Cue ear-splitting shrieks from millions of preteen girls. For Lance Bass, as most adults don’t know, is one-fifth of ‘N Sync, the mega-selling boy-band that has helped keep the music industry afloat in recent years.
It’s hard to imagine ‘N Sync winning a Grammy Award for its lightweight pop. So – strange but true – Bass is setting his sights on winning a coveted Academy Award from stuffy Hollywood for his role as a moonlighting movie producer.
The 22-year-old Mississippi native set up a movie production company earlier this year, naming it A Happy Place, and is holding meetings like everyone else in Hollywood. The difference is that while most budding producers have only hefty lunch tabs to show for years of pitching projects, Bass has unapologetically used his fame to get on the fast track.
“Because of my name, because of what I’m doing now I can get into a lot of doors that I definitely couldn’t get into if I wasn’t doing what I do,” he told Reuters in a recent interview at a Beverly Hills hotel.
The first project, “On The Line,” opens across the United States and Canada Friday through Miramax Films. Bass is the star and served as an executive producer. As fellow ‘N Syncer and co-star Joey Fatone clarifies, “He was one of many producers” – 14 in all.
This $10 million romantic comedy won’t be the one to send Bass to the stage on Oscar night. Daily Variety described it as a “perfectly harmless, often humorous, featherweight confection.”
Bass plays an amiable advertising executive who goes to extraordinary lengths to track down a mystery girl (played by Canadian newcomer Emmanuelle Chriqui) he briefly met on a Chicago train. The film was directed by Eric Bross in 33 days earlier this year, with the cast and crew shuttling between Toronto and location shots in Chicago.
The only surprise about this movie is that it’s not as bad as it could have been, and that the producers managed to rope in soul legend Al Green for a cameo.
Pop star vehicles are traditionally box office poison – witness recent cinematic efforts by Madonna and Mariah Carey – but Bass hopes to reach an audience beyond his core fan base of undiscerning pubescent girls. It was originally developed as an R-rated movie, based on a short film called “On the L,” but the filmmakers toned down the content to bring in a family crowd.
Maybe when toning it down, they were too fastidious. As he does in real life, Fatone uses the very tame exclamation “frickin”‘ a lot in the movie. During post-production, the producers made him overdub “freakin”‘ instead.
Noting the production company’s name, Bass doubts he will risk upsetting his little girl fans by churning out violent slashers or wild sex romps.
“You’ve gotta be a movie like ‘The Sixth Sense’ and things like that, where you watch the whole movie and like, ‘That is an incredible movie, but I didn’t hear any cursing or see any blood or anything,”‘ he said. “That’s so hard to do in movies today.”
Which brings us to the project he hopes will eventually win him a best-picture Oscar, placing him in the same company as his mentor and two-time Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks.
The project is “The Children of Willesden Lane,” a fact-based drama about a young Jewish refugee who flees Nazi Austria in the “kindertransport” program and pursues her musical dreams in London.
Anne Hathaway, star of Disney’s surprise summer hit “The Princess Diaries,” is attached, her spokeswoman confirmed. Bass wants Meryl Streep in the cast, but a spokeswoman for the actress said she is not involved.
“It’s very Oscar material,” he said, “And I would love to have that little Oscar on my shelf someday!”
But he notes it’s “a very touchy subject” and it will take a couple of years to develop. In the meantime, Bass has his ‘N Sync job, which has provided him with unimaginable wealth and fame over the past six years. As the bass singer and a non-songwriter, he said his routine was “kinda getting a little monotonous.”
A Happy Place has offered a more creative outlet, but also renewed his enthusiasm for ‘N Sync. Teen pop may have lost some steam in the past year, but Bass sees his band lasting “several more years.”