NY Mirror

Lincoln center's Lord of the Rings weekend almost fell into the Cracks of Doom when director Peter Jackson got stuck finishing the DVD in New Zealand, a slave to commerce and a creature of hobbit. But thanks to much rallying against the legions of darkness, the event turned out better than a one-way trip to the Prancing Pony. First, a fellowship of the film's stars showed up at a Rose Building reception, where they greeted kiddie fans and charmed grown-up sociopaths. I asked Elijah Wood, who's a complete elfin doll face, if he keeps up with all the fervid Internet gushing and speculation about him. (Datalounge.com-ers alternately claim he's obsessed with waitresses and practically married to co-star Dominic Monaghan.) "I've heard about stuff—whatever my friends tell me," Wood said. "But I have better things to do." I didn't—except for proposing (questions, that is) to Andy Serkis, who's the voice of Gollum, but not as prone to guttural swallowing noises in real life. Should the noodgy, screechy character get his own flick? "If you talked to Gollum," said three-RingSerkis, his breath mildly reflecting the open bar, "he'd say Lord of the Rings should have been about him." Honey, I'm sure the pointy-eared kvetch thinks it was about him.

The next day, Jackson generously did a two-hour Alice Tully Hall-via-satellite Q&A, the tireless stars joining him in person halfway through, no doubt en route to Middle-earth (or at least Cleveland). My Elijah discussed how the hobbits were made to look small—"One trick is knee-walking," he explained, demonstrating the effect I've been practicing for years—and co-star Bernard Hill said his own image has gotten so tiny that a mini-him is stuck way inside a merch candy egg. ("I love the idea that someone has to lick off a lot of chocolate to get to me.") It was big of Hill to also note that the temper-prone Viggo Mortensen "does kind of fly off." Best of all, Sean Astin admitted that he stuck his own hobbity head into one of Sir Ian McKellen's close-ups as a desperate gag. "No, no, no," said the Brit icon. "So I turned it into a love scene complete with a kiss!" said Astin, laughing. (Knee-walking, however, did not ensue.)

Astin turned up as a last-minute presenter at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Noche to blow smooches at The Triplets of Belleville and gush, "I just saw 20 minutes of it, and I loved it!" Another weird moment had House of Sand and Fog author Andre Dubus III honoring that film's Shohreh Aghdashloo with "the 2003 National . . . OK, where are we? The 2003 New York Film Critics Award." But then the mishaps slowed down and some joy started, with presenter Quentin Tarantino acting out of his gourd, but fun, and winner Eugene Levy admitting he thought he'd sunk A Mighty Wind with his bug-eyed performance, especially since the cast was shunning him and director Christopher Guest looked mortified.

Left to my own devices, I nabbed some one-on-one interviews amid the goony glory, the celebs providing the wings beneath my mighty wind-passing. So, what did American Splendor's Paul Giamatti think of the Best Picture, Lord of the you know? "I haven't seen any of them," he admitted. "I don't want to have all those faces in my head. I've got to reread the books first." Was Sofia Coppola jumping up and down when she won Best Director? "I don't think jumping up and down, but I was excited," she replied. "I woke up my parents!" Has any Hollywood creepo asked Aghdashloo to shorten her name for more marquee value? "No, thank God!" she exclaimed, looking panicked. More importantly, does Aghie know how attractive she looks—though then again I'm "that way"? "What difference does it make?" she exulted. "We're all human beings appreciating each other's beauty!"

Does Capturing the Friedmans director Andrew Jarecki think Jesse Friedman is innocent? "No one gave me credible evidence that he's guilty," Jarecki said. "If it was a shoplifting case, it would have been thrown out right away because of the quality of the police work." Icky segue, but what about Jacko's situation? "The fact that he's a weird character doesn't mean he's guilty of horrendous crimes," he said. True, or I'd be making license plates and dodging broomsticks up my ass as we speak.

By the way, the most humbling thing about winning an award for brilliant film work is being faced with a lineup of chocolate-egg-for-brains journos saying stuff like, "Hi, I'm Bambi from In Touch. Who designed your shoes?"

Moving on, I'm Amber from Pus Weekly, and since it's already been the best year in gossip since last year, kindly let me put my tongue back in my mouth and recap it all before it melts. First off, Britney Spears's nutty marriage stunt showed the absurdity of the right-wing's clinging to the supposed sanctity of the marital institution, which allows inebriated jokesters the right to wed for a weekend goof, while devoted same-sexers who've been together for decades can't cement it for the remainder of a lifetime! (But you knew that already.)

Speaking of gay marriage, David Gest's lawyer said Gest was racked with pain and busy having tons of facial injections. Yeah, Botox! The attorney also claimed that Liza criminally kept quiet about having some condition or other, but he wouldn't specify what it was because he didn't want to embarrass her. Too late, sleazebag! . . . An observant traveler spotted Jennifer Love Hewitt flying with American Dreams' Will Estes. (But who designed her boobs, I mean shoes?) . . . I hear that other Jennifer, Ms. Lo, is barely seen in the trailer for Jersey Girl. (Relax, it isn't really a Bennifer flick; J.Lo's a supporting player.)

In other sexpot movie news, Web bunnies swear Nicole Kidman will play the leggy Ulla in The Producers movie (but consider the source). Ulla-la? . . . Sopranos spoiler (don't read this! no, don't!): Carmine will go bye-bye. . . . Tough guy Russell Simmons is furious at all the attention paid to his wife Kimora Lee Simmons's materialism, but the little wench obviously plays into it. I keep getting press releases about a TV program in which she shows off her Fabergé (real, not candy) eggs and other ostentatious delights. If you've got it, flaunt it, honey—but if you flaunt it, don't bitch us out for commenting on it!

A whiner, but funny about it, Hebrew Hammer star Adam Goldberg got testy during an interview with cable host Barry Z, the two humans not appreciating each other's beauty. When Z smirkily asked Goldberg, "How is it playing a dick?" (meaning the uncircumsized Hammer), the actor answered, "I don't know. How is it playing a dick for you?" But Goldberg really bristled when Z asked if he's been in other movies. "Oh, pal!" he snarled, snorting for the third time. "Pal, come on. Look me up on imdb. A little war film called Saving Private Ryan." Oh, yeah—didn't care for it, pal.

But I did love The Killing Fields, especially since it gave bit player Spalding Gray enough material to launch a career as a dry, witty monologuist. Last year, I asked Spalding if he planned to turn his car accident and subsequent depression into another priceless soliloquy, and he looked horrified and said, "No!" But he recently did so with a workshop production, proving again that theater has always been his—and our—safest haven. Feeling disconnected since the crash and devastated that he was on crutches on 9-11 and couldn't be part of the caring response, Spalding had become a haunted figure, possibly courting the Cracks of Doom. In his absence (as of press time), so have I.


SPECIAL TO THE WEB: After helping the entire straight populace with their advice and product placements, the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy boys are finally going to be helping one of their own. No, they're not planning to do themselves over. I hear casting is under way for a gay guy to be made over by the queeny quintet. I guess heteros will have to fend for themselves for a week.


musto@villagevoice.com

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