Ally Sheedy is driving. her dark brown eyes, set deep in her pale, fine-featured face, are fixed intently on the road ahead. She wears a white T-shirt, white moccasins and a soft, full pink skirt. For all her cuteness, there is nothing coy about her. She is utterly direct and self-contained, qualities reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, the actor she most admires. It is a manner that makes her seem tranquil and older than twenty-three.
Nonetheless, she drives her big black jeep with a zeal just verging on the maniacal, and wherever she goes, her Sony tape player is beside her, and Eurythmics or Tina Turner or Van Halen is blaring.
On this particular day, she is going to a photo session for Italian Vogue. She does not like posing for fashion layouts. It’s 103 degrees, and she is looking forward to an air-conditioned photographer’s studio. The studio is not air-conditioned. Ally is disappointed but says nothing, getting on with the business at hand with the determined briskness that helps explain why co-workers call her One-Take Sheedy.
Her hair is greased into punkish spikes, and thick makeup is applied to her face and eyes, while she sits absolutely erect, a posture she developed when she was six and dancing with the American Ballet Theatre, in New York City. She changes into a pair of jeans and a large white satin shirt, then follows the photographer outside, where he poses her against a tree. The tree trunk sticks into her back. It hurts. She smiles as the photographer snaps away.
She wants to say, I hate these poses, I hate the heat, I need to have music playing, I hate the clothes. Instead, she thinks about Katharine Hepburn. Katharine Hepburn wouldn’t complain about the heat, Katharine Hepburn would remember these people are here to do their work, not for the pleasure of taking my picture, Katharine Hepburn would never complain. She poses for two hours, outwardly at ease, inwardly repeating the words about Hepburn, again and again, like a mantra.
Andrew McCarthy is walking. He ambles down a Greenwich Village street with easy, long-legged grace. He is dressed in baggy khaki pants, a faded T-shirt, a baggy seersucker jacket. His mobile, expressive face is dominated by his eyes, which can be clouded with caution one moment, alive in a crinkle-faced smile the next. There’s a slice of pizza in his right hand, a large bag of laundry over his left shoulder. He goes into a deli to buy a pack of Camel Lights. He began smoking for his role as a writer in St. Elmo’s Fire and hasn’t been able to stop. “How you doin’, sport,” he says to the man at the counter. “Sport” is his customary greeting to men. He greets women with “Hi, doll.”
Andrew watches a little girl perched high on a park bench, swinging her legs. “I love the way she’s sitting,” he says. Then he ambles on, searching for new sights to take in, managing to seem, as always, simultaneously laconic and intense.
He enters the small two-room apartment he shares with a cat. Before he moved here, he lived for two years at a New York University dorm; before that, he lived in New Jersey with his three brothers, his mother and his father, who is a stock analyst. In the living room, there is a faded Oriental rug, piles of shirts on the floor, a lamp with two hats on the shade, a desk littered with papers and parking tickets, and a mantelpiece covered by a lace cloth. On the mantelpiece is the Bible that Andrew read for his part as a Catholic student in Heaven Help Us; beside it are The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, which he read for St. Elmo’s Fire, having decided that Fitzgerald would be his character’s favorite writer. His own favorites are represented by a huge Springsteen poster and a framed cover of a 1948 Life magazine, featuring a photograph of Montgomery Clift.
Andrew goes into the small bedroom and turns on his black-and-white TV, which is connected to a VCR. He puts in a tape of Indiscretion of an American Wife, one of his favorite Clift films. He watches the scene in which Clift walks dejectedly through a railroad station. He has seen it dozens of times, but still he rocks back and forth with excitement. As he talks, he keeps raking one long, slender hand through his thick brown hair.
“See how he drops the trench coat?” he says. “What a great moment, what making something out of nothing! The first time I saw this, I bought a trench coat. I carried it around for days. I must have dropped it a hundred times. I could never get it right.”
He watches the scene again, then looks at the clock. It is time to leave for the off-Broadway theater where he is appearing in two one-act plays, an engagement that will end the next evening when he leaves for Los Angeles to begin his fourth movie. He goes to the kitchen to feed his cats. On the refrigerator door is an advertising flyer. It reads, VERNA SAYS: MEN AND WOMEN, 17-62, TRAIN TO BECOME A CASHIER. Andrew looks at it and grins. “Whenever I start getting cocky,” he says, “I think of Verna.”