a grace and poise that is almost unrivalled in modern film, this Connecticut-born star can ratchet up a manically unhinged character with the best of them. On Broadway, she played a washed-up, but lethal movie star in "Sunset Boulevard." On screen, Close delineated a famously frenzied "other woman" in 1987's "Fatal Attraction." And she made a superb Cruella DeVil in Disney's 1996 comedy, "101 Dalmatians." Close reprises the role in the new holiday offering, "102 Dalmatians."
       In the sequel, Cruella is rehabilitated in prison, but soon after she regains her freedom, it's look out Dalmatians once again.

Q. You obviously enjoy playing Cruella.
A. It's very, very rare in film to play a character that's as operatic and theatrical as Cruella. It's just great fun. Only Jim Carrey gets to do things like this. To have that kind of great size of emotion and molecular activity is rare and fun. Roles like this are rare for women.

Q. What's it like when your co-stars are dogs?
A. I had no incidents with them. But this film represents a higher level of training. It's extraordinary what they've done with these dogs. The director, Kevin Lima, did a great job choosing the right shots to convey emotions between these animals. What I treasure about these two films is that it's all animals acting, not a human voice explaining things. But it takes hours and hours over months to get that.

Q. Any special problems with the dogs?
A. You can only train a puppy for five minutes a day. First, you have to get a new litter and find out who the Oddball is. Then, you identify the smartest one, which is usually a female! Then, you train them. But they get bored quickly and won't perform after five minutes. Just think of the logistics with over 200 puppies!

Q. So did you ever think that you would do another one after "101 Dalmatians?"
A. No! Never in a million years! I was exhausted after the first movie. But we learned a lot between the two films. I was often wet and cold on the first one and near hypothermia between every take. Now, we had heated tents to keep me warm. I had to dangle from a harness three stories up. I thought that as long as my face was in that shot, that I would do the stunt. It was tremendously physical.

Q. Were you ever comfortable in those outlandish costumes?
A. Yeah! I wore a bubble-wrap coat made of silk. That was comfortable. Unless, of course, you had to sit and then the coat would pop!

Q. Do kids recognize you now?
A. I'd like to think it's their parents who recognize me and point me out as the person who played Cruella. Because if I look like her while I'm walking down the street, then I'm in deep, deep trouble! But I love the fact that she means so much to kids. And I feel very powerful around a kid because I know, if I want to, I can scare them to death! (laughs)

Q. Who scared you as a child?
A. The witch in "Snow White" was the iconic witch of my childhood. I don't know how Cruella stands in that pantheon of witches. What I like about that dripping, white-faced witch image is that it is iconic and I get to do that in this film. I'm the creature with the red eyes throwing the good guy around!

Q. Can you go overboard with Cruella?
A. There's a difference between character and caricature. A caricature happens when actors distance themselves from the character and comment on them while in costume. I tried to be as true to who Cruella was as I would with any character I've played.

Q. You've finished a television film of "South Pacific," which airs next May. Can musicals really come back?
Very much so. There are several movie musicals coming out, like "Moulin Rouge." But I'm proud of our "South Pacific." It will re-introduce this amazing piece of classic American theater to new audiences. Our vision was to get real actors to really sing and fill out these great characters. And there's a pertinent message for today.

Q. Is it hard to strike a balance between work and your personal life?
A. It's an amazing balancing act. I'm a single, working mother with a daughter and I'm her main caretaker. Now, she's 12 and the most important thing in my life. I'm cutting back on a lot of commitments for her.

Q. Do fans ever speak to you on the street or single out any film?
A. They speak, maybe mentioning "Dangerous Liaisons." But they usually don't point out any one thing. I'm sure they think I'm Meryl Streep to begin with! (laughs)

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(With Photo - Susan Sarandon)

Susan Sarandon

By Joey Berlin
Copley News Service

       With credits in more than 60 film and television productions, including "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Bull Durham," "Thelma and Louise" and "Dead Man Walking," Susan Sarandon seems to have done it all in the world of entertainment. But until the new animated feature, "Rugrats In Paris: The Movie," this acclaimed actress has never "voiced" a cartoon character in a full-length animated feature.
       The 54-year-old Sarandon has three children (two by longtime beau, actor Tim Robbins), only one of which is young enough to remotely fit the profile of a "Rugrats" fan. Nonetheless, this Academy Award winner is now featured in a rare movie that the PG crowd can see.

Q. How did you wind up as a "Rugrats" character, "Coco LaBouche?"
A. I don't know how it came about! They just asked me. Of course, I knew what "Rugrats" was about. I was a fan of the TV show and the first movie. My 8-year-old recently watched the tape again and said that he got a lot of the jokes now that he didn't understand a few years ago. I sat through any amount of horrendous children's programming, but I always liked "Rugrats," and I was flattered when I was asked.

Q. You've been wicked on screen before. But isn't this your first out-and-out villain?
A. Yeah, I've played a lot of irresponsible people, but not as flashy. This character is really out there though and she says a lot of horrible things.

Q. What are some of your voice-over credentials?
A. I was in "The Simpsons." I did a thing on Martin Luther King. I've done an enormous amount of PSAs and pro bono. I probably do a documentary a week when I'm not working. But usually, I'm not screaming at small children (laughs)!

Q. What kind of acting challenge does "Rugrats" present? You do a lot of the work alone, right?
A. Yeah. Well, I miss being able to get a rhythm going, some kind of comic timing other than just being hysterical. It felt like all I did was scream for two years! And because their voices are so tiny and cute, you do have to scream. But what you really have to do is keep the microphone open and give them a menu of different extremes to choose from. And you have to do something every few months for a couple years because it doesn't always work out for the animators.

Q. One of your most striking features is your eyes. But rumor has it that you're not fond of your look.
A. People always made fun of my eyes. Since kids don't know how to talk to each other, most of what they say is negative. When I was growing up, this is what they made fun of. I went through high school squinting!

Q. You're a very political person, identified with left-wing causes. What's your take on the recent election?
A. This isn't a king we're getting in! There is a system of checks and balances. It's more important to look to the Congress and Senate. I mean, I'm not leaving the country, but it's a depressing prospect to have to vote for the lesser of two evils. I believe in the people of the United States and the democratic process, but the Democratic Party doesn't speak to me now. We have to put people before profits and politics. I was so happy to finally vote my conscience with Nader. We will survive Bush, but nothing really changed under Clinton. Besides, everybody on Mt. Rushmore got in as a third party! The Republicans began as a third party dedicated to the women's vote and abolitionism.

Q. You're one of our most esteemed actresses. How do you stay grounded?
A. Once you remove yourself from the real world, it's hard to get back in! If you travel the streets with bodyguards and an entourage, people notice you. I participate in my kids' lives. That means I relate to lots of people who aren't in the business. I'm overextended like a lot of working moms. I don't know how you can act, which is all about empathy, if you're afraid of people. I'm so inspired by ordinary people who do extraordinary things. You see it around you and that's what fills you up.

Q. "Rocky Horror" is finally out on DVD with cast members offering their comments. What are your thoughts on the DVD phenomenon?
A. I haven't seen that many, but I think it's very interesting to many people to have the director speak. Film buffs like it, so why not?

Q. It sounds like you're not exactly a fan of the new technologies?
A. The last time someone asked me if we had e-mail, I said I'm sure that Tim must have it somewhere. I have no idea (laughs)!

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(With Photo - Mark Ruffalo)

Mark Ruffalo

By Joey Berlin & 
Don McLaughlin
Copley News Service

       Mark Ruffalo is the exact opposite of a household name, but this 32-year-old Kenosha, Wis.-born actor has created one of the few indelible characters of the current crop of films. Ruffalo plays an irresponsible, footloose sibling who suddenly reappears in the life of his sister and her young son in "You Can Count on Me." Martin Scorsese executive produced this acclaimed independent feature, which tied with "Girlfight" for the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance 2000 film festival.
       "You Can Count on Me" is unique in contemporary cinema insofar as it centers on the often-testy and intimate relationship between adult siblings. Ruffalo and Laura Linney co-star as a brother and sister who were orphaned at a young age. Ruffalo's aimless character ambles back into the life of his sister, a single mother, juggling romantic and job-related headaches, in upstate New York. Reviewers have noted the keenly believable rapport between the two actors.
       "Laura and I had a special chemistry," recalls Ruffalo. "She asked me to be her brother during the four weeks of the shoot, and she was my sister. You can't help but open yourself up to feelings for a person in that situation. It was very easy to fall into a sense of family."
       As the film proceeds, brother and sister swap personality quirks in small but noticeable ways. She learns to relax a bit. He becomes fractionally more accountable. Ruffalo appreciates the subtle, realistic evolution of the pair.
       "There is some change that happens between them, but what's nice about this movie is that people really don't have these epiphanies that happen overnight," he says. "Realizations happen and people change slowly, sometimes over years."
       Also starring is young Rory Culkin, kid brother of Macauley and Kieran. Ruffalo's character forges a special bond with his nephew, which was echoed off screen, as well.
       "Rory is a great kid," says Ruffalo. "We hung out a lot. When we weren't shooting on this 150-acre resort, we'd just play and run around in the woods. We found a baby deer together. We fished. He's very shy, and it takes a while for him to break out. But now, we're very close. I bought him a rocket for his birthday and launched it in Central Park. I love that kid."
       "You Can Count on Me" is a low-budget character study that has won over audiences and critics. The film was written and helmed by a fledgling director, Ken Lonergan, who also penned "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle" and "Analyze This."
       Lonergan and Ruffalo share a long history of theater work together, but this time around, Ruffalo turned the tables on his friend when Lonergan needed to step from behind the camera to play a priest in the film.
       "Yeah," laughs Ruffalo at the recollection, "I got to co-direct that scene with Laura. We were whispering to each other and then giving Ken his direction. I mean, what director lets actors direct a scene? They'd rather give it to a producer! But that's the kind of guy Kenny is!"
       For Ruffalo, "You Can Count on Me" represents a turning point in a career marked by few significant parts in too many movies nobody saw. His biggest films to date were "Committed" and "Ride With the Devil." But he walked off with the Best Actor award for "You Can Count on Me" at the last Montreal World Film Festival. Now Ruffalo thinks his Midwestern upbringing gives him an advantage over other actors from the coasts.
       "I know what it is to grow up in a place where there's no outlet for creativity," he asserts. "That creative energy can easily turn into negative energy. When I first read my character in this movie, I knew who that was. He grew up with motorcycles and that whole thing. I thought that when I moved out to L.A., that it was very insular and isolating, that you lose touch with real people and their lives. I moved to New York to be near all that humanity. That's fertile ground for me."
       Up next for Ruffalo is a featured role in "Windtalkers," director John Woo's World War II story about Navajo military translators who communicated to each other in codes that the Axis could not decipher.
       "Navajo was the only language that the Japanese couldn't crack. There were men assigned to protect the Indians but also to kill them if it looked like they might be captured. It's a good part, an interesting character and a big departure for John Woo.
       "It's also a nod to the powers that be in the Hollywood studios that I'm willing to move into that arena as well," concludes Ruffalo, with a growing faith that bigger credits and accolades are around the corner.

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