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She’s a Class Act--in Three Countries

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In her roles in Hollywood films, Caroline Goodall has been the wife of a guy who can’t decide whether he wants to grow up (“Hook”), the wife of a womanizing Nazi war profiteer (“Schindler’s List”) and a lover to a psychotic ex-CIA agent who wants to kill Sylvester Stallone but settles for killing her (“Cliffhanger”).

Now, Goodall finds herself wed to a Michael Douglas who can’t keep his trousers zipped up in “Disclosure.” In the film, Goodall plays Susan, whose husband, Tom (Douglas), is almost seduced against his will by Meredith (Demi Moore), his conniving new boss and vengeful old girlfriend. When Tom accuses Meredith of sexual harassment, Meredith deflects the charge back upon him, and Susan must decide just how unfaithful a husband Tom truly is.

Goodall, 34, laughs while reflecting at just how many men have done her wrong on celluloid. “You don’t really pick your movie projects based on what the guy’s doing,” she says, shrugging.

One wonders how Goodall can decide what to choose at all. In addition to offers for work in Hollywood, she is also a film star in England and Australia. She has done four different accents--aside from her native British--in her last six films, including an American one in “Disclosure” that is so convincing that audiences may not recognize her from her previous work.

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“I’m in kind of a strange position--I have a strong Australian career and a strong British career,” she says. “Then there’s the American career. For every movie I do here, I do two somewhere else. I bounce back and forth between the three places.”

After “Disclosure,” audiences will see her in the Aussie import “Hotel Sorrento,” in which she stars as a novelist whose family is unhappy with the way she has mined their private lives for her public fiction. In January, she begins work on “Cutthroat Island,” with her “Cliffhanger” director Renny Harlin, playing what she calls a “slightly crazy countess.”

Goodall was born and grew up in England, but spent much time in Australia, her father’s homeland. She spent the first five years of her acting career in such prestigious troupes as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court Theatre.

“I kind of saw my career dedicated to doing new serious political plays or reinterpreting the greats,” she says. “However, things change, thank God, in life, because (if they didn’t) there would be no surprises.”

While in Southern California performing in a stage production of “The Secret Rapture,” Goodall’s Hollywood career took off in typical Hollywood fashion. “As I was packing to go back to England, I received a phone call--Steven Spielberg wanted to see me for ‘Hook.’ ”

Spielberg approached her again for the role of Emilie Schindler in “Schindler’s List.” “The influence of Steven Spielberg to my career is unquantifiable,” she says. “Every day on the set with him is a master class in filmmaking.”

When Goodall met her real-life counterpart, it was an emotional experience, particularly when they filmed the final sequence of the film where the Schindlerjuden visit Schindler’s grave. “It was the first time she had ever seen her husband’s grave,” Goodall says. “I felt immensely protective of her.”

Emilie helped her husband rescue the Jews much more than the film made out, but because she declined to speak at length to Thomas Keneally, author of the book that inspired the film, she has received short shrift, Goodall says.

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“She’d always been in the shadow of her husband, and because she was a very private person, she never cared. But even at 80-something, you care when all this attention is focused on him and you become a footnote. It’s very hard when you have to go around, accepting humanitarian awards on behalf of your dead husband who abandoned you.”

Before the gravity of “Schindler’s List,” there was the lightheadedness of the action romp “Cliffhanger.” No one could have told Goodall “thank you” enough for some of the things she had to endure during that production.

“The toughest day for me was lying in the snow face down for 14 hours pretending to be dead as this helicopter went ‘round and ‘round and ‘round,” she recalls. “The crew was miles away, and I was communicating with a walkie-talkie. I couldn’t move, I was absolutely soaked, and I was listening for the helicopter . . . and it’s going the other way. The walkie-talkie would crackle, ‘No, we didn’t like that one, try again.’ I wanted to kill someone, but I couldn’t, because there was no one near me. After that movie, I don’t think anything will ever be quite so tough again.”

She did receive some compensation in the form of Nicola Pecorini, a camera operator who became her husband in September. They have a 10-month-old daughter, Gemma.

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Goodall began work on “Disclosure” a few months after having her baby, when she was still a little out of shape. Director Barry Levinson, she recalls somewhat incredulously, called her up and instructed her, “Don’t lose weight.”

“I don’t think there’s one Hollywood director in the world who would tell an actress that,” she says. “I have a real problem with watching movies where I see this perfect woman who is married to the man in question, who has a perfect life, who has perfect hair, perfect clothes, and doesn’t give you any of the kind of reality that you’re used to.”

And Goodall makes it plain that she doesn’t have a whole lot of use for the actresses who buff up to play those parts: “I don’t believe in auditioning for my next movie role from the movie that I’ve just been doing. A lot of actresses feel the pressure to constantly look good, to constantly show how well-toned every inch of their bodies are and how much they’ve been to the gym, not necessarily to do justice to the role they’re in, but to point out to the producers out there, ‘Hey, look what I’ve got--remember me for your next project.’ ”


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