Temple of Vanessa
I include this article in here because I wanted to have a complete online showing of the articles I have on Vanessa. But I dont vouch for its accuracy or truth, as a matter of fact, I tend to think that its a bit off base. For one thing, there are contradictions within the article itself and some that clash with earlier articles on Vanessa. I dont claim to know the truth, only Vanessa Marcil knows the truth of her life. But until she comes to me and personally says whats true and whats not, I'll continue to feel that this article is not quite it. So, like anything thats written on people we dont know personally, take this article with a grain a salt, not as the gospel truth. Remember, even so-called quotes from Vanessa can be misquoted or twisted or just plain made-up lies.
Marcil Makes Her Move
Vanessa Marcil's life has been as melodramatic and improbably as the soap operas on which she starred. Now the former General Hospital and 90210 star is playing her favorite role as Hollywood's happiest geek.
EGO - May 2000
When you're driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in your Ferrari and the wind is in your hair and the world is at your feet, 120 miles can rush past you in a heartbeat. When you're 30 and you're in love and you've got a house in the hills, these are the moments you wish you could stop, crystallize and hold onto forever.
But when you're in high school and your dad has just smacked you around and you want to just end it all, the distance from Palm Desert to Los Angeles might as well be measured in light-years. When you're 14 and hopeless, the 120 miles that seperate your sun-scorched small town from the big city feel like the expanse between heaven and hell.
Vanessa Marcil no longer lives in Palm Desert. She lives in Los Angeles. She picked up and moved to Southern California when she was 19. She has never been back to her desert home because it never felt like home. She does not speak to her father, three of her four siblings, or the dozens of relatives who reside in San Bernardino County because they never earned the right to be considered her family.
"It's sad to me not to be close to my blood family, but I really think that family is a serious word," says Vanessa. "Just because you share the same blood with someone doesnt mean that you're obligated to them. And I think I have a small family of friends beyond my mother and my sister and my niece. And they've all earned the right to be my family. They love and support me. They love me unconditionally."
Unconditional love helped Vanessa overcome drug and alchol abuse. Love and support helped her overcome breast cancer when she was 19. Her real family and friends helped her come to terms with the demons of her childhood, so that when her Ferrari is in the shop and she's not making any money and her millon-dollar sable hair just wont do what it's supposed to do, she can still smile and know that she could not be any happier.
The irony, of course, is that without her old family -- without the genetics that placed that birthmark in the perfect spot on her right cheek and allows her to scarf down an entire order of apple pie during a magazine cover shoot and not get fat -- she would not be one of Hollywood's hottest commodities.
In fact, the story of how she came to be an actress in so improbably that it will make about 10,000 Hollywood-area waiters and bartenders green with envy.
During her senior year at Palm Desert High, as her unhappiness mounted, Vanessa followed her friends to their drama class one day. She had never acted before. Never even wanted to act. She just wanted to be with her friends because they made her feel cool. She felt safe in their presence.
It was just after lunch, she recalls, and she was a little drunk from the vodka she had put in her coke that afternoon. She wasnt enrolled in the class, so the teacher asked her who she was. She stared back at him and told him she was in the class. He told her she would have to audition. So, with her friends by her side and a little buzz in her veins, Vanessa Marcil's acting career took flight.
"I just walked up there and improv'd. I just made up three different characters and improv'd," Vanessa says. "I dont know why he didnt just kick me out, because he knew I hadnt taken drama the first three years, but he loved me and let me in the class. It was the first time I ever acted. And that's kinda how my life has gone -- these bizarre things that end up happening."
Vanessa began to live for her drama class. It was her respite from home. But because she couldnt have dinner in the school theater or spend evenings and weekends with her drama buddies, she continued to try to numb herself to the pain of her personal life. Just 120 miles to the west, Tinseltown remained as much a mirage as the illusory waterholes that once tormented California's settlers as they chased the sun to the Pacific.
"I didnt have any aspirations to become an actress," she says. "I didnt have the confidence, because I always thought there was something wrong with me. And when you're from a small town, I think you have this idea of Hollywood that everyone knows somebody. You think you cant just come to Hollywood and become an actress -- you have to be Martin Scorsese's cousing or something."
So, at 17, when she fled the desert and watched those 120 miles dissolve into her rearview mirror, she still didnt have a dream -- only a nightmare to escape. After all, she was still her father's daughter and not Martin Scorsese's cousin. She would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into an acting career.
In 1989, a friend's car broke down on the day of her audition for a role in the Neil Simon play 'Fools'. Like any good friend, Vanessa drove her to the play. While she was there, the director noticed her and asked if she planned to audition. Vanessa said no. The director encouraged her to audition. She got the part. After seeing her performance, an agent approached her and encouraged her to get into television and film.
Still the ingenue, Vanessa asked what she needed to do. The agent said she would just have to pose for some head shots. Vanessa refused. "I hated to have my picture taken," she says. "I thought I was so ugly. I'm sure alot of it had to do with being abused." The agent managed to snap off a couple of polaroids and began to circulate them along with a fictional resume. A month later, Vanessa was playing Brenda Barrett on the No. 1-rated daytime soap opera, General Hospital. General Hospital led to a smoldering turn as Nicolas Cage's fiancee in the feature film 'The Rock', which, in turn, led to the role as the Tonya Harding-esque Gina Kincaid on Beverly Hills 90210.
"Its funny because girls always write me letters saying, 'How do I become an actress?' and I dont really have an answer for them, because it just kind of accidently happened to me," Vanessa says. "What I do know is how to appreciate something that happens to you like that. I tell them, and I continue to tell myself, to take it seriously and not to take it for granted."
Suddenly, Vanessa had found her life's passion. But even such a profound epiphany was littered with the baggage of her previous existence. "When it came to emotional scenes, I had a real wall. So I started studying really hard. I got into therapy, which was really life-changing for me. I used to have a problem getting emotional. Now there's a reason for me to cry everyday. And it's the best thing that has ever happened to me, because after I cry, I feel an amazing emotional high."
"I fell in love with acting because I finally got to show how I felt. In my whole childhood I was taught dont cry, dont talk unless you're spoken to. Everything was about suppressing life. Once I learned how to take that wall down, and once I started to let my emotions out again, it was the most freeing feeling in the world. And to get paid to do that was great."
However, just as the money began to get good and the offers started rolling in, Vanessa decided to drop out of Hollywood. She had been so busy with acting that she had begun to lose touch with her new family. Her mother and sister had moved out to L.A. to be near her, but Vanessa was too busy to even see them. So she quit 90210 after less than two full seasons.
"I was so in awe of the fact that I was working so much, I was afraid to stop, because you think its all going to stop," Vanessa says. "I was afraid to stop working to spend time with my family. And I was afraid to stop making that much money. It was a lot of money to give up to quit a show."
Vanessa's self-actualization had taught her to confront her fears. But there is a far less tangible risk involved with confronting emotional fears than there is with giving up a six-figure salary to confront financial fears. "I got this paper and figured out how much money I was giving up by not finishing the 90210 season. It was really scary. But I really wanted to walk my talk. I'm really trying to be someone who I can be really proud of. I faced my fear and I'm doing it. Now I'm driving to Torrance at 9 o'clock in the morning for my niece's marimba performance. And I'm driving over to my mom's house to hang out with her for a few hours. And I never did that stuff before -- the stuff that really matters."
Vanessa has garnered positive reviews for most of the work she has done on stage and in the movies, but she has never had a role -- either in television or film -- that could propel her to superstardom. But since she quit working and started spending time with her family, Hollywood's interest in Vanessa has become white-hot. Still, she is unwillingly to compromise her principles while she sifts through myriad offers for the perfect opportunity.
"If its out of town, I turn it down," she says. "If its not exactly what I want, I'll turn it down. If there's one thing about it I dont like, I'll turn it down. And part of me feels like, who the hell do you think you are? Its not like I'm a big, huge movie star and can just say, 'no, thank you, I'll turn all this stuff down.' But it's who I want to be."
In Hollywood, Vanessa knows that it's not always cool to say no. Less may be more to a certain extent, but she knows that she could be damaging her career by taking a hiatus. She also knows that its not cool to spend time at her mom's house instead of at parties and movie premieres. But having escaped the despotic rule of her father, Vanessa is determined that no one -- much less conventional wisdom -- will ever control her again.
"I think I've always been a geek," she says. "I read too much. I'm not part of the cool crowd. I dont go to all the right events. But now I'm kinda embracing that I am not cool. My idea of cool -- but not the world's idea -- is people who are genuine. And people do think it's geeky in this town if you're too genuine."
"I really believe now that there's a higher power who is looking out for me. I dont think I really believed that when I was a kid, because everything seemed so unfair and hopeless. But everything I went through as a kid is part of who I am today. And I love who I am today."
So, too, do studio executives. Vanessa recently completed two independent films -- 'Nice Guys Sleep Alone' and 'This Space Between Us' -- which have been making the film festival rounds this past year. Now its just a matter of time before the rest of the world loves Vanessa Marcil too.
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