by Debra Forman
Alicia Silverstone has stayed right on target — and now she is taking aim with Cupid’s bow and arrow. In her new one-hour romantic comedy, Miss Match, Silverstone plays Kate Fox, a Los Angeles divorce lawyer who would rather create couples than help them split, so she feels compelled to balance her “relationship karma” by moonlighting as a matchmaker. “Kate can’t really help what she is doing,” the 26-year-old actress explains. “It’s just in her nature to want people to be happy and to believe in love. She’s in love with love.”
Hollywood has been in love with Silverstone for some time, beginning with the leading role in her first feature film, The Crush. She gained worldwide acclaim when she played Cher, the quintessential Beverly Hills teenager with a heart of gold in the hit movie Clueless. And she has never stopped working, including films Batman and Robin, Blast from the Past (opposite Brendan Fraser, Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) and Love Labour’s Lost, opposite Kenneth Branagh. She also starred in and produced the movie Excess Baggage.
Last spring, Silverstone debuted on Broadway as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate, opposite Kathleen Turner and Jason Biggs. She also set up her own company, First Kiss Production, and in June 2001 began executive producing an animated television series called Braceface. The ratings were so high that the ABC Family Network gave the show its best Saturday morning time slot. Silverstone provides the voice of the main character. She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in an animated program. Alicia also won a Genesis Award for Braceface, akin to the Oscars for animal lovers.
And now she is doing NBC’s dramedy Miss Match, produced by Sex and the City creator Darren Star, who wooed her into starring on prime-time television. “I feel I’ve had a very lucky situation,” she says, of her consistent Hollywood success. “I’ve learned to be very particular about material. That is something I learned through producing—that the material has to be solid.”
She doesn’t expect her new show to be a kissing cousin to Sex and the City, even though they share the same creator. “Both shows are edgy, spunky and current. That’s what Darren Star is all about. But this is not the same story at all. You may want to undress everybody, but we are not going to do it for you.” In fact, Silverstone has refused to appear nude in any of her roles. “I find it a lot sexier when you leave something to the imagination.”
Star agrees. “We aren’t censoring ourselves. This is a show about romance and Sex and the City is a half-hour comedy about sex,” Star says. “[There] I wanted to do a comedy about sex in an R-rated way that could only be shown on cable. Miss Match is a show about romance and relationships. We don’t need nudity and strong language to tell those stories.”
Silverstone has won six MTV Movie Awards, a Nickelodeon Award, a Blockbuster Award, an American Comedy Award and the National Board of Review Award. She says she signed on for Miss Match because Darren Star is “very persuasive. I wanted to be part of this because it is his project and he has always been responsible for quality material,” she says. “I knew I was going to get solid material to work on, so I couldn’t refuse.”
She says the show will strike a chord with people because so many viewers can relate. “We’re so busy doing [not living] our lives. How do you stop to see that maybe the person at the grocery store or the person you talk to at the bank—or wherever you are moving so quickly in your life you didn’t notice—that you may miss that right person?”
One may wonder where a young girl got the confidence to begin acting during adolescence and star in nine movies a couple of years past her sweet sixteen.
“I was told ‘no’ a lot in this business. I auditioned for so many roles that I was close to and didn’t get. When that happens four or five times, even though you are getting closer to stuff, it’s hard to understand why you are not getting the part.”
She says she believes in mazel (luck). “I’ve been really lucky since then. Whatever was put in front of me, I did the best I could and went for it.”
Silverstone’s parents have a lot to do with who she is today, both personally and professionally. She and her brother, David, were raised in San Francisco, spending summers in England, her parents’ native country. Her mom, Didi, was a flight attendant with Pan Am, so the family made many trips to the UK.
Her father, Monty, a financial and real-estate consultant, saw something special in his daughter at a young age and began taking photographs of her in the third grade. They took the photos of six-year-old bikini-clad Alicia posed on a white shag rug to a modeling agency. Her first commercial was for Domino’s Pizza, and she played a flower girl in several phony weddings. But soon movie roles were coming fast and furious, including Hideaway, True Crime, The Babysitter and Le Nouveau Monde.
She remembers one family member in particular who knew she would soar in her acting pursuit. “My paternal grandpa, Sidney, would say you could do anything you put your mind and heart to. He was the cutest grandpa ever. When I was making a movie, I would try to fly back to San Francisco from wherever I was in the world to see him.” Like other Jewish families, the Silverstones emphasized pursuing your dreams. For Alicia that meant caring about her craft more than the showbiz trappings.
“My confidence came from not caring. I didn’t have the goal to be a movie star. I started acting classes at age 12 and just really loved acting. I never cared about being famous. If you love acting and you’re going to classes and auditions, the only frustrating part is not getting the jobs. The more I studied, the better I got. I always felt strong about the fact that I was happy doing what I was doing.” She has had a busy career for many years, yet she made the time for her bat mitzvah, and still remembers a ceremony in which she participated when she was 10 years old.
“Sammy Nodowitz and I were married in a mock wedding ceremony at Sunday School on a bright spring day.” A document was signed, so she jokes that maybe they are legally married. “Maybe there will be a knock on the door and it will be Sammy asking, ‘What’s for dinner?’ I wonder what Sammy thinks of all of this. Maybe I’m really Mrs. Nodowitz,” she jokes.
Although Alicia’s parents were extremely involved in her career, they are no longer hands-on in her business decisions. Still, they remain supportive in all aspects of her life.
“My mom came to visit and stayed with me for two weeks when I was making the pilot for Miss Match. She was on the set a lot and that was really nice. I tend to stay very focused when I work, so it’s nice to have her around, but I’d just as soon hang out at home with her for a girls’ day of lounging around.” When Silverstone’s father saw the pilot, he said to her, “The faces you make when you’re upset with your dad in the pilot are the same ones you use with me. I’ve seen those faces.”
She says that her mom instilled in her important Jewish and ethical values. “She taught me about respecting things and not wasting them. She remembers the war and having to do without. So I’ve always been against materialism—she really taught me that wasn’t the most attractive trait and I didn’t have to have the latest fad or the most expensive clothes. I like a simplistic and uncluttered life. I think it’s about finding value in and appreciating what you have. There is so much more to life than buying the most fancy car; you may not realize it’s a gas-guzzling machine that’s destroying our environment and our children’s future.”
While the family has never been big on holidays, she says they all meet when they are able. “We don’t celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah is eight days, so we never really have a designated time. (My parents) live in Florida now and if I lived there I would see them a lot more. But I talk to them at least once a week. It’s not a guilt thing; we hang out together when we can.”
On-screen, Silverstone’s TV dad, Sid, is the legendary film and TV actor, Ryan O’Neal. Although he is best known for his many film roles, he enjoys television. “I did more than 50 episodes of Peyton Place, so I’m comfortable on the small screen.”
Silverstone thinks O’Neal is perfect for her father’s role because her character “wants him to respect me as a lawyer and take me seriously. And you can buy it because of how charismatic, charming and funny Ryan is.”
She says she watched O’Neal’s hit movie, Love Story, recently and realized “he is still so adorable. We have a great chemistry.”
When it comes to dating and romance off-screen, Silverstone says she believes in simple pleasures. “Some of my best dates were the simple ones: going out to dinner and a movie can be really nice. One time my date and I watched TV. I love going on long walks or going out to dinner or being introduced to new things—it’s fun to have someone show you a whole new world. It’s not what you do, but who you do it with.”
She says that dressing up makes a date special. “My perfect date? It would be nice to be taken away to an island or to go on a long walk or on a picnic—that would be really romantic to me.”
Despite having a wonderful career, at one point Alicia needed some time off. She had made nine films in four years (ages 15 to 18) and she needed a break. “I had to stop and say ‘I want to buy a house. I want to live a little bit, do some yoga, hang out and enjoy a little bit more.’ I slowly went back to work, and Darren talked me into this. In a way, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
When it comes to chilling out, something that Alicia hasn’t had much time to do in recent years, she sees herself frolicking in the ocean. “I love swimming in the ocean and appreciating the warm, clean, blue water. My idea of paradise is a sandy beach with fresh fruit growing all over the area. I love mango and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. I could see myself taking long walks, swimming and laying around and doing nothing. That would be amazing. I’ve been wanting to do that for a really long time.”
She also enjoys going to spas that provide pampering and raw food with her best pals Renee and Laura for some girl time. “I love the We Care Spa in Palm Springs, where we fast, do yoga, have nutritional classes and rest our minds. It changes my spirit.”
The shy, award-winning actress has used her success to repair the world by working tirelessly for numerous animal-related charities, including PETA, which honored her several years ago with its Special Humanitarian Award.
“My life has become about trying to find effective ways to be as responsible with the choices I make—in food, clothing and everything else. I don’t want to be responsible for the harm of any creature, person or animal.”
She says she respects other people’s choices, but she chooses not to buy wool, leather or fur, and uses only make-up that has no animal products. Naturally, she is a vegan.
“I will work with organizations that rescue others—the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, PETA and the Farm Sanctuary. But I found that living out my every day choices have been more fulfilling to me. It’s important to see what we can do to make a difference, but it’s more important to me to do it every single day. I don’t blame other people for not living this way, but these are the choices I have made with my life.”
So what would this woman with a healthy and holistic outlook do for a living if she decided to give up the acting gig?
“I would get a farm where I would grow all my fruit and vegetables and rescue cows and pigs from the slaughter house. I would adopt a bunch of kids, which is probably in my future, and teach them about the outdoors. We’d all go out and pick berries; I’d have the children be involved in the work of the house and the farm. It’s my fantasy to return to the way things used to be—when we hung out our laundry to dry, and we made time to go swimming in the pond and play with the dog.”
In the future she would like to make more movies and fulfill her dream of working with Meryl Streep. “I’d love to do a play with her, more than a movie. Being on Broadway was amazing. I had the best time ever and I would love to do it again.”
Would Silverstone ever use Cupid’s bow and arrow to try to make a real-life match?
“There’s been a few times I’ve been instigator, but I’m not good at it. I haven’t made any matches and I’ve never been on a blind date,” she replies. “In the long run, most people who have really successful relationships end up turning to somebody they didn’t think they would ever be with and say, ‘Oh, wow. We could be lovers, too.’”