Sai Achath's new movie-star trivia book, “Hollywood Celebrities: Basic Thing's You've Always Wanted to Know, Volume 1,” is packed with the personal, biographical details of A-list movie stars. It's an unimposing quarter-inch-thick paperback. The 8½-by-11-inch pages include a large color caricature of each of the stars he writes about.
My opinion: The caricatures are hit and miss.
But the factoids about the stars had all kinds of surprises. It hooked me in the same way Robert Osborne's trivia about the making of classic movies always grabs my attention and adds something to the experience of watching a film you've known for years.
Well, these are stars you've heard of for years. But there's all kinds of stuff in this book that was news to me.
Without stealing too much of Achath's thunder, let me give you a sampling of the kind of tidbits that fascinated me:
I would never have guessed that Adam Sandler has a bachelor of fine arts degree from New York University. I suppose the kind of comedy he makes doesn't line up with my idea of academic study. Sylvester Stallone has a BFA from the University of Miami.
I was floored to learn that, as a child, Angelina Jolie wanted to become a funeral director. Maybe that explains that semi-creepy vials of blood she and ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton shared.
Ben Affleck is the same height as Ashton Kutcher, 6-foot-2½.
Brad Pitt was a journalism major at the University of Missouri, but dropped out just before graduation to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting. How did I miss that Brad Pitt almost became a fellow ink-stained wretch? And his first name is William.
Bruce Willis is an Army kid, born in Germany. His father was a U.S. soldier, and his mother was a German national. His name at birth was Walter. That's right. Walter Willis. Like Pitt, he used his middle name as a movie star.
Cameron Diaz's favorite hobby is — are you kidding me? — knitting.
Cate Blanchett, whom everybody knows as Australian and who lives in a suburb of Sydney, actually has an American father, Robert Blanchett, who was a Navy petty officer from Texas.
I have been wondering about Catherine Zeta Jones' strange name forever. Achath says it's a combination of her grandmothers' names. Mom's mom is Catherine Fair, and Dad's mom is Zeta Jones.
Now, this fits: Clint Eastwood's dad was a steelworker and his mother was a factory worker. I did not know Clint has seven children.
Denzel Washington is actually Denzel Jr. His dad was a preacher at a Pentecostal church and worked for New York City's water department.
Drew Barrymore is one-quarter Hungarian, on her mother's side. I suppose I find that interesting because I'm one-quarter Hungarian. My father's mother was born and raised there.
Dustin Hoffman is only 5-foot-5.
Eddie Murphy, his real name, is the son of a New York City police officer and a telephone operator. No wonder he was so convincing in those “Beverly Hills Cop” movies. Eddie has eight children.
George Clooney was 28 when he got married, 32 when he divorced. He's going to turn 51 on Sunday.
It doesn't feel right that Jack Nicholson, a man who seems bigger than life, is a shade under 5-foot-10. Oh, and I love this little gem: He does not use cell phones. Always a rebel.
Jim Carrey ended his formal education when he dropped out of high school at the age of 16 in Ontario, Canada.
Like Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp is the youngest of four children. He, too, dropped out of high school, but at 15. He moved to more than 20 different locations during childhood. His father was a civil engineer.
Julia Roberts, who played clarinet in the school band, wanted to be a veterinarian. Like Diaz, she also loves to knit. Her dad was a vacuum cleaner salesman, her mother a church secretary.
Julianne Moore has a bachelor of fine arts degree in acting from Boston University. Like Depp, she lived in more than 20 locations as a kid. Her father was a military lawyer.
What's the significance of all this? Not much, but I found it interesting.
I don't think I've named half the stars listed in the book. Achath's website, www.satiachath.com, says he plans two more volumes.