Dirty Hair Almost Cost Piper Her Role
Piper Perabo thought she had messed up her screen test for Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The (2000) - because she had dirty hair. Not long into her audition, director Des McAnuff drew attention to the sexy star's straggly locks. She insists, "My hair was not that dirty. It was just kind of like a grunge look. But I went in and after two scenes he said, `do you have a comb or a brush or something? Your hair is a just a little dirty' The camera guy lent me his comb and we combed out my hair. Once I got the part he was always coming to check if my hair was clean." She explains, "I had spent all my money on a plane ticket to L.A. and I asked a friend if I could stay at their place. I actually ended up sleeping under the dining room table at a friend of a friend's house - but I got the part, dirty hair or not."
Piper Perabo Lies Her Way Into Parts
Rising film star Piper Perabo has a trick for landing movie jobs - lie like hell. The sexy blonde 23-year-old, star of the upcoming Coyote Ugly (2000), says she's always had a policy of lying through her teeth to casting agents and dealing with the consequences later. She says, "I'm a big believer in just saying yes if someone asks you if you can do something. Then you go home and learn it as fast as you can." And Perabo, who landed her breakout role in Whiteboys (1999) by convincing the film studio she knew how to rap, says she's been in training for her lies all her life - and even fibbed to land her first job as a cocktail waitress. She says, "I sucked at it. I spilled a chocolate martini on a woman in a white suit."
It wasn't just luck that snared Piper Perabo her first film role a month after graduating from Ohio University. Ask the sprightly theater major how she did it, and she'll gleefully admit the truth: She lied. "I'm a big believer in just saying yes if someone asks you if you can do something," says the 23-year-old actress. "Then you go home and learn it as fast as you can."
Thus, after bluffing that she knew her hip-hop, Perabo frantically studied the nuances of Yo! MTV Raps for her breakout role, in last year's Whiteboys, an indie film about a posse of rapper wannabes in Iowa. This summer, she free-falls into the mainstream, playing a bumbling FBI agent in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and a would-be songwriter who works at a rowdy biker bar, in Coyote Ugly. It's the latter role that's given the New Jersey native-who, not too long ago, staged adaptations of books in her grandmother's living room-a sense of how far she's come in so little time.
"When I first moved to New York City, I was a cocktail waitress," she says, noting that the job was yet another she'd fibbed to get. "And I sucked at it! I spilled a chocolate martini on a woman in a white suit." In an ironic twist of fate, Perabo's Coyote role required her to hone those bartending skills-as well as pick up an array of new talents: singing, dancing, and playing piano and guitar. Still, she's recently become aware of one more skill she may need to acquire.
"Hollywood people will be like, 'I just had lunch with . . .' and then say somebody's first name. And I'm like, 'Am I supposed to know who you're talking about?' " Perabo scrunches up her face. "I haven't gotten anywhere close to mastering that!"
COYOTE UGLY ** 1/2
Officially, ``Coyote Ugly'' is a new movie, but the only thing keeping it from being a ``Flashdance'' remake is a sexy babe ripping up her shirt to make it all loose and come-hithery. Wait a minute, ``Coyote Ugly'' has that, too.
It's not original, but ``Coyote Ugly'' is not the kind of movie you attend because you want to be surprised. It promises nonstop music, suggestive dancing and fresh, purty, young actors and, on those counts, it delivers fairly well.
Piper Perabo, who was so awful in ``The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle'' that she made you wonder if the Screen Actors Guild had a probationary period, redeems herself as a young woman from Joisey who heads to New York with nothing but a yen for songwriting stardom and the tube top on her back. She's a woman with a dream, and she quickly realizes that the only way to make it happen is to work at a bar where they don't care if you know how to mix drinks, but they do care if you know how to writhe, half-naked, while other comely nonbartenders breathe fire and shoot seltzer at you.
The movie divides neatly into three parts. There's Perabo's dreams, which also include romance with a cook, played by devastating Aussie newcomer Adam Garcia, who makes Russell Crowe look like a dingo eating a baby. Then there's the dancing-on-the-bar scenes, which are plentiful. And, finally, there's Perabo's relationship with her dad, who doesn't approve of her, ahem, bartending.
The romance works just fine (with its fun, fearless heroine, cute guy of the month, python pants and brazen sexuality, it's an issue of Cosmo come to life), although it's disappointing when we hear Perabo's song and realize her dream is to make bland, Celine Dionesque spreadsheet pop. The dancing is dumb, but fun to watch. And the dad stuff is cliched and unbelievable, but at least it gives us a chance to see John Goodman, who plays Pop, in action.
That means the movie is two parts pretty good, one part pretty bad. No classic, certainly, but if you're looking for the movie equivalent of empty calories, ``Coyote Ugly'' is good enough to slake your thirst.
Women Behind Bars
Rule number one when making a movie about a New York City bar: Do your research. At least that was how the cast of this summer's highly anticipated Coyote Ugly looked at it. More than one evening was spent exploring East Village "urban saloons"-watering holes where slinky female employees dance on the bar, talk dirty to the customers, and pour beer down men's throats. The movie, based on a true story that ran in GQ, is about one such saloon where a young would-be singer (newcomer Piper Perabo) lands a job after leaving her small-town New Jersey home. She makes a new life for herself, becoming part of an ad hoc family of bar matrons (above, from left: Maria Bello, Perabo, Tyra Banks, Izabella Miko, and Bridget Moynahan).
The rough-and-tumble saloon life took some practice, at least for Bello (Payback), who plays the owner of the titular tavern. "We were all out in New York one night watching the actual girls do it, and they're really tough and badass," she says. "So I hop on the bar. And I'm such a geek that I'm, like, tripping down the bar, and I grab a guy's shirt to pour beer down his throat and it goes all over his suit-there was nothing sexy about what I was doing! But it was really fun."
Coyote Ugly is being produced by action mogul Jerry Bruckheimer (Armageddon, Top Gun), who thinks the film harks back to his kinder, gentler Flashdance days. "Women empowerment is always fun,"he says. "And though I did a similar movie 17 years ago, a lot of kids haven't seen Flashdance." (Not so Bello: "When I first saw Flashdance, I tore up my T-shirts, I did the belts, I was obsessed!")
For the 23-year-old Perabo, who beat out thousands of women to play the lead in the film, the movie hit close to home. "The story is very similar to my own life-a girl from small-town New Jersey moves to New York to try and make it and is flabbergasted by the city," says the Toms River native.
She never tended bar, however, and was less disposed than Bello to participate in the research madness. "I'd weasel my way to the end of the bar," she says, "so I could see down the length and watch everybody. These places are such a zoo, nobody notices someone who's sitting quietly." Considering the buzz her performance is generating, Perabo might want to savor what could be her last moments of anonymity.