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Leoni Online: The Articles — The Record

Mother’s nightmare in the Land of Make Believe By AMY LONGSDORF Special to The Record Now here’s a switch: an actor who refuses to take credit. “I didn’t have to do one thing to prepare for my role in this movie,” says Tea Leoni about “Jurassic Park III,” the latest installment in the dino franchise, which opens Wednesday. “They’re naming my No. 1 nightmare, which is, ‘What would happen if my child would go missing?’ “Of course, it’s not likely my child would be off on an island with dinosaurs. I’ve thought more about ‘What if I left her on top of the car at Starbucks and drove off?’ That’s the fear.” Chances are, Madelaine West, Leoni’s 2-year-old daughter with husband David Duchovny, won’t be overlooked by her mother. After all, the youngster goes practically everywhere with Leoni, including the set of “Jurassic Park III.” “West was so into it,” says the actress during an interview in Los Angeles. “I used to get to take her to the makeup trailer and get her all bloodied up so that she wouldn’t be afraid. She would sit there and they’d put goop all over her, and do her knees.” Now here’s another switch: an actor with a sense of humor. “I recognize that if you write down what I just said, it could sound really sick,” she adds, laughing. “So, I just want you to know that it’s not really that sick. It was good. It was healthy. And West got that it was the Land of Make Believe.” Leoni has been entranced by the Land of Make Believe since she was a child growing up in Englewood, the only daughter of a corporate lawyer father and nutritionist mother. Her paternal grandmother was a silent screen star named Helenka Adamowski, who later gave up the movies to run UNICEF. Leoni dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College to travel the world. On a dare, she auditioned for and won the starring role in a TV-remake of “Charlie’s Angels,” which never made it to air. An early stint opposite Will Smith in “Bad Boys” led to starring roles in the sitcoms “Flying Blind” and “The Naked Truth” and, eventually, meaty parts in “Flirting With Disaster” and “Deep Impact.” “To be honest, I think Hollywood wanted me more when I was 26, but I didn’t want it then,” claims Leoni, 35. “I didn’t really like what I did.” Things changed when Leoni gave birth to her daughter. “I’ve become untouchable,” she says. “Now, I feel like, ‘What are they going to take away from me?’ Are they going to tell me that I can’t make movies anymore? OK. “But now, I’m working with this no-holds-barred attitude. This is what I want to do. This is what I love. I get to tell a story. I get to make things up. I get to try and make you believe me. I get to express myself. And I get my itch scratched. I feel like this is my time.” Hot on the heels of her turn in the Christmas hit “The Family Man,” she landed roles two high-profile pictures — Woody Allen’s “Hollywood Endings” and “People I Know” starring Al Pacino and Kim Basinger. And, then, of course, there’s the much-anticipated “Jurassic Park III.” In the movie, directed by “October Sky’s” Joe Johnston, Leoni plays a mother who re-unites with her soon-to-be-ex-husband (William H. Macy) in order to rescue their 14-year-old son who’s gone missing on Isla Sorna, the home of genetically engineered dinos. Along the way, the group must survive attacks by assorted creatures. This sequel includes a cameo by Laura Dern, who starred in the first film. Macy describes Leoni as “the woman who can charm anyone. I have fond memories of her going up to Joe, caressing his chest, and saying, ‘We don’t really need this scene, do we?’ “She had a 2-year-old waiting at home. So, he’d let her go home early.” To hear Leoni tell it, she’s been longing for a role in a “Jurassic Park” movie ever since she saw the original film in 1993. “I was so taken aback by the brilliance of the movie,” says Leoni of the Steven Spielberg-directed, $330 million-grossing spectacle. “To see these dinosaurs come to life was really something. I remember thinking, ‘I wish that I could have been Laura Dern. Why didn’t I get that role?’ ” When Leoni was offered “Jurassic Park III,” she jumped at the chance. From the beginning, Leoni insisted that her character be as tough as her male counterparts. She had no intention of being action-movie eye candy. “I told Joe, ‘I don’t want to be the stupid girl going up Mount Everest with the cappuccino machine maker strapped to her back,’ ” declares Leoni. “And if that’s what you want, don’t hire me because I’m not going to do it very well. I’m a tough son-of-a-bitch. “And he said to me, ‘I swear your lip-gloss would be off by the second day.’ “That’s all I needed to know. We were on the same page. I got beaten to hell in this film. And I loved it.” When Leoni accepted the role, the script was in flux. By the time shooting commenced in Hawaii last fall, the screenplay was still missing key scenes as well as a finale. “We had several different scripts, actually, and what seemed to be sort of absent was Door No. 3,” says Leoni of the screenplay that was written by , among others, John August (“Go”) and Alexander Payne (“Election”). “But I felt very secure in accepting this role, because I thought, ‘No matter what they throw at me, I’m still a mother trying to get her son home safely.’ ” Regardless of the script problems, “Jurassic Park III” looks to be one of the biggest grossers of the summer. While Leoni seems to be on a winning streak, husband David Duchovny is struggling to come into his own following his departure from “The X-Files.” His summer flick “Evolution” has been deemed a box-office disappointment. But there’s no sense of competition in the Duchovny/Leoni household. “I don’t get it when couples say they’re rivals with each other,” Leoni says. “Everyone else in this town is ready to rip you a new one if your movie fails, so you better hope that the man or the woman in bed next to you is going to be the one that says, ‘Baby, I think that you did great!’ ” Not that being married to Duchovny doesn’t have it’s drawbacks. Leoni could do without the rabid “X-Files” fans who pop up in the least expected places. “It can be pretty awful but, otherwise, everything [about the marriage] is just terrific.” Everything is so terrific, in fact, that Leoni and Duchovny are considering adding another member to their family. It’s only a matter of time, she says, before Madelaine West has a sister or brother. “If I had my way about it, a half-a-dozen [children] would be a pretty good number,” Leoni says. “That’s spoken like a true mother of one.”

* * * On the set of “Jurassic Park III,” actress was in deep oatmeal Now it can be told! The monstrous truth behind the summer’s biggest, baddest beasties! Here are five things you might not know about “Jurassic Park III”: 1. The dino poop that Tea Leoni wades through in order to retrieve her cellphone was made of dyed oatmeal. “It was actually kind of cool because it made it easy for me to gross people out,” recalls the actress. “There would be a crew member coming by, and I would grab a handful of it and start eating it and go, ‘This is so good. Would you like some?’ You should have seen their faces.” 2. There’s a simple rule for identifying which dinosaurs are computer-generated by the folks at Industrial Light & Magic and which ones are animatronic creatures operated by Stan Winston and his team of puppeteers. Says director Joe Johnston, “If you see a dinosaur close-up, doing all kinds of subtle expressions, it’s Stan’s dinosaurs. They can really act. If you see a dinosaur doing something physical, it’s the work of ILM.” 3. Executive producer Steven Spielberg visited the set, even though he was filming “A.I.” at the same time. “Because of ‘A.I.,’ he didn’t have time to be all that involved,” Johnson says. “But it seemed liked he turned up whenever we did the Spinosaurus scenes. He told me that his fondest memory of ‘Jurassic Park’ was orchestrating the animatronic T. Rex.” 4. It was Johnston who persuaded Laura Dern to come back for a cameo. “We had a really good experience working together on ‘October Sky,'” explains the filmmaker. “So, I asked her to do a scene, and she said she’d do it. It was as easy as that. And she liked the fact that her character saves the day.” 5. A fourth installment is a definite possibility. “Didn’t you see I left my wallet on the island,” teases William Macy. “I have to go back and get it in the next one.” As for Sam Neill, he says he’ll never say never again. “I’m very happy with this one,” he stresses. “I think we topped the rest of them. But if they assure me that we can top this one, I’d say, ‘Count me in.'”

Courtesy of The Record