Hollywood is giving heavy women a look


You can't be too thin or, for that matter, too rich in Hollywood. Ask Andrea King.

Ms. King, a former journalist and now screenwriter, says she's certainly not rich (by Hollywood standards) and obviously not thin. She views the weight issue with a mixture of pain and dark humor.

"Being overweight has actually served me professionally," she said, in something of an understatement. She has just sold a screenplay to Steven Spielberg about an overweight woman in her 30s who vaguely resembles herself. It's one of several movies now being planned about overweight people, a subject that Hollywood studios and stars have generally avoided as too downbeat.

"I don't think this is going to start a trend," Ms. King said in her cramped office at 20th Century Fox, where she is completing a stint as producer.

"I don't think we'll see overweight women on the arms of studio executives and agents. But maybe it'll make somebody think and look twice at the overweight person sitting across from them at the dinner table and realize perhaps you can't define people by the way they look."

Ms. King's screenplay, "Body Language," was purchased by an enthusiastic Mr. Spielberg, whose company will produce the movie with Warner Brothers (Mr. Spielberg will not direct).

The screenplay was inspired by the Rostand classic "Cyrano de Bergerac." In Ms. King's romantic comedy, the heroine is overweight, but like Cyrano, she yearns for a mate who seems unattainable.

Though meant to be funny, the screenplay raises issues that are quite personal for Ms. King.

"A day doesn't go by when I don't think about wanting to be thinner or that my life would be different if I was thinner," she said.

"In a way, writing this was a way of me acknowledging that I'm fat. As if nobody knew."

Ms. King's screenplay was sold for $350,000, and the price will rise to $600,000 once the movie is made. The work was the object of strong interest by several major studios. But when Mr. Spielberg joined the competition, Ms. King found the offer irresistible.

"He said, 'Let's do this,' " said David Lonner, Ms. King's agent at Creative Artists Agency. Mr. Lonner also represents Steve Brill, the director and co-author with Judd Apatow of "Heavyweights," a comedy now being completed for Disney about a camp for overweight boys.

Last year's critical success "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" featured a lead character who was obese.

"A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune," about an awkward, overweight 14-year-old boy, is being produced by Dawn Steel for Turner Pictures. And Eddie Murphy recently told the Los Angeles Times that he was planning a remake of "The Nutty Professor," but this time with the main character a 400-pound chemistry teacher.

Although the movie will probably poke fun at overweight people, Murphy said it was being made as a response to America's obsession with weight.

Ms. King pointed out joyfully that People magazine's most recent 50 most beautiful people included Emme, a model for large-size women's fashions.

"There's something in the air," Ms. King said. "Americans deserve realistic role models, not only fantasy role models."

Ms. King, who is 31, first made her mark in Hollywood as a feisty journalist on the Hollywood Reporter, a trade paper. Earlier, she had worked as a reporter on the Jerusalem Post in Israel.

The character of the bookish journalist Andrea in the television series "Beverly Hills 90210," played by Gabrielle Carteris, is based on Ms. King, said Darren Star, the show's creator. He and Ms. King attended the same high school in Potomac, Md.

Two years ago Ms. King was offered a job as a producer at 20th Century Fox, and soon began working on her screenplay, which was based on a story outline she and a friend, Robin Schiff, had created.

Ms. King isn't sure about casting for the lead role, but is hopeful that an overweight actress will get it. Hollywood studios tend to choose glamorous stars for such roles. Three years ago, for instance, Paramount cast Michelle Pfeiffer as an ostensibly homely waitress in "Frankie and Johnny."

With a shrug about Hollywood's treatment of women, Ms. King said,

"I'm not on the top of anyone's list as the ideal Hollywood woman. I'm too outspoken, too self-assured and definitely too fat."

Yet, she added, "I stand out. People clearly remember me. And since many men only want to date a woman whose body is her best and sometimes only asset, they don't even consider me. So they listen to me instead.

"They take me seriously instead of trying to hit on me. It's been great for my career, but terrible for my sex life."

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