Ted, Whoopi meet the press with some discomfort


Hollywood is populated by more than a few thin-skinned actors who protect their privacy more than they do their money.

Nobody talks to Tom Cruise without first signing a release promising that you won't ask touchy questions. Ask Jodie Foster a toughie and she'll cut out your heart. Other actresses have been known to walk out on interviews when they didn't like the line of questioning.

So publicists from Warner Bros. understandably were queasy when Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg were about to meet the press to publicize their movie, "Made in America," which opens Friday.

Ms. Goldberg plays a black woman who discovers there was a mix-up at the sperm bank 20 years earlier and that her daughter's natural father is a dorky white man who sells cars on television. The two eventually fall for each other, which, given the real-life circumstances surrounding this film, is not surprising.

If you're not a tabloid reader, Ted and Whoopi are a hot gossip item, having fallen in love during the making of this movie.

Playful signs

Well, Ted and Whoopi went into the publicity tour with a great attitude. They told studio publicists not to worry, that they could handle anything the press could dish out.

And the first day of interviews went swimmingly. The stars brought along signs -- his said "That's Personal" and hers said "Next Question" -- and they playfully lifted them when the questions got too personal.

By the second day, however, the signs were gone and both stars were in a foul mood.

"It comes down to this," Ms. Goldberg said sternly after being asked about the tabloid onslaught. "You have a right to know how we feel about making this movie. You have a right to know how we feel about our careers. You even have a right to know how I feel about him as an actor. That's all any of your readers have a right to demand.

"But it is none of your business what I think of him as a man or anything that comes after that."

"And I don't think this comes with the territory. What goes with the territory is the simple fact that you have a right to ask the question.

Once the question is asked, we should move on. But usually that doesn't end it. Even when you do answer elegantly, you're not left alone.

"Sadly, we are living in a society that has made this [looking into the private lives of public people] a priority."

Private lives

Mr. Danson, puffing on his ever-present cigar, said he never expected the controversy that erupted after the relationship became known.

"It's like a body shot that you never expected, but I think I'm holding up quite elegantly, although I'm walking with a slight limp. I understand your curiosity about this thing, but I've finally matured enough to have a private life, and I shall guard it jealously."

Actually, Mr. Danson appeared to be more upset by questions about the film's interracial theme than he did about the gossip-mongering.

"This is very strange," he said. "I'm sitting here feeling very white for the first time in a long time. All of a sudden, race seems like this burden. I'm really shocked."

Ms. Goldberg added: "This movie is not about race. It is about family and love and friendship and need and growth.

"Frankly, my thinking on this never got that deep. To me, this was strictly an entertainment movie, nothing else. I'm sure if Meryl Streep were in this movie, we wouldn't be talking about any of this."

Script revisions

In fact, "Made in America," as originally written, was about a white couple. When Ms. Goldberg showed an interest in the movie, directorRichard Benjamin said he and the producers jumped at the chance to include the Oscar-winning actress.

"I always felt the script needed another dynamic, but I didn't know what that should be," Mr. Benjamin said. "It had a wonderful heart, but it needed something to energize it. When Whoopi said she wanted in, I knew that was the dynamic I was looking for."

Ms. Goldberg said she was given the script to read but not to consider.

"It was about two white people, so I passed it back to them, said it was too bad I couldn't do it and then went on with my life. Then they called back and said maybe there was a way I could do it."

Mr. Danson joined the project after Ms. Goldberg, but Mr. Benjamin said he knew they were perfect as soon as he saw them together.

"I believe if a couple looks good together in a room, that's the way it will be on the screen. There was something between them instantly. They liked each other."

Bad timing

Based on what happened, they must have liked each other a lot, but the director said he wasn't fully aware of what was going on.

"All I'm seeing through the camera is that these two people like each other and work well together. During the love scenes, I could sense they were close. I guess I really didn't care about what was really happening. I was selfish and felt that whatever worked for the movie was good for me."

When the tabloid story broke out, Mr. Benjamin joked that he wished it had been better timed.

"Couldn't they have broken the story closer to the film's opening?"

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