Not all screen couples are wedded to acting together


For many actors who happen to be married to each other, the idea of working together seems an impossible dream.

But careers have a way of spiking and falling faster than the Dow Jones. And one partner may be top banana while the other is the 32nd flavor of the month.

Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan are both sailing with their careers, after Mr. Quaid's successful turn at "Undercover Blues" and Ms. Ryan's megahit, "Sleepless in Seattle."

The two have finished making their third film together, "Flesh and Bone" (due Nov. 5). And Mr. Quaid says a lot of the discomfort on a set is eased when the two of them are working together. "We have an intimacy and a trust which gives us a higher jumping-off point to start from," he says. "Usually when you start a film you spend the first couple of weeks getting to know the other actors, getting to know the way they work and getting to know them personally, what makes them tick, to gain some sort of intimacy and trust. That was a lot easier with Meg."

But doing love scenes with your mate is far more difficult and embarrassing, says Ms. Ryan. "It's just awful. I kept saying to him, 'You can't kiss me because if you kiss me now you can't ever kiss me again.' "

Being able to go on the road as a family (they have a 17-month-old son) was a treat, says Ms. Ryan, even though they had to haul the car-seat, stroller and diaper bags. "It was the first time we'd been able to work like that as a family."

Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson love working together. And Ms. Griffith says she doesn't mind performing the public love scenes. "It's comfortable," she says. "We do it all the time; it revives the romance and gives it another shade."

Bruce Willis had a small part in Demi Moore's movie, "Mortal Thoughts." Ms. Moore thinks that acting together on a movie might not work for all married couples.

"If a script came along that was perfect for Bruce and for me then it might be good for us to do. But I'm not jumping up and down to work together," she says.

Mary McDonnell ("Dances With Wolves") is married to actor Randle Mell. He had a small part in "Grand Canyon," in which Ms. McDonnell starred.

It's difficult having a mate who's in the same field, she says. "In our situation, we grew up and matured together and a lot of people offer us things together. But my career took a turn his hasn't yet. He hasn't had the right parts, basically."

Ellen Barkin and her actor husband, Gabriel Byrne ("Miller's Crossing"), are currently starring in "Into the West" together.

Performing together can be a bit unnerving, says Mr. Byrne. "It's a strange thing to work with your spouse. It's a situation not many people get the opportunity to do. You have your relationship and you have this other relationship which is a work situation. So you find two different sets of rules are in operation."

Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross acted together most recently in "Conagher," a rarity for them.

Mr. Elliott, who's co-starring in "Gettysburg," says, "It doesn't take both parties to make it unbearable in the picture business, it only takes one. One actor is too much for any family."

"We have a deal," says Ms. Ross. "Unless we're working together, we don't work at the same time."

Kim Basinger just finished making "The Getaway" with her husband, Alec Baldwin. "It was great working with Alec," she says, though she turned down a part in his upcoming film, "The Shadow."

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