Painfully Shy Elizabeth Berridge Finds Composure as Mrs. Mozart

updated 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

When Meg (The Big Chill) Tilly fractured her foot, it was a lucky break. Not for her, certainly. But for Elizabeth Berridge, 22, who filled Tilly's shoes as Mozart's spunky, avaricious wife in the smash movie Amadeus. The accident occurred the day before Tilly was to begin shooting in Prague. Director Milos Forman and Amadeus author Peter Shaffer returned to New York to find a new Constanze. "There were three people left in New York who hadn't tested for the role," jokes Berridge, "me and two bag ladies."

At first the terribly shy 5'2" actress, whose tenuous claims to fame until then included Tobe Hooper's horror flick, Funhouse, and the short-lived TV soap Texas, thought she had blown it. "I couldn't talk. I remember meeting Peter and Milos," she says, "and I left there thinking, 'Well, if you can't talk, there's not a good chance you'll be getting the job.' But they called back asking me to read again. The next day I was in Prague." Forman was intrigued by Berridge because "she bears a remarkable resemblance to the etchings of Constanze."

Berridge has a history of playing people younger than herself. "They're always sending me out to be 13-year-olds," she reports. At 18, she was fired off Texas "because I looked so young," she says. "My character tried to seduce the heads of oil companies and stuff. It just looked perverted."

Berridge had a comfortable upbringing in suburban Westchester County, N.Y. After high school she attended the Strasberg Institute for acting. An exercise freak and vegetarian, Berridge recently moved into a Manhattan loft that she rents from her neighbor Tom Hulce, who played Mozart in the film. Although she and Hulce became close friends during the six months they were on location together, they are not romantically involved. "I'm available," says Berridge.

Since Amadeus Berridge has done an off-Broadway play and two TV movies. Though she's getting over her shyness, she still has a trauma to overcome if she plans to pursue her blossoming film career in Los Angeles—learning to drive. "I keep dreaming my mother is driving me around in her car," she sighs. "My therapist has made it a big point that driving is something I must learn to do now in order to be a grown-up." That, or put on a chauffeur's cap, Mom.

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