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Film / America's Sweethearts

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The real story is happening off screen.

America's Sweethearts is a 2001 comedy film directed by Joe Roth, starring Billy Crystal (who co-wrote the screenplay), Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and John Cusack.

Once upon a time, Eddie Thomas (Cusack) and Gwen Harris (Jones) were the Hollywood Golden Couple. They starred in several schlocky but profitable romantic movies that propelled them to superstardom. They were America’s Sweethearts…

Until Gwen split... and took her new beau, Hector (Hank Azaria), with her. The breakup caused Eddie to have a nervous breakdown and retreat to a wellness center in the mountains, where he’s been hiding from the outside world for a year.

Meanwhile, in a studio in the same town, Hollywood Executive David Kingman (Stanley Tucci) has called Lee Phillips (Crystal), Eddie and Gwen’s recently-fired publicist, to view the stars’ last film. The problem, and it’s a biggie, is the eccentric director, Hal Weidmann (Christopher Walken), hasn’t sent it. And he’s not going to... at least not until the press junket. David promises Lee his job back if he can salvage this mess. Step number one: Reunite Eddie and Gwen, at least briefly, for the junket and distract the press from the missing movie by making them believe the once-hot duo might get back together. To do this, he’ll recruit Gwen’s much-put-upon sister and assistant, Kiki (Roberts).

From there on it’s wooing the press, interview after interview, scandals involving cacti, dodging questions about a film no one’s seen, and Hector unexpectedly showing up.

And then there’s Kiki and her own feelings for Eddie. And those feelings could be mutual... if only he could stop obsessing over Gwen.

America's Sweethearts provides examples of:

  • A Lighter Shade of Gray: Lee's revulsion at Dave's enthusiasm for Eddie's suicide as a promotion stunt is probably what makes him this.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Unsurprisingly, Eddie is openly laughing at the actual movie that Hal made.
  • All There in the Manual: It's never stated in the movie, but various sources say "Kiki" is short for "Kathleen."
  • Alpha Bitch: It's implied that Gwen was one in high school with enough boyfriends to fill a phonebook. Kiki had to break up with them all.
  • Analogy Backfire: One without the backfire actually pointed out but...Gwen, while delivering her usual BS to a member of the press, compares her relationship with Eddie to Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Lee while sitting at a table with Kiki.
    Lee: So, what is it? You're in love with Eddie?
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Gwen to the movie going public. Kiki claims she had a "Miss Adorable Image" until her affair with Hector. Gwen accuses Kiki of being the same way, but the only time Kiki lashes out is at the end of the movie when she finally gets sick of how Gwen treats her.
  • The Cameo: Gwen loves Larry King. Spoiler, no she doesn't.
  • Casting Gag: "May I have the envelope, please?" line was doubly funny from someone who had hosted a number of Oscar award ceremonies.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: David. At the Hyatt bar after Eddie has just come out on the losing end of a brawl with Hector, David crows to Lee about all the success they've been having with the press. A tired Lee sarcastically suggests pushing Eddie into suicide. To which David says, "Imagine if he killed himself at the premiere." Seeing the look on Lee's face, he quickly tries to play it as a joke, but yeah. Not fooling anyone, Kingman.
  • Everyone Can See It: Well, at least Lee can. He tells Kiki that Eddie never looked at Gwen the way he's been looking at her lately.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lee does some questionable things to promote the movie and hold everything together, but he also has a sincere heart-to-heart with Kiki about the situation and gives her encouraging advice.
  • Latin Lover: Hector, literally for Gwen, as Hank Azaria lays on the Spanish accent thicker than Salmorejo.
  • Mistaken for Masturbating: Two Security Guards think Eddie is "whacking it" outside Gwen's cabin when they see him moving his hand back and forth from his crotch and groaning loudly. He'd actually fallen onto a cactus crotch first and was trying to pull the prickers out, not that the guards believe him.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Gwen. To a T (and combines with Bitch in Sheep's Clothing to be the point of the movie). She may play the sweet and gorgeous romantic lead on screen, but everybody around her, from her publicist to her lover, knows what a pain in the ass she is to deal with.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Eddie gets on a roof.
    Lee: He's not gonna jump.
    Gwen: I said I was going to give him the divorce papers.
    Lee: Shit, he's gonna jump!
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: This exchange between Lee (Billy Crystal) and Danny (Seth Green).
    Lee: [on the phone] Hello, darling, can I get Holly Golightly's cottage, please? Thank you.
    Danny: Who's Holly Golightly?
    Lee: It's Gwen's code name. It's from "Breakfast at Tiffany's".
    Danny: Oh. What's that?
    Lee: It's a movie, a great movie. Hepburn?
    Danny: Right. Katharine.
    Lee: Let me tell you something. Don't tell anyone you're in the movie business. Okay? Thank you.
  • The Prima Donna: Gwen, as if you couldn't guess. While much time is devoted to her awful treatment of Eddie, she treats co-workers and subordinates just as badly. Kiki goes on at length to Lee about the kind of absurd complaints and demands from Gwen that she regularly has to deal with.
  • Prima Donna Director: Hal Weidmann. He frustrates the living hell out of David but he's got the Oscars to back him up. He's also very eccentric, using the Unabomber's cabin as an office and holding Eddie and Gwen's final film hostage. When the film is finally shown in front of the press, it turns out he threw away the script, instead opting to film his actors and crew in secret, casting Gwen in a very bad light. When the lights go up, David is humiliated, Gwen is threatening legal action, and Eddie is already making plans to work with Hal again.
  • Publicity Stunt Relationship: Eddie Thomas and Gwen Harris, a very famous Hollywood couple, have split and Gwen has moved on to Hector. However, the executive wants to release the last film they made together, so a publicist wrangles them into a PR "reconciliation" to help promote the movie.
  • Recycled In Space: In universe example. Eddie and Gwen's film, Time Over Time or at least the movie they were supposed to make is a pretty obvious rip-off of Terminator with Nazis.
  • Shout-Out: "I'll have what he's having." Of course, Billy Crystal had starred in that one.
  • Spoiled Brat: Gwen. She's whiny, self absorbed, neurotic, and incredibly fake in front of the press.
  • Survival Mantra: When Eddie gets stressed or frustrated, he chants his to keep from knocking heads. Said mantra is listing all the things he's grateful for, like the cool breeze, the warm sun, etc. When he realizes the thing he's most grateful for is Kiki.
  • Teeny Weenie: One of the pieces of behind-the-scenes footage that Weidmann recorded without anybody knowing or consenting is Gwen talking to Kiki about Hector about their love life, and when Kiki asks about Hector's penis size, Gwen pulls out a very compact lipstick and tells him it's this huge. Hector is incensed enough that he feels the need to tell the press that his penis is not that small in the middle of the chaos that erupts when the light come back on.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Eddie doesn't know that Kiki is the woman by the pool because he didn't see the trailer for this thing.
  • Troubled Production: In-Universe. Gwen and Eddie's last movie is not only fraught with behind-the-scenes bickering over her affair, it's also over budget, behind schedule, and as Hal says, "The script [is] shit." Then the director holds the film hostage. And that's all before we even see what he did to the final product...
  • With Friends Like These...: Lee leaks the tape. He tells Danny that the first and only priority for a publicist is promoting the given project, even if it means hosing a good friend.