In the book "Lolita," Humbert Humbert described his child lover as one with "the fey grace, the elusive, shifty, soul-shattering, insidious charm" of a nymphet, in mythology a girl with loose morals.
A movie casting company -- Mike Lemon Casting of Philadelphia -- was looking for a Lolita for the '90s in Baltimore yesterday, but loose morals were out.
"We're seeking a beautiful All-American girl with a look that can go from being childlike to intensely erotic in a split-second, a combination of innocence and provocation," Mr. Lemon said.
About 30 young women showed up with their post-Lolita mothers and grandmothers yesterday in a downtown hotel for a chance at a lead role in a remake of the 1962 film that starred James Mason as Humbert Humbert and shot young, unknown Sue Lyon to overnight fame as the alluring Lolita. Shooting is scheduled to begin this summer.
Ms. Lyon -- now on her fifth marriage and in her late 40s -- is obviously not one to ask these days about Hollywood wanting to do another version of "Lolita."
A Toronto newspaper quoted her this year as saying that "I am appalled that anyone should be reviving the film that caused my destruction as a person. I defy any pretty girl who is rocketed to stardom at 15 in a sex-nymphet role, as I was, to stay on a level path thereafter."
Some of those who appeared yesterday didn't know that "Lolita," a book written by Vladimir Nabokov and ragingly naughty to its circa-1950s readers, was all about a lumbering, middle-aged man in pursuit of his obsession, a girl with nymphet specifications.
"Oh, my gosh, what's a good Catholic girl doing talking about seduction?" asked Pat Leisey of Middle River, who was accompanying her daughter, Kelly, 17. "Oh, well, it's only make-believe."
Sandra Schleicher, grandmother of Erinn Jose, 12, of Parkville said she didn't know the audition was for Lolita. "I thought it was for a supporting part, but she's got a good head and can deal with it," she said. "It's only pretend and has nothing to do with real life."
Mr. Lemon is under contract to Richard Zanuck Productions to help find the perfect Lolita for the as-yet-uncast Humbert Humbert. "We're just doing the major East Coast cities as part of a nationwide search that's been going on for about two months," he said.
Those who get past Mr. Lemon's professional eye will be asked to go to New York City for more testing.
In age, Xan Replogle at 21 was a little old for the part, "but I look a lot younger," she said.
The Towson High School graduate is a nanny and has performed at the annual Renaissance Festival in Crownsville and in dinner-theaters.
"This is pretty exciting," she said of the audition, "but I thought more would be here. I expected a line around the building."
The first step in the audition was simple and quick. Three or four girls at a time went into a room with Mr. Lemon. There, he put them at ease with a gentle, brief conversation, then excused those he thought didn't look the part. Those who made it past the first examination were handed an excerpt of the "Lolita" script and asked to come back later for a taped reading.
"I look for presence, sparkle, confidence, eye contact, and looks," he said. "I want to get a sense that they can handle something like this."
Ms. Replogle was one of those who left with a script in her hand and hope in her heart. "It's pretty exciting," she said. "He's got eyes you can swim in."