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Cartwright's bonanza

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Cartwright's bonanza

The West Australian

13 August 2005

What does the future hold for Mrs Lleyton Hewitt, the soapie star turned celebrity wife?

One minute she was just another girl next door on the sun-drenched soapie Home and Away. Then, in the blink of an eye, Bec Cartwright was everywhere - sometimes in less clothing.

Cartwright steamed up TV screens and won the first series of the unexpected ratings hit Dancing with the Stars. Readers of men's mag FHM voted her 2004's sexiest star, the first time an Aussie had taken out the title.

She received a gold Logie nomination for most popular personality on TV and won a silver Logie for most popular actress for her portrayal of Hayley Lawson, the artist turned gym owner whose husband was killed by a mental institution escapee. But Cartwright's acting has been largely eclipsed by her personal life since her whirlwind romance, engagement and marriage to tennis champion Lleyton Hewitt. Their Sydney Opera House wedding confirmed their status as Australia's hottest celebrity couple.

In what looked like a case of life imitating art, Cartwright announced she was pregnant not long after Hayley did (although due to a sabotaged DNA test, Hayley is unaware of her baby's real father). Cartwright's baby with Hewitt is due in October.

So where to next for Cartwright, who started singing and dancing at three and leaves Home and Away on Friday after seven years? "I'm really looking forward to just looking after myself and having time to prepare proper food," she says on the eve of her last day on Home and Away's Sydney set. "The most exciting thing will be not waking up to an alarm clock."

Cartwright is aware her life is about to take a very different path to that of most soapie starlets and doesn't expect to work again until her baby is at least six months old. She certainly has no plans to resume her pop career which, in 2002, spawned the top 10 ~hit All Seats Taken and in 2003, a less successful eponymous album.

"That's definitely not going anywhere," she laughs. "I would much rather, when I start work again, concentrate on acting. At least I gave it a go . . . I hope it continues to fade away!"

She'd love to play a baddie, try her hand at comedy or something meatier. She drops the name of Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as someone to emulate.

Long before she was planning to leave Home and Away Cartwright used to wonder whether Hayley would leave Summer Bay by dying or moving to Queensland. But the haste with which she bailed out of the show has meant another actress has had to step into the role because the storylines were written far in advance. The new Hayley, NIDA-trained Ella Scott Lynch, makes her debut on August 29 and looks nothing like Cartwright.

Home and Away executive producer and head of drama at Seven, John Holmes, says producers would never have found another Cartwright. "She's beautiful. We'd never get another one, so we decided to get a strong actor to take over," he says.

But Holmes admits Cartwright didn't stand out when she was first cast on the show. "She's probably going to be angry if she reads this but I honestly can't remember Bec. Like a lot of kids on the show, she developed with the show."

Looking to the future, he says it would be possible for Cartwright to return to Seven. "If there's a role there and she wants to get back in the business we'd certainly look at her, she's a lovely, popular person. But her future for the short term is as Mrs Lleyton Hewitt and a mum."

But what about the long term for Mr and Mrs Hewitt given their six-week courtship, their young age (Cartwright turned 22 two days after her wedding and Hewitt is 24), the pressure of living in the spotlight and Australia's high rate of divorce?

Our crystal ball was broken, so we turned to Dr Charmaine Saunders, author, counsellor and relationship expert for The West Australian's U! liftout.

"I always counsel my clients not to commit before 12 months at lea~st, when "real' feelings have emerged," she says. "It sounds very clinical but there are good reasons for it. Bec and Lleyton have not lived a normal life yet. The problems are going to appear when they settle down one day. I wish them well but I'd bet my reputation on this being a very tenuous relationship."

While sceptics may nod in agreement, Australia's agent to the stars (and Big Brother evictees) Harry M. Miller is certain of one thing - Cartwright's star will not wane. She's been acting for 17 years after making her first TV commercial, for My Little Pony, when she was five. Miller describes her as "an outstanding, famous and gracious young woman" whom he'd love to represent if given the chance.

"I'd be honoured and thrilled, provided I could get a couple of lessons from her husband."

Home and Away screens weeknights at 7pm on Channel Seven and GWN. Cartwright's final episode screens on Friday.

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