NY Mirror

Thanks to the E! True Hollywood Story-ization of the movies, Greg Kinnear gets a raunchy departure with Paul Schrader's Auto Focus, and I'm tripping over my tongue to see it again. "It's not like I was doing Denny's commercials before this," Kinnear told me the other day, "but I'm not unaware that the role is considered different." He plays Bob Crane, who starred in the P.O.W. sitcom Hogan's Heroes while sticking his schnitzel into any female that moved, and on film yet—the closest he got to a movie career. "He liked documentation more than fornication," quipped kooky Kinnear.

Crane was a bit of a schizo case, added the eternally boyish actor. "He's a one-woman man who doesn't like dirty jokes on the radio, and on the other hand he's living this crazy, lascivious lifestyle and was oblivious to there being anything wrong or damaging about it." (Sounds like a lot of Republicans.)

Kinnear first contributed to my hormonal problems as the wiseass host of Talk Soup(on E!, suitably enough).Sydney Pollack promptly put him in Sabrina (if Pollack had only watched The Gossip Show, I'd be the movie star now), which led to his Oscar-nominated battered gay in As Good as It Gets and the kind of film work Crane craved. (Or did he? Kinnear informed me that Crane wouldn't let his agent put him up for Network "because he didn't think that was an interesting movie!")

"I don't want people to look at me": The Rules of Attraction's Shannyn Sossamon.
photo: Richard Mitchell
"I don't want people to look at me": The Rules of Attraction's Shannyn Sossamon.

More urgently: Were Crane and his manic bi pal, John Carpenter, in love? No, said Kinnear, they were more like codependents—"using each other, taking tandem steps backwards." Way backwards! The movie suggests that after turning Crane on to (ba)zoom lenses, the dumped Carpenter poetically killed him with a camera. At least Crane died with a tripod; Auto Focus also implies that he'd gotten a penile implant, though his real-life son Scotty Crane says that's just dick. Whether Bob had one or not, says Kinnear, "he told Carpenter he did, which is much more revealing. It's a case of not seeing the bigger issues in the story." Honey, I've seen them—on Scotty's Web site!

In other scandal cinema, The Rules of Attractionmakes Auto Focus look like Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The entertainingly show-offy adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel (set, apparently, at Bob Crane University) brims with split-screen sex, drugs, and suicide—it's my kind of romantic comedy. The exotic Shannyn Sossamon (from A Knight's Tale) co-stars as Lauren, a lost soul who tries clinging to her virginity (but not that hard) while running into drugs and betrayal. I vegged out with Shannyn the other day at Angelica Kitchen, where she was sweet and mercifully un-Lauren-like. "I don't live like that," she said. "She lets the stupidest things happen to her. But I guess everyone can relate to that a little bit." Don't I know it, girl. I have so many friends like that!

Shannyn became a buddy by agreeing to demystify the movie's debauchery for me. For the coke scenes, it turns out, they used powdered sugar, and no one had to really snort it because their heads went out of the frame. Shannyn's noggin also goes bye-bye when she gives a hummer to her professor (Eric Stoltz), a sequence in which she "had to try not to giggle. He was making me laugh." As for the lesbian necrophilia wildness that columnists reported was cut, she said the scene never existed; it's just an artist's image on the soundtrack CD cover. Thank God—I'm glad these empty college kids draw the line somewhere!

Loss of perspective is where the Reno-raised Shannyn says she draws the line. "I don't live and breathe acting in the way 'thespians' do," she said. "It's up there with many other passions." Despite looking like a Precious Moments figurine and being surrounded by rising-starlet hoopla, she gladly copped to some insecurity issues. That prompted me to ask if she, like me, has an inner voice that says, "You suck!" "I guess there's a little bit of that in there," she admitted. "That's been there since I was little. I'm also really shy, in a way where I don't want people to look at me. I don't know. What is it? Tell me!" Sorry, kid, but I suck at that kind of celebrity psychotherapy .

"It boils down to 'It either has to get better or you should stop doing this,' " concluded Shannyn, poignantly addressing herself. "Come on, this is painful!" We both hit the powdered sugar and were fine.

Wait, there's more scandal cinema being served—namely Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her, a tale of sex with the comatose, which was screened the very same day Reese Witherspoon's brother was busted for molesting a sleeping woman! "There's a big vagina in the movie," Maya Rudolph alerted me at a Paper party for Pedro at Village. That somehow led me to ask if Donatella Versace likes Maya's funny spoofs of her on SNL. "Yes. She interviewed me for Interview," said Maya. "Now she wants to meet me in person. That might be too much—two Donatellas!" Please—there are never enough Donatellas.

Nearby, I asked one of two Gyllenhaals—Jake—if he's burned out from the millions of talk shows I've seen him on. "Maybe you're burned out," he said. "If you're as burned out as I am, we're both burned out." Before I passed out and someone fucked me, I asked Ricki Lake what she thinks of the new talk shows. "I haven't seen most of them," she said. "But Wayne Brady doesn't do it for me. I'm not gonna say why. But more power to them!"

Meanwhile, fuck the critics and more power to my girl Madonna. Everyone's lining up to see Swept Away hoping it'll be Springtime for Hitler, but it's actually not awful (at least until the charades-playing montage). Picture Cast Away, but with the bearded guy talking to Madonna instead of the volleyball.

But tuck your balls quickly, folks, because though clubs had briefly become dirty and Bob Crane-ish again, the city's already gotten out the whip and the Lysol. Remember the steamy Magnum bashes at the Park? (Lordy, I do.) Well, the same promoters' new Sunday-night event there, the Rambles, is more wink-wink than push-push—like a boulevard comedy in a bordello—but it's still fun, even if the go-go boys can't even show pubes, let alone tripods.

A really middlebrow diversion, Say Goodnight Gracie,starts with George Burns in limbo, asking God, "So you want me to review my life in my own words?" Wacky God says yes. It should come with dinner.

And finally, Michael Moore's trigger-unhappy Bowling for Columbinecame with live commentary last week. After the premiere, Moore admitted he'd originally cut the scene where he badgers pre-neurological-disorder Charlton Hestonabout gun control, "but I realized that even if it makes me look bad, it's what happened." (And it's not nearly as disposable as lesbian necrophilia.) As for more current shattering events, "We've got one psychopath running around D.C. with a rifle, and another one who just wanted to be baseball commissioner and his dad's got him locked in a room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and he's ready to kill a lot of people in some kind of grudge match." And neither one of them can find bin Laden.


musto@villagevoice.com

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