Michelle Johnson has added another chapter to the book of classic
Hollywood discoveries. At seventeen, only two months out of high
school in Phoenix, Arizona, she was signed by director Stanley
Donen for a starring role with Michael Caine in the Sherwood
Productions comedy _Blame It on Rio (1984)_ (qv). A tall, slender
American beauty, Johnson finished school one term early and was
preparing to move to New York to start her modelling career when
Donen spotted a small photo of her in W, the fashion publication.
Johnson was only one of many young girls considered for the choice
role of Jennifer, Joseph Bologna's teenage daughter who falls in
love with his best friend (Michael Caine) during a mad holiday in
Rio. Donen shot a screen test with the young novice, and in no time
at all she was before the cameras in Rio along with Caine, Joseph
Bologna and Valerie Harper. The chain of events came as a welcome
surprise to Johnson. "Ever since I was twelve, I had hoped that I
would be 'discovered'.' I concentrated on its happening when I was
nineteen, but it happened two years earlier." Johnson's stepfather
is a psychologist and her mother is a homemaker. Her parents were
understandably concerned about the rapid turn of events. "They were
nervous about the people in the film industry, but they know I'm a
strong person and can deal with a lot. Then they met Stanley Donen,
Michael Caine and Joe Bologna, and they knew I was in good hands."
Johnson's mother accompanied her to Rio and stayed for several
weeks at the start of filming. Caine and Bologna, along with the
director Donen, helped Johnson through the early, difficult days.
"Michael gave me little hints, like never, never to blink during a
closeup, things that a beginner would never know. It was great to
be surrounded by such professionals." Johnson is now studying
acting, singing and dancing in preparation of future film roles.
She has several screen idols, (Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep) and admits
a fascination with Marilyn Monroe. "It's not that I admire her
lifestyle; it's more what she stood for -- for being new and
different and doing the unexpected." As for the future, Johnson
will be living in Los Angeles and working on both coasts: "I've
always had firm goals. If I really want something and it's right
for me, then I go for it."
Biography courtesy of the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).