15 Celebrities Who Have Starred in Lifetime Movies

Lifetime
Lifetime

From classic titles like the Tori Spelling-starrer Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? to an abnormally vast collection of Christmas movies starring Dean Cain, pop culture (and movie punch lines) wouldn't be the same without the hundreds of Lifetime Movies we have come to know and love. Though the made-for-TV movies originally ran on the regular Lifetime channel, on June 29, 1998, the network gave these so-bad-they're-good films their very own platform with the launch of the Lifetime Movie Network, or LMN (which today goes by the truncated Lifetime Movies moniker).

To celebrate 20 years of bad-ass women getting revenge and real-life crime stories being played out in semi-fictional—and often overly dramatic—ways, we're paying tribute to 15 celebrities who've lent their acting talents to Lifetime movies.

1. AND 2. WILL FERRELL AND KRISTEN WIIG

The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate, or suspicious: On April 1, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig had secretly filmed a Lifetime movie. “This is no April Fools’ joke,” the story began, then went on to explain that the movie, titled A Deadly Adoption, would see Ferrell and Wiig playing a well-to-do couple who open their home to a pregnant young woman “with the hopes of adopting her unborn child—then things quickly go awry .”

Just as quickly as the news made headlines, Entertainment Weekly issued its own exclusive that because the “top secret” project had leaked, they were now killing it entirely ... which was followed by another “exclusive,” this time from The Wrap, that Ferrell’s denial was likely just a ploy. That final report turned out to be correct; in June of the same year, audiences got to sink their teeth into the slightly tongue-in-cheek adoption drama.

3. ROB LOWE

Rob Lowe has clearly caught the Lifetime bug. After taking on the title role in 2012’s Drew Peterson: Untouchable—about the Chicago police officer accused of killing one wife and making a second one disappear—he returned a year later to play Florida prosecutor Jeff Ashton in Prosecuting Casey Anthony. In January, Lowe returned to the estrogen-charged channel to play Miami playboy—and heir to the Fontainebleau hotel fortune—Ben Novack, Jr., who was brutally murdered (along with his mother) at the behest of his wealth-seeking wife (a former stripper). What would Sam Seaborn say?

4. KALEY CUOCO

Speaking of Drew Peterson: that wife he made disappear? That would be Stacy Peterson, who was portrayed by The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco in the 2012 movie.

5. REESE WITHERSPOON

In 1991, the same year that Reese Witherspoon made her big-screen debut in The Man in the Moon, the future Oscar-winner—then all of 15 years old—starred alongside fellow future Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette in Diane Keaton’s feature directorial debut, Wildflower, about a youngster (Witherspoon) who befriends an abused and partially deaf girl (Arquette).

6. HILARY SWANK

In between The Next Karate Kid and Beverly Hills, 90210, Hilary Swank logged some time on the set of 1997’s Dying to Belong. Swank plays an aspiring sorority sister who is haunted by a Hell Week hazing that ends in the death of her friend. Though it’s ruled a suicide, Swank isn’t buying it and is determined to find the truth (regardless of whether anyone believes her). Three years later, Swank won an Oscar. (Five years after that, she won a second Oscar.)

7. ZAC EFRON

Mary-Louise Parker is a single mother to twin sons who’ve been diagnosed with autism in 2004’s Miracle Run (The Unexpected Journey), which is based on a true story. Zac Efron plays one of those sons, whose dreams are championed by his mom. (Cue the waterworks.)

8. KIRSTEN DUNST

Before there was 16 & Pregnant, there was Fifteen and Pregnant, a 1998 Lifetime movie in which the cute little bloodsucker from Interview with the Vampire gets pregnant, much to the embarrassment of her family. But over the next nine months, what began as a fracture turns into a bond. Who’s ready for a group hug?

9. MARCIA GAY HARDEN

Marcia Gay Harden has never let a little thing like an Oscar win stand in her way when it comes to saying “yes” to a Lifetime movie. She’s one of the channel’s most beloved veterans, working on both true crime biopics like 2011’s Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy and somewhat campier entries like 2004’s She’s Too Young, about a mom who discovers her seemingly perfect daughter is getting up to all sorts of sexual shenanigans with her friends.

10. HAYDEN PANETTIERE

Playing the titular role in Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy—and Marcia Gay Harden’s daughter—is former Heroes star Hayden Panettiere, who herself is a Lifetime movie vet. In 1999, she starred in If You Believe, playing the Christmas-loving inner-spirit of a frazzled book editor in this Lifetime play on A Christmas Carol.

11. KRISTEN BELL

In 2004—the same year that Veronica Mars debuted—Kristen Bell nabbed the title role in Gracie’s Choice, about a teenage girl who becomes a surrogate parent to her four younger siblings when their drug addict mom is carted off to jail.

12. KERI RUSSELL

Two years before her star-making turn in Felicity, Keri Russell dug her nails into the role of a teenage Lolita in 1996’s The Babysitter’s Seduction. The title may sound self-explanatory, but there’s even more to it: Yes, the babysitter gets seduced. But she also gets embroiled in a murder investigation.

13. KIM BASINGER

In 2006, nearly a decade after winning an Oscar for L.A. Confidential, Kim Basinger starred in The Mermaid Chair, Lifetime’s adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel about a wife who finds herself falling in love with a Benedictine monk.

14. CHRISTINA HENDRICKS

Four years before she became Mad Men’s resident bombshell Joan Holloway, Christina Hendricks starred in Hunger Point, a 2003 movie about a weight-obsessed family (with Hendricks stuck in the middle).

15. CHRISTINA RICCI

Like The Client List before it, Lifetime’s 2014 movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, starring Christina Ricci as the famously homicidal young woman of the title, proved popular enough with audiences to be turned into a series, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.

10 Timeless Facts About The Land Before Time

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.

Gabriel Damon and Candace Hutson in The Land Before Time (1988)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.

2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.

Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.

3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.

Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.

4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”

This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.

5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.

“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”

6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.

In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.

One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.

7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.

The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.

8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.

Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.

9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.

From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.

10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.

“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer told The New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.

Billie Lourd Shares What (Very Little) She Can About Star Wars: Episode IX

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

​Nearly nothing is known about the final film in the latest Star Wars series, except that J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, will be returning as director, and many of the cast members from both Abrams's earlier effort and The Last Jedi will be reprising their roles. Even the late Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on December 27, 2016, will be included in Episode IX, through unused footage from the previous two films.

Though all the stars of the upcoming film are sworn to secrecy about it, Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is spilling what she can. Lourd, who played the minor role of Lieutenant Connix in the last two films, teased what it was like being back on set.

"I gotta watch myself because the Star Wars PD is going to come get me, but it is incredible. I’ve read the script and I’ve been on set," Lourd told ​Entertainment Tonight. "I was on set for, like, three weeks back in September, and it is going to be magical. I can’t say much more, but I’m so excited about it and so grateful to be a part of it. Star Wars is my heart. I love it."

A lot of things are riding on Episode IX, especially considering how divided fans were over The Last Jedi. Though with Abrams back in the director's chair, it seems likely that the new film will be a return to form. The as-yet-untitled film hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

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