Rick Bentley

Amanda Peterson’s fame flamed brightly early in her life

Amanda Peterson’s big film hit was “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Amanda Peterson’s big film hit was “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

I’ve often wondered about the strange nature of fame. Being part of the media that covers the TV and film industries for so many years has given me the opportunity to see the start of a lot of careers.

It’s interesting to watch how some bloom and others don’t.

What interests me more about fame is what happens to a person once it’s gone. When a new star arrives, everyone wants to talk to them, get their autograph, have a photo shot with them or just be near them. The press will battle for just a few moments to feed the hunger that readers have for information about the latest celebrity.

Then, if they can’t find the same success with the next TV shows or films, all of that fame vanishes. I’ve always wondered how they cope with returning to a world where they are no longer the center of attention.

Thinking about this again was triggered by the news Amanda Peterson had died at the age of 43. The Colorado native starred in her first TV show, “Boone,” at the age of 12 and rapidly appeared in TV shows, films and even the mini-series “A Year in the Life.”

The first time I interviewed Peterson was in 1987 for what ended up being her biggest acting credit. She starred in the Touchstone Pictures release “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Patrick Dempsey.

She played a cheerleader who is paid $1,000 to pretend to be the girlfriend of a nerd. The movie pulled in more than $31 million, a very respectable sum for a movie aimed at a pre-teen and teen crowd.

As part of the weekend set aside for the cast to do interviews, the studio threw Peterson a “Sweet 16” party at the pool where all of the media was staying. The event included a giant cake, presents and a guest list that included a group of young Hollywood actors.

Peterson got to have this special birthday party in the middle of a mass of journalists. The spotlight couldn’t have burned any brighter.

My memory of interviewing Peterson is that she was an upbeat teenager. There were no signs she had become jaded by Hollywood. It all just seemed to be a big adventure for her.

And then, that adventure ended abruptly.

After a few more feature films and TV movies, Peterson left the entertainment industry. The fame that had been so prevalent when she was young was suddenly gone. She had fallen so far off the radar that it wasn’t until after she missed an appointment the police in her hometown of Greeley, Colorada, were called to check on her. They found her dead in her apartment.

There are no details of her death. What I do know is that Peterson once basked in a flood of fame that faded away, only to be revived by reports of her death.

Joy to the world

The surprise hit of the summer film season is the animated Pixar release “Inside Out.” It’s already become one of the highest grossing films in the company’s history, and these are the people who made the “Toy Story” movies.

This story about the personifications of the emotions going on in a young girl’s head is frantic enough to keep young moviegoers happy and smart enough to entertain their parents.

A lot of the credit for the film’s success goes to Amy Poehler, who provides the voice of the generally upbeat Joy. It might seem weird, but playing a character who is happy all the time is not as easy as it sounds. Too little Joy and the character doesn’t work. Too much and the character becomes a pain.

“My fear was that Joy would get annoying,” Poehler says. “We talked a lot about that and pitched jokes, ways to walk that line where she wasn’t driving you crazy.”

Poehler was the last talent signed to voice one of the major characters. That gave her a slight advantage, because she had more production to look at in coming up with the way to speak for Joy.

What Poehler saw made her happy. She was so excited about the way the film offered a look inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl, she knew it was going to be one of the biggest hits ever for Pixar.

Poehler has gone so far as to use the word “Oscar” when talking about the movie.

It helped that Poehler could relate so closely to Joy. She sees a similarity between the unrelenting energy and bossiness that she has to the way Joy operates.

“I do think she just likes living in the moment and maybe I do that too. But I aspire to be more like Joy, and I think that characters in the film get all of the range of emotions. Everybody feels anger, fear, sadness, joy; each in their own journey,” Poehler says.

Poehler is joyful about being part of the Pixar animation world, because to her the company doesn’t patronize their young audience, and they don’t underestimate the intelligence of their audience.

“So they keep raising the bar, and also they assume that you and your big brain is gonna show up and your big heart. They assume you’re gonna take all those things with you when you go see their movies; and you’re so rewarded when you do,” Poehler says.

Other news

Stepping back: Giuliana Rancic will be officially transitioning out of her day-to-day role on “E! News” starting Monday, Aug. 10. Rancic will continue her co-hosting duties on both “Live From The Red Carpet” and “Fashion Police.”

Poor Kenny: Trey Parker and Matt Stone have reached a new deal with Comedy Central to extend “South Park” by three seasons and 30 episodes, taking the longest-running primetime scripted series in cable though an unprecedented 23rd season and 304 episodes. The 19th season starts Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Star power: LeBron James, Ed Helms, Danica Patrick, Andre Iguodala, Vince Vaughn, Britney Spears, Kiefer Sutherland and JJ Watt among the presenters at “The 2015 Espys” airing at 5 p.m. July 15 on ABC.