Breakfast At Jennifer's

Let's get one thing clear right at the top: Jennifer Love Hewitt is no Audrey Hepburn. Don't take our word for it. Listen to Hewitt, the star of this week's ABC biopic, "The Audrey Hepburn Story." "It's the most intimidating thing to go to work every single day and have to be the most beautiful woman in the world," she says. "Especially days that you don't feel good or have PMS or whatever. You're like, 'Oh, my God'." Which isn't to say that Hewitt didn't give it her all, and then some. There were ballet and elocution lessons, as well as weeks of walking around with a book on her head in hopes of finding the swan inside the self-described klutz. She even shed 11 pounds to look more like waifish Audrey. And then Hewitt did something really shocking. In what's certainly a first for a Maxim magazine cover girl, she concealed her breasts beneath a form-obscuring sports bra. Hepburn was famously flat-chested. Hewitt is famously not. "There are some points in the movie where you can obviously tell that she and I did not match up in that area," she says. "But if people are paying that much attention to that, then I'm the worst actress ever in mankind."

Why go to all this trouble--and pain--for a potentially cheesy TV movie? In large part it's because Hepburn is Hewitt's idol, her ideal of a great actress and a better person. But there's more at stake than upholding her hero's legacy. "The Audrey Hepburn Story" marks a turning point for 21-year-old Hewitt. After five years of playing perky Sarah Reeves on Fox's "Party of Five" and its struggling spinoff, "Time of Your Life," the TV movie is Hewitt's first chance to play a grown-up. It's a particularly tough place to make the transition. The last actress who took on Hepburn, Julia Ormond, has been practically invisible since the uninspired 1995 remake of "Sabrina." "People thought I was crazy. They were like, 'Are you sure you don't want to think about this?' " says Hewitt. "I was like, 'Look. If it ends my career, I couldn't end it in a better way'."

She's got nothing to worry about--Hewitt is wonderful in "Audrey Hepburn." Using her big, brown eyes and long neck to full advantage, she turns her trademark pertness into a charming, utterly believable performance. It's the first real sign that Hewitt can actually act, as opposed to playing all those Valley-speaking, giggle-prone young women that are carbon copies of her. In fact, the entire movie--written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman--is surprisingly compelling as it follows Hepburn from her childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland through "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Hewitt even does a nice turn singing the movie's signature song, "Moon River." She actually started her career as a singer at Texas livestock shows before landing a job on the Disney show "Kids, Incorporated," when she was 10. She was called simply "Love Hewitt" then, named after one of her mom's friends. Some studio suits soon decided, probably wisely, that the name was a bit much, though Hewitt's friends still call her Love. "It's a very positive name," she says with typically unvarnished sweetness. "It puts good vibes in your brain."

Hewitt knows she'll have to make even more changes in her career if she wants to survive the ever-perilous transition from teen heartthrob to adult. She's already had her first taste of disappointment. Her TV show, "Time of Your Life," has been shelved by Fox until the summer, when it will have a final chance to find an audience. Hewitt's hoping to wield more control over her professional life in the future, thanks to her new production company, Love Spell, where she's optioned five films. She's even learning to be more grown-up about her relationships. Hewitt says she thinks she made a mistake by being so public about her romance with MTV hunk Carson Daly, which was regular tabloid fodder until they broke up last year. "When people asked me if I had a boyfriend, I'd be like, 'Oh, yeah! He's great,' and I would tell every detail because I was excited about it," says Hewitt. "I'm learning to keep it more low key than before." So is she dating anyone now? "Yes," she says. Anyone famous? "Kinda famous," she says, biting her lip. For bubbly Hewitt, "low key" may turn out to be the toughest acting job of all.

The Audrey Hepburn StoryABC
March 27

Breakfast At Jennifer's | News