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When Good Girls Go Bad

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Either because the patio wishing-well is all out of quarters or someone else is now being hired to play the love interest to Billy Crystal, many a Hollywood girl-next-door has had to spice things up in an effort to gain a few fans back – and ideally, remind Hollywood that they’re SAG card is still valid.

Now we’re talking about the bevy of beauties who as seemingly undressed as much as they’re dressed in the early days of their careers – say, Phoebe Cates, Diane Lane, Sharon Stone, Malin Akerman, Eva Green and Angelina Jolie – we’re talking about ladies who were seemingly determined, at least in the beginning, not to ever wind up on a MrSkin post.

You either do it for the good of a film or you do it for publicity and peeps.

Meryl Streep, at 46, did a nude love scene with Clint Eastwood in “The Bridges of Madison Country” because she felt – and she’s right – it was appropriate for the movie. It wasn’t a tasteless tittie shot, it wasn’t out of place, and it only strengthened the film’s passionate geriatric lover’s message.

Another, Carla Gugino, doesn’t seem to be opposed to dropping their togs for a movie – she just won’t do it for any ol’ flick. For the role of the strong parole officer who flashes her stuff before losing her head in “Sin City”, Gugino – who had stripped off for the confronting rape flick, “Jaded”  a couple of years prior – felt it necessary to show every inch of her character’s buxom bad-assness (and what an assness it is). Thank you Carla.

Mena Suvari, too, had stripped off before for ‘’American Beauty’’ but never felt the need to get out her American Pie again until Stuart Gordon’s dark cult comedy “Stuck”, in which she played a corn-haired slacker whose trying to escape [the temptations of] African-American drug-dealing boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby). Did it help or hinder her career? Only her bank balance knows.

And then there’s actresses like Amanda Seyfried (“Chloe”), Salma Hayek (“Desperado”), Erika Eleniak (‘’Under Siege’’) and Natalie Portman (in the short “Hotel Chevalier”) all of whom took the foolhardy leap and went nude because the movie or the role they were playing in that movie really did call for it. And they’ve not looked back (though we have – hello pause button!)

Then there’s actresses like say, Meg Ryan that, seemingly aware their career is entering that god-awful twilight stage and they’re getting hired less and less, decide the only option they’ve left is to show some skin. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for Meg – or us.

Jane Campion directed Ryan in “Into the Cut”, a sexual thriller that teamed Ryan with [Mark] Ruffalo and his Johnson with her Jessica.

Ryan – as you’ve never seen her before, with [um] brown hair– plays Frannie Avery, a studious single New Yorker, whose job as a teacher and bond with her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are the two things that keep her going. But her life is about to get a tad more exciting when she’s thrown smack bang into a murder case. Seems she’s witnessed something that might be an imperative clue to a murder that occurred on her block, and the cops are going to get everything that she knows out of her, whatever the price.

Enter Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo), a frank, slightly dodgy cop, whose job it is to question her. But pretty soon, Frannie works a spell over the cop that’ll have him more interested in helping her fluff the pillows than doodling on cop notepads.

Ryan’s Dr.90201-sponsored frame was on full display in Jane Campion’s “In the Cut”. Did it need to be? Not at all. This was a good-enough sexual thriller that could’ve easily gotten away with some suggestive stuff and the odd blurred wipe- but nope, Ryan wanted to show everyone what a good knife is capable of.

Hard to say whether Heather Graham’s career, like Ryan’s, was also hurt by the actresses brave choice to get about in next-to-nothing (but roller-skates) in Paul Thomas’s Anderson’s “Boogie Nights”. Before the film, Graham was considered a rather versatile actress who could seamlessly switched between comedies (“License to Drive”), dramas (“Drugstore Cowboy”) and arthouse thrillers (“Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me”). After “Boogie Nights”, the only role Graham was hired to play was that of a dimish sexpot. Still, she did end up with a role in 2009 hit “The Hangover”…. as opposed to Meg Ryan who has merely ended up with a plain ol’ Hangover.

Sherilyn Fenn won raves for her role as the hornbag Audrey Horne in “Twin Peaks” but traded riding that wave of acclaim in exchange for riding Richard Tyson (in “Two Moon Junction”).  A couple more softporn flicks later, not to mention a playboy spread, and the raves started to slowly diminish for Fenn. We’re glad she tossed the togs, but not at the expense of her once promising film and television career.

Halle Berry decided to – for some inane reason – go topless for that god-awful John Travolta/Hugh Jackman flick “Swordfish” (I remember trying to keep a straight face interviewing Travolta and Jackman when they toured with the film here) a few years back. This one’s a real head scratcher; it’s anyone’s guess why she did it…. The role certainly didn’t call for it. Whatever the case, Halle showing her Berries didn’t seem to hurt her career much – nope, if anything hurt her career it was winning an Oscar (we all know the only way is down once you’ve snagged a golden boy).

I tell ya someone whose career was definitely hurt by stripping for the flicks and that’s Demi Moore. Despite showing her goods in a couple of flicks in the ‘80s (namely “About Last Night”), Moore’s frequent nude scenes in the horrible comedy “Striptease” only evoked laughter (there was more plastic there than in my CD turnstile) – she looked fine, but touched up, but more so, the film was borderline Meyer. Moore’s career – bar the role of the villain in “Charlie’s Angels : Full Throttle” – never really recovered from “Striptease”. Either did I.

Still, Moore’s glad she did bosom lick a dance pole and not just because she was paid $12.5 million to do so. As the actress told Crushable in 2007, “The gain from it was different to what I would have imagined. While the public perception was hyper-focused on what I was being paid for taking my clothes off, for me it was the intense focus of connecting with my body and myself in a sensual, sexual way, in a way that I’ve never felt before. I was always very uncomfortable with my body. And it was to do with being female and seductive.”

Hmmm.

And then there are youngsters like Amy Smart. She got her gear out for some amusing but pretty discourteous sex scenes in the “Crank” movies. Do you think those have hurt her career? No, I don’t either… really… but then again, haven’t seen in a while. You?

Rene Russo is someone that also probably could’ve afforded to keep her clothes on – but power to her for not in this case; she was making a statement. After being up a reputation as one of the few models cum capable of delivering a realistic performance, Russo – after her “Lethal Weapon” days were over – decided to get naked with Pierce Brosnan in John McTiernan’s “The Thomas Crown Affair”. The love scenes, I understand, but the topless sequences? Publicity and nothing but. Still, the film didn’t hurt Russo’s career or reputation; Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter noting at the time, “At 45 . . . when most at that age have slid urgently into that good night, Russo still has the chops to go sassily topless and make you love her forever”. And he wasn’t alone, Russo’s chest won raves. “Though the issue of Rene Russo’s age never occurred to me . . . even when she took her clothes off, I was surprised to read that she’s 45,” wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum, in the Chicago Reader. “Until Crown’s greater genius knocks her down a peg, her character is basically a Renaissance goddess – rivaled only by Sharon Stone in ‘Basic Instinct’ – and her performance is the best thing in the movie.”

What I’m getting at here is that those who ditch their togs for the sake of the film (like Streep and Gugino) are rewarded for their efforts, while others – and I include Sharon Stone in this lot, who, for the most part, was typecast as an oversexed bimbo post-“Basic Instinct” – who get their gear off only to draw attention to themselves or generate some form of publicity for their stinker film, end up doing softporn flicks with Andrew Stevens for a backrub and Star subscription. It’s not always the case – look at Diane Lane and Melanie Griffith, they’ve both done dozens of nudie roles and went on to do big-time bonafide fully-clothed hits – but by-and-large, a tit will get you tat.

Can you think of any other actresses that have stripped for a film – – for good reason? There’s not many of them…

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