Anna Nicole Smith was “famous for being famous” or, more to the point, “famous for being infamous.” A voluptuous Playboy Playmate and Houston stripper who married an old man for his millions, showcased her vapidity on reality TV and never missed a red carpet or any other chance to shake her moneymaker for the paparazzi, she never achieved anything and didn’t live long enough to celebrate her 40th birthday. But the public couldn’t get enough of her.
If you’re a direct-to-video moviemaker longing for his shot at the big time, what could be better than landing this attention-magnet for the lead in your new movie? That’s the Devil’s bargain that writer-director David Giancola made when he landed Smith for his 2006 “Charlie’s Angels”-meets-“Earth Girls Are Easy” parody, “Illegal Aliens.” He had publicity, more than he could have dreamed of. The Vermont filmmaker had a film Hollywood had at least heard of and might be interested in distributing. To theaters, even.
But it was, as you might guess, a fiasco — a diva star who was plainly out of it; an “actress” who couldn’t act, even if she had been sober; and a movie that wouldn’t have warranted any attention at all if she hadn’t agreed to take the leading role.
Giancola, looking back, is blunt to the point of cruel in his regard for Smith. He said at the time, filming her was “like working with a 2-year-old, or 3-year-old.” But it’s hard to feel sorry for him. He made this deal and cannot believe it’s blowing up in his face.
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Then, just as you think the end is in sight, tragedy strikes and “Addicted to Fame” takes us inside the whirlwind of cable-news coverage that surrounded the death of Smith’s son, then her own untimely demise.
“Addicted to Fame” isn’t an exposé and doesn’t break a lot of new ground in “celebrity can kill you” cautionary tale territory. But like that earlier film-blows-up-on-filmmaker disaster “Overnight,” it should be required viewing in college film classes. The pitfalls of not knowing the difference between “notoriety” and “fame” were never clearer.