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WHEN BARING A BIT CAUSES A BUZZ

(Sydney Morning Herald June 2001) 

To bare or not to bare, that is the question. 

Hollywood, a place you would think would be used to this type of thing by now, is all a dither about nude scenes in two new movies - one scene topless and one bottomless. Something, you might say, for everyone. 

Halle Berry, who says she had resisted nude scenes for 10 years but now feels "liberated" to play more daring roles, appears topless in the John Travolta thriller "Swordfish", which ended up No 1 at the box office on its opening weekend. David Duchovny, who has spent eight years as serious Agent Mulder on TV's "The X-Files", tries to prove he has a sense of humour by "mooning" for the new comedy "Evolution", which didn't do as well. He plays a college prof who is faced with saving the world from alien invasion. Different flicks, different reasons. But both stars agreed to talk about the scenes, and so did many of their co-workers. The result is more than just the bare facts. It's a statement on the money-mad quality, and outright silliness, of today's Hollywood. 

Berry's scene has been the more controversial. She plays Ginger, a supposed B-girl who is in the Travolta gang that plans to steal billions by hacker-style computer devices in "Swordfish". More than just fast typing, the film - produced by action-movie specialist Joel Silver - includes plenty of explosions. But it is Berry's topless scene that has grabbed all the headlines. Dutifully reported was the claim that Berry received $US500,000 ($A964,320) above her regular $US2 million ($A3.86 million) salary to bare her breasts. Dominic Sena, the film's director, acknowledged that he had unleashed the media frenzy when he responded to a New York Daily News query about Berry's extra $US500,000 ($A964,320). 

"I commented that that amounted to $US250,000 ($A482,160) each," Sena said, "but I was joking. It was just a cynical, sarcastic aside. I didn't think it would be reported seriously. As far as the scene goes, it was in the original script. It is not sexual. It is not exploitative. It serves a point in the script." 

The scene has Berry sunbathing while reading a book on the French Riviera. When she is approached by a super-smart computer crook played by Hugh Jackman, she lowers the book and reveals - no bikini top. Not since Julie Andrews went topless in 1981 for the Hollywood farce "S.O.B." has a debut topless scene attracted quite so much attention. 

Berry, usually heralded as one of the more well-dressed stars at each year's Academy Awards, had become something of a model for girls - often doing suspense thrillers but, up until now, avoiding even love scenes, much less nudity. Jonathan Krane, the longtime manager of star Travolta and co-producer of "Swordfish", verified that Berry's salary was bumped from $US2 million ($A3.86 million) to $US2.5 million ($A4.82 million) and that the increase was "absolutely a bonus for gratuitous topless exposure." 

"I'll be frank with you," he said. "I don't like it. I've made 43 films, and I don't think I've had a naked girl in any of them. I don't think the scene was necessary. Neither did John. It was in the script from the first, and several actresses turned it down for that reason. They should have. 

"Halle didn't want to do this. But, somehow, and it had to do with a number of things (including money), she agreed to it. I was hoping she would not agree to it and we would hire her anyway. But she agreed." Silver has a different version. He says the nudity was necessary for the story and that Berry did it without any financial bonus. 

"She read the script and said 'I'm in,"' Silver said. "We did not pay her half a million to go topless. What she got was her salary for the part." Berry called a press conference to address the subject. 

"It is totally not true," she said as at least 25 microphones were pushed in her face at the St Regis Hotel in Los Angeles. "I would sell these babies for way more money than that. That wasn't the issue. I did the scene because it was needed to tell the story. I have turned down roles for years - even roles that had love scenes. I feel more free now. I feel I'm ready to accept new challenges." Her own model was actress Dorothy Dandridge, the first black to be Academy Award-nominated in the best actress category (for "Carmen Jones" in 1954). 

"When I was growing up in Cleveland, I needed someone to look up to. It was difficult to find that. I know how important that is. "I'm proud when little black children come up to me and are proud that I'm in movies, but I can't live my life worrying about what every little 10-year-old in Harlem thinks about every choice I make. That is too much of a burden to bear." Berry argued that the scene wouldn't have worked without nudity. Her character vamps the computer-whiz thief in an apparent effort to seduce him into joining Travolta's gang. Without the flash, she said, the crook wouldn't have been shocked, surprised and perhaps seduced. "I have fought hard to become an actress," she said. "Now I must act." 

Duchovny has the other risky business of the movie week. In this case, he said he just wanted to prove he has a sense of humour. Duchovny said his mooning scene for ""Evolution"" was not in the script and that he didn't get any extra money for it. In fact, no one asked for it. No one wanted it. The director planned to cut it, but preview audiences proclaimed it the surprise laugh of the movie. Duchovny, at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, vowed that he didn't plan it either. "It just happened," he said. 

"There was this scene in which a general spouts lofty military procedure to me. Orlando Jones and I play these teachers who have discovered a meteor from outer space, but now the Army is taking credit for the discovery - and taking over the upcoming battle against the aliens. We're ordered off the premises. "As we drive off, I just thought it would be appropriate to drop my pants and moon the general. He deserved it." After all, "Evolution" is a comedy. It's directed by Ivan Reitman, who has created some of the most successful comedies of the past two decades: "Meatballs", "Stripes", the two Ghostbuster movies, "Animal House" and "Road Trip". Reitman either produced or directed them all. But what's Duchovny doing starring, rather than Bill Murray or Billy Crystal or some other bona fide clown? 

"I never saw "The X-Files"," Reitman admitted. "I just saw David as a smart, good-looking guy, which we needed for the role of the teacher." Duchovny is best known as FBI Agent Fox Mulder, who seriously, very seriously, investigated aliens and other strange things on "The X-Files". "It isn't true that I haven't smiled for eight years," he countered. "I smiled a few times. You just didn't see those shows." Still, you wouldn't think the wacky "Evolution" would be his game. "I find myself, again, dealing with aliens and with a red-headed leading woman (Julianne Moore this time). It was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't discover the aliens until 20 pages into reading the script, and I wanted to throw it down and say, 'No. I can't do this,' but then I realised it was different." 

His co-stars claim they were surprised at how funny Duchovny is on set, but were still shocked by his rear-end flash. "He's a hilarious guy," said Moore. "He's a trickster," said actor Seann William Scott. "He stuffed doughnuts and other despicable things into my coat jacket." Orlando Jones is driving the car in the scene when Duchovny presses his cheeks to the windshield. "I thought, 'What the hey is he doing?' I stepped on the gas to get the car out of camera range. Wow! How do you upstage that guy? I'm supposed to be the comic," Jones said. Director Reitman, back in the control booth, was looking at the TV monitors. "I got this peculiar light," Reitman said. "Then I looked again and it was David's rear end. I've worked on Animal House, but the actors weren't this wild. I told him, 'OK. But it'll probably end up on the cutting-room floor. We need to get a PG-13 rating.' "When it turned out to get the biggest laugh at the previews, I went back to David and said, 'OK. The butt stays, but we'll have to do the scene a few other times. The lighting wasn't right."' Duchovny didn't flinch. He filmed the scene three more times, with 300 extras on the set. "I have nothing to hide," Duchovny said. "Glad to be of service. I just hope someone laughs."

Thanks to "ALFORNOS" for typing this up

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