The Arts: It's not hard to find the flavor of the month, but we were looking for something more. Here are some performers and artists who have the promise of staying power. JULIA ORMOND
Julia Ormond knows how it is. She knows the media are always getting worked up over some new face, and then forgetting it 15 minutes later. You know: lather, rinse, repeat if necessary. All this is troubling if you're a young British actress in it for the long haul. "The press will build you up and then tear you down," says Ormond, 29, staring into her fruit salad. A reporter offers to tear her down right now, if it'll help. Ormond laughs. "Would you, please?"
On second thought, no. Ormond, who has born in Surrey and later studied painting and drama in London, broke through as Robert Duvall's long-suffering wife in the HBO drama "Stalin." The actress gives performances too rich and complicated for her to be a standard-issue femme fatale. Still, this year she'll come between more than a few good men. As Susannah Finncannon, she tears apart the Ludlow brothers (Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas) in the ripe turn-of-the-century epic "Legends of the Fall." As Guinevere, she'll haunt King Arthur and Sir Lancelot (Sean Connery and Richard Gere) in "First Knight," due out this year. And as a certain chauffeur's daughter, she'll turn the heads of David and Linus Larrabee (Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear) in Sydney Pollock's remake of "Sabrina," to start filming shortly. Ormond is said to have beaten out Winona Ryder, Whitney Houston and Juliette Binoche for the role; now she just has to contend with the ghost of Audrey Hepburn. "Last time I watched the movie, I got completely fixated by how beautiful she was and how tiny her bloody waistline was," she says. "It kept getting smaller and smaller." Meanwhile, Ormond's prospects just get bigger and bigger.
When the grungy country-rock band Uncle Tupelo broke up a year ago, that tinny, creaking sound you heard was a thousand rock critics' hearts breaking. Uncle Tupelo was a critics' band not just because they combined hard-edged country influences from Hank Williams to Neil Young, but because their music was so often about loving music: proudly derivative, unabashedly fanlike. Now four members of Uncle Tupelo plus a new guitarist have formed Wilco, a band that does those roots influences one step better. Their debut album, due in March on Warner Bros., is full of the kind of warm, rough, acoustic pop the Unplugged generation loves so much. Wilco's unworldliness works in their favor: with members spread out from Chicago and Nashville to Dallas and New Orleans, the resulting hodgepodge of bashing guitars, plucked banjo and sawing fiddle cuts straight through the heart of Americana. Singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy is the rare rock guy who's not afraid to put his guard down and let his sweetness flow. "If it's just your heart talking /I'll listen every time," he sings in "Pick Up the Change." "We're the too-nice band," says Tweedy. "There's nice and then there's too nice, and Wilco's too nice."
In his one-man show, "some People," Danny Hoch becomes 11 ethnic New Yorkers -- or, rather, he becomes their vocal cords. Where Anna Deavere Smith taps the nation's psyche and Eric Bogosian goes straight for the spleen, 24-year-old Hoch finds hilarious, poignant poetry in the voices of Blanca, the sassy Puerto Rican; Kazmierczack, the sweet Polish handyman; and Doris, the kvetching Jewish mother. HBO will tape the show this month and Hoch -- a drama-school dropout who so impressed the faculty at NYU that he won a job at 19 teaching "conflict resolution through drama" -- hopes to take his cross-culture tongue to the Middle East, not to mention Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. He says he's also been offered 300 "crazy white guy" movie roles, 10 Sprite commercials and several MTV vehicles, but to his grandmother's chagrin, he turned them all down flat. "I didn't become an actor to go join the entertainment industry," says Hoch, who got his ear from his speech-pathologist mother and his inspiration from the streets of the Queens, N.Y., neighborhood where he grew up. "The young, idealistic artist in me still says f--- you to the system." What a mouth on this guy!
Claire Danes's "so-called Life" is doing nicely; it's her inner life that's the problem. When a psychic visited the set of her TV show "My So-Called Life" this year, the prediction -- you will have many careers -- knocked her for a loop. "I said, "What? This is so bizarre.' The idea hadn't crossed my mind," she says. Psychic predictions wouldn't bother most actors not named Reagan, but it's easy to forget that Danes is only 15. As Angela, she combines awkwardness and rebellion in a performance so poised, she threatens to become an adult every week. Danes studied at the HB and Strasberg studios and has wanted to act since elementary school. Now starring as Beth in the new movie "Little Women," she'll soon shoot two more films: "How to Make an American Quilt" and "Home for the Holidays," directed by Jodie Foster. "Sometimes I feel like I should take it easier, or just go home and be normal," says the native New Yorker. "But I'm happy. Sometimes I just sit back and say, "Claire, look what you've done'."
For a while, Nicholas Turturro seemed destined to bring up the rear in the march to Hollywood fame. He spent the first decade of his career mostly known as John's ("Quiz Show") brother and, occasionally, Aida's ("Angie") cousin. When he finally got a break -- the part of squeaky-clean Det. James Martinez on "NYPD Blue" -- all anyone could talk about was David Caruso's posterior and, later, portly Dennis Franz's. After 10 years supporting his wife and 9-year-old daughter as the doorman at New York's St. Moritz Hotel (along with a few bit stage and movie roles) Turturro, 32, is now finally graduating from sidekick to star. In the raw and powerful independent film "Federal Hill," he's mesmerizing as the craziest guy in a brat pack of losers. And now that Caruso has stormed off to the multiplex, look for Det. Martinez to get a life and for the Queens, N.Y., native who plays him to get some satisfaction at last. "It got frustrating at times, but I hung in there," Turturro says. "That's the whole thing in this business. If you wanna get in, you gotta be willing to hang out."
It's always perplexed me that the health-care and environmental movements have not joined forces," says Frank Moore, 41. An opinion like that, especially from an artist with AIDS, sure sounds political enough for New York's Whitney Museum, where the infamous Biennial exhibition opens in March with Moore included in it. But the '95 Biennial will be a back-to-esthetics show, and it's the talent and craft in Moore's intricate, gorgeously colored paintings that have gotten him in. One of his paintings in the show has a giant DNA molecule rising out of the mist over a polluted Niagara Falls. The picture is Moore's view of AIDS as one point on a continuum extending to environmental issues. "When I represent AIDS within an iconic American landscape, people see just my perception of the way things are, with each situation having its unique beauty." Spoken like a long-haul artist. When his solo show at Manhattan's Sperone Westwater gallery opens in late March and he becomes a loft-hold word, Moore's new fame is likely to last a lot longer than 15 minutes.
Can a bass player win marquee status in the New Jazz Order? We're about to find out. In the five years since he moved to New York from his native Philadelphia to attend Juilliard, Christian McBride, 22, has become ubiquitous on the recordings of jazz's newest stars. Until New Year's Eve, he anchored the quartet of sax sensation Joshua Redman. Despite the acclaim of his peers, McBride held off fronting a band, or even recording his own compositions. "I just wanted to play with all the great musicians I could," he says. Now he's making his move. This spring he'll head out with his own quartet to support a debut record being released next weekend, "Gettin' to It" (Verve). It's a winner. The ebullient young virtuoso has written some knockout soul-tinged tunes. "I'll always be behind someone," he says of his new role. Right now there's no bass player ahead of him.
Brandy is the evolutionary perfection of the 15-year-old girl -- if the rest of us had sounded this cool, suave and collected at that age, we probably would have been famous, too. As the soul sensation of the moment, with a funky, demure voice that slips easily from a sultry baba-a-y into an adolescent giggle, Brandy (last name Norwood) has already accumulated a gold single, "I Wanna Be Down"; near-platinum sales of her debut album, "Brandy"; congratulatory phone calls from Toni Braxton, Karyn White and Gladys Knight, and an audience with the crown diva herself, Whitney Houston. All this without putting on airs. "To have these people even know my name was such an honor," says the L.A. resident, who in her prefame days attended Hollywood High. "I mean, I'm just little ole Brandy, and they're superstars."
If you don't recognize Jeremy Davies, maybe it's because at 25, he's already mastered the art of selflessly disappearing into a role. Last year he played the confused teen who sleeps with Mom in the highly praised "Spanking the Monkey" and a scummy townie who comes on to Jodie Foster in "Nell." "I don't mind playing scum, especially next to Jodie," he says. "You look like pretty good scum." Davies, who lives in the hills far north of L.A., eschews the typical Hollywood power path. After "Spanking," he received loads of "boy next door" and "Mr. Cool Guy" scripts, but he's holding out for a small film called "The Locusts," which he hopes will be underway by late spring. "It's very Tennessee Williams," he says, describing a plot with alcoholic mothers, studly ranch hands, Hud-type drifters, mental institutions and a guy who lives in a treehouse. Sounds pretty cool to us.
The Paul Taylor dance Company is famous for its superb dancers, but newcomer Lisa Viola had no trouble making a splash last fall in the premiere of Taylor's "Funny Papers." She sashayed onstage and launched into a dainty and delicious sendup of "Itsby Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Then in the somber "Moonbine," she dispatched Taylor's most intricate phrases with great ease. "I was surprised he thought of me for the two," says Viola, 31. "I had been out, injured, for eight months and was just back. I think he forgot."
The petite Viola, who grew up in Honolulu, hoped for a ballet career, but lacked the mile-long legs. Drawn to Taylor's wit and lyricism, she spent three years in the company's school, and debuted in 1992 in "Syzygy": "I was the human pinball." Watch her ricochet to the top.
Helena Maria Viramontes, 40, sees herself as a chameleon, and no wonder. She's published a book of stories, ran the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association and teaches writing at Cornell. She's also been a migrant laborer, volunteered in community causes and reared two sons. Now, in her stunning first novel, "Under the Feet of Jesus," due in April, she blends lyricism, harsh realism and a concern for social justice. This story of a Latino migrant family in the California fruit fields comes from bitter experience. "My family has been in this country for four generations," she says, "but we're still made to feel illegal." Viramontes believes in fiction's power to inspire: "Books changed my life, so I believe books can change other people's lives."When you write as well as she does, that's not loose talk.