It’s comeback time for Brenda Vaccaro. She offers up a bracing reminder of just how well she can work her considerable acting chops in HBO’s April 24 “You Don’t Know Jack,” playing the sister-accomplice of Al Pacino as euthanasia-enabling doctor Jack Kevorkian.
Brenda’s performance makes her a clear awards contender, as is the whole project, as is Al Pacino.
Not that long ago, Brenda tells us, she was ready to leave the business and go live in Normandy, France, near her husband, Guy Hector’s family. The woman who once reigned as part of the film acting elite, who burst into fame on Broadway in such vehicles as “Cactus Flower” and “How Now, Dow Jones” and in films including “Midnight Cowboy” and “Jacqueline Suzanne’s Once is Not Enough,” was frustrated, feeling forgotten. “I was ready to get up and say ‘Screw this. I’m sick of this business. Let’s pack up and get out of here.’ I mean I was sick of it,” she emphasizes with her throaty laugh.
She was not forgotten, however. Esteemed casting director Ellen Chenoweth, who was working with filmmaker Barry Levinson on “You Don’t Know Jack” brought up Brenda’s name as a prospect to play Pacino’s sister. Brenda’s been told that Levinson’s response was “Brenda Vaccaro? What’s she up to lately? I really like her.”
When she got the call, “I thought it was a joke,” Brenda admits. However, in a matter of weeks, she found herself meeting with Pacino. Back in the early 70’s, “We knew each other well enough to say, ‘Hi, honey!’ when we ran into each other on the streets of New York. We were really, like, close acquaintances, along with Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman – we were all part of the same group,” she relates.
When she met Pacino again, ‘He said, ‘My God, I haven’t seen you in so many years.! I said, ‘Al, what am I doing here?’ I felt like I was at an Italian funeral. We talked about life and love and times past. He’s so adorable and so down to earth, a great person.”
Afterwards, “I got in the car with my husband and said, ‘I really want to work with Al. Is it that magical?’” It was. She wound up acting alongside not only Pacino, but Susan Sarandon and John Goodman in the cable film. Early response has been so positive. “It feels good,” says Brenda. “Everything feels good.”
HELLO, AGAIN: Poppy Montgomery has joined the ABC “True Blue” pilot being directed by Peter Horton, with Marc Blucas and Malcolm-Jamal Warner also in the cast. The show’s about six best friends whose very different paths converge as they seek to solve the murder of their seventh friend. One’s a detective, another a prosecutor, another a police captain.
Montgomery, who spent seven years on the show “Without A Trace,” is obviously ready to get back into the series game. While she’s happy to have had the chance to branch out with other projects, she tells us she’ll always have a big spot in her heart for her old series.
“I miss that show every day. I loved my cast and the writers and producers. We were like a really close family,” says Montgomery. “I still see Roselyn [Sanchez] and Anthony [LaPaglia]. We literally talk once a week or go to dinner. When we go out to dinner together, people are like, ‘Oh my God! Here you all are!” They loved the show, but they always ask, ‘Is the show coming back?’ It makes me laugh. It’s very rare you get that long of a run on a TV series,” she notes.
However, Montgomery says having a break has been nice. “Because I have a two-year-old, it’s been great to spend time with him. I’d been working since he was born,” she says. “I’ve become addicted to the grueling schedule because I like to work. Now that Jackson is going to be in pre-school soon, I’m getting ready to go back to that. I wasn’t ready for a while because I needed some time with my family and to figure out what I wanted to do next.”
THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: Take heart, fans of “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.” Star Jill Scott foresees more episodes of the critically adored BBC/HBO show that shoots in Botswana in her future. “I think it’s just a matter of the script at this point,” she tells us. “I’m really excited about doing more and I really hope it comes together.” The songstress, who gave birth to son Jett last April, notes, “Initially, the only thing that stopped us from continuing was that I was pregnant. When we were ready to go back, it was too immediate. I had this little person and I didn’t want to take him on a 16-hour flight, because I happen to love him.” When she does return, she says, “I might make it a longer trip to get there – stop in London and let him acclimate, then Morocco and give him a couple of days. His comfort means everything to me.”
“Ladies” will have to wait, however. Scott is on tour in support of her “The Light of the Sun” album, and expects to be out the better part of the year.
ANOTHER MONSTER HEARD FROM: Preproduction is moving right along on “Lockjaw,” a creature feature that will have a group of carefree young adults running into big trouble – a part-human, part-alligator monster. But the interesting part is that behind this toothy tale are producers Sid Sheinberg – the famous former MCA chief – and his sons, Jon and Bill Sheinberg. Now if they find a part for mom Lorraine Gary, the flick will involve the whole family.
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster