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Lisa returns to the screen from a different world

It wasn't so much that the beautiful Eighties' star Lisa Bonet lost her touch, writes Ciara Dwyer, it's just that she opted out for a while LISA...

It wasn't so much that the beautiful Eighties' star Lisa Bonet lost her touch, writes Ciara Dwyer, it's just that she opted out for a while

LISA Bonet is back. Well, sort of. Remember her? She was the gorgeous creature who played Denise Huxtable in The Cosby Show. Even as a teenager, with train-track braces on her teeth and Eighties' hairstyles, Lisa Bonet was exotically beautiful.

But it is a while since she's been on our screens. In 1987, she starred in Alan Parker's Angel Heart. More than a decade later, she reappeared opposite Will Smith in Enemy of the State. Now she has a small but significant role in High Fidelity opposite John Cusack.

At this stage, the 32-year-old actress should be doing more than meaty cameo roles. Bonet was once a big star. But as she once observed, being billed as ``hot young talent'' guarantees a lull.

``I remember when I was on the cover of 1988 Rolling Stone Hot Issue. Robert Downey Jr was in there as the hot actor. They asked him `what does hot mean to you?' He said `Destined to be cold'.''

It wasn't so much that Lisa Bonet went off the boil. Rather, after a spell of bad luck, she opted out for a while. After The Cosby Show, Bonet was given her own spin-off series, A Different World. All went well, until she was written out of her own show. She made a brief comeback in The Cosby Show and after that, Lisa was nowhere to be seen on our screens.

She took a long sabbatical. Besides, she was busy doing other things like marrying the drop-dead gorgeous rock singer Lenny Kravitz in 1987. They have a daughter, Zoe. After six years of marriage, Lisa and Lenny got a divorce.

So what has Lisa been doing for all these years?

As she walks into the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, Lisa is a vision in lilac. She hasn't lost her looks. She is still as beautiful as ever. Her soulful brown eyes light up the room. Her long black hair is part dreadlocks, part curls. A few grey hairs spring from the centre of her head. Only Lisa Bonet could make going grey look cute.

She is tiny, but she looks strong. Her legs and arms are toned. And around her slight wrist, a tattooed snake's tail is coiled. The tattooed blue snake goes right up her arm. Bonet and Kravtiz's marriage may be no more, but the tattoo is a remnant of her days as the rocker's wife.

It's probably important to preface what Lisa Bonet says by informing you that the actress is big into yoga. It's not just that she is calm. She's centred, in touch with her feelings and nature and, in short, she comes out with a lot of fluffy lines.

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Like ... ``I find life is a meditation. I watch my thoughts and stay connected to my breath. I do a lot of yoga.'' (We're talking heavy duty Astanga Yoga.)

Or: ``I love the earth. I feel proud to be one of her children. Walk in beauty gently, that's a good thing.''

And ... ``Music is our own personal soundtrack in life. I like to think of my life as a musical, actually.''

So those peace signs that Lisa made in photos were more than just a pose. Bonet is a bit like her Cosby Show character. She has a social conscience. She is concerned about the earth. She does Yoga sun salutations. She smokes peace pipes. And she doesn't have a television or radio.

She believes in ``the religion of love''. And if she wasn't so serenely beautiful, you would write her off as some airy-fairy hippy. Perhaps she is from another planet. She certainly does not fit into the LA film star scene. It's not even a case of her not believing the hype. Bonet isn't clued in enough to know what the hype is she knows of a Britney Spears and Christine Agua- something or other.

BONET smiles around the room and is so genuinely sweet, that it would be cruel to come straight out with it and ask her `where did it all go wrong?' So, we ask her about why she has worked with a lot of English directors (Stephen Frears directed High Fidelity). What we really mean is, do American directors have something against her? She picks up the polite subtleties.

``My experience in films has kind of been limited to how directors think of me. I'm not sure that they know what to do with me. I'm kind of an obscure character.''

So, what would Lisa Bonet do with Lisa Bonet?

``I think I'm a funny person and I think life has its funny moments. We need some comic relief anyway ... I've been working on my own project, which I will hopefully complete and get to produce. I think that would be the most fulfilling, well for me anyway.''

As Bonet tells us that she looks forward to receiving good scripts and opportunities, we almost feel sorry for her. Isn't this an obvious hint that she wants to work? But then she explains her long lull.

``I don't feel ambitious. And it's not like I'm waiting for things to happen. I have a very full life outside of what gets seen in front of the camera.''

High Fidelity is based on Nick Hornby's classic about a thirty-something loser. Bonet plays the part of singer Marie De Salle. Rob (John Cusack) becomes besotted by her, for a while.

When the British director Stephen Frears was casting for High Fidelity, he took Lisa Bonet at face value. ``I didn't know she'd been this enormous icon in America, so I just judged her on meeting her. I don't know anything about her. She came in to see me and looks the way she looks. That's all I knew. I find her completely mysterious and entrancing.''

In the film, Lisa sings Baby I Love Your Way. She took the role because she thought singing would be fun ``to express that side of my personality as an artist.'' Lisa's father was a part-black, part-Cherokee opera singer. But as she complains about her song not being on the soundtrack, Bonet probably sounds more like her schoolteacher mother. ``It's a man's world. Men rule the world. Who decided that my song wouldn't get on the album? Men.''

But Bonet does not spend all her time complaining. She wants to make the world a better place. ``I care. I love people,'' she says with utter sincerity. ``I care for the human race. When you have a kid, you want to be responsible. You don't want to leave her to a world that is so violent and unjust. My own personal desire is to be part of changing the world. I want to be part of something that's meaningful.''

This is not just talk. Bonet is action too. In 1995, she transformed some real estate she owned in Venice, California, into a community outreach centre called Venice Heart. She has spent a lot of her time campaigning for teenagers who are caught in the criminal justice system.

There is more to Lisa Bonet's life than making movies. She is busy trying to change the system. Then there are her daily yoga sessions. And the responsibility of bringing up her daughter. Not many stars can utter a line like ``I care about the human race'' to a bunch of cynical journalists and remain unscathed. Bonet can. We didn't sneer once.

* High Fidelity goes on release in July

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