NY Mirror

The upcoming Stepford Wives remake has already been robotically deconstructed by the press, but I'm still as wound up as a mechanical housewife in my burning urge to see it, praying it'll be mesmerizingly offbeat, not just downright bizarre. The cast alone is a Who's Who of wait a minute, but in a potentially appealing, Oscar-winner-meet-country-star-on-the-way-to-Hollywood Squares sort of way.

Well, my on-the-set moles have finally stepped forward to categorize the wildly diverse thesps' behavior during production. It seems that the always Stepford-y NICOLE KIDMAN was not horrible (though she wasn't too chatty, seeing as she was in her "acting zone"); FAITH HILL was a total lovebug (and even brought that hunky hubby around); GLENN CLOSE made faces and was kinda fun; MATTHEW BRODERICK was rather remote (in fact, he exhibited "the personality of a rock"—maybe sensing Nicole didn't want him there); CHRISTOPHER WALKEN was not happy (well, Gigli had just come out); and director FRANK OZ was such a doll that people feared he was a cyborg.

And BETTE MIDLER? She was the queen of kvetching and annoyed some observers, but in a way a lot of us can easily appreciate. When one scene's filming dragged on too long for her, Bette reportedly approached co-star ROGER BART and moaned, "What the fuck are we still doing here?" "Collecting a paycheck, maybe," the actor dryly responded. Another time, my sources say, Bette became fed up with being surrounded by so many tall, too-thin beauties. "I'd rather look like SHELLEY WINTERS than one of these anorexic freakshows," she squawked. One of the gals heard that and, amazingly enough, started crying—but I'm totally with Bette. Put some poundage on, people! (And FYI, crying doesn't lead to weight loss, OK?)


All a-bored

The new batch of stage revivals probably wouldn't thrill Bette either; they're ultra-slick and hot-looking, but so thin they're practically starving. Twentieth Century is a breakneck screwball comedy about theatrical blowhards in love, enhanced by a lot of jokes about a crucifixion "passion play" (think MEL GIBSON, but even more outrageous) and a male role played by a woman (but not the same male role played by a woman in the '70s musical version). Act One is leaden. Act Two moves.

The same goes for Johnny Guitar, a smirky version of the old noir western in which two butch babes battle it out amid the cacti. At intermission, a man cornered me and aptly said "Tedious," but then the stage antics picked up, cementing this crazy new trend where it's almost worth staying for Act Two! (But next time, people, please leave the camp to drag queens—or Bette Midler.)

I know bupkus from dance, and usually don't even want to see the second half, but I know from after-parties, so I went to the one at Provence for STEPHEN PETRONIO and asked him how he got LOU REED and LAURIE ANDERSON to collaborate with him. "I called them," the dancer-choreographer said, sensibly. Is The Island of Misfit Toys Petronio's Movin' Out? "I hope not!" he shrieked. "I hope it's our Movin' In. TWYLA's great, but I'd rather stick pins in my head than listen to that music!" He won't have to; at the bash, Petronio exchanged numbers with RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, launching a potential new kooky collaboration (and not for uptown girls).

MARIO CANTONE is collaborating with all sorts of people in Assassins, which the funnyman told me about at the party for designer SEBASTIAN PONS at Maurice Villency. The SONDHEIM revival is being done at Studio 54, the history of which isn't lost on Mario. "I'm feeling the ghosts of Halston and Capote and Warhol," he told me. "They're out there, saying 'Go, be brave! Play a straight role! Butch it up! You can do it!' " Mario isdoing it, but during tech rehearsals, he can't help breaking into Joan Crawford's "Two-Faced Woman" number from Torch Song (but at least not in blackface).


Vanity unfair

Wearing a persistent whiteface—I'm proud of that segue—Vanity Fair has always promoted white long after Labor Day. In fact, there are fewer African Americans on that publication's cover than in Fiddler on the Roof. Well, foxnews.com's ROGER FRIEDMAN and RON MWANGAGUHUNGA, who does the witty blog the Corsair, both plucked the words right out of my noggin when they recently addressed the shocking under-coverage of black celebrities in the mag (which, truth be told, I used to write for). And no, that lovely profile of MICHAEL JACKSON doesn't count.

Speaking of "Jesus blood"—again, bravo to me—journalist TONY PHILLIPS is writing a Gay City News piece on the arts' appropriation of s/m imagery. That doesn't include how Bette Midler was made to wait on the Stepford Wives set, but naturally, The Passion of the Christ is part of the thesis, especially since a distributor told Phillips that the film's second biggest ticket presale group—after the crucifixion-for-lunch bunch—has been the heavy-duty bondage crowd! And not just masochists! Phillips also points out that JIM CAVIEZEL is no stranger to whips and chains; his flogging in The Count of Monte Cristo made him the poster child for hot, demoralizing martyrdom way back in 2002—a heavy cross to bear.

Meanwhile, I hear that the poster boy for sheer, scandalicious hedonism, COLIN FARRELL, does a full frontal shot in the upcoming A Home at the End of the World, and it'll be the end of my world if it gets cut (the shot, that is).

As for that pinup guy for full frontal lying, Jayson Blair told DAN FORBES of drugwar.com that the coke-crack-and-a-little-heroin-for-sex acts he engaged in were with men! (Hey, I win the office pool; though funny, so does everyone else.) Blair also revealed that he's sorting out sexual issues and "drugs are a way to make myself comfortable with sex." Welcome to Chelsea, honey.


Pennywise

And welcome back to the single life for TOM and PENELOPE, who were such a dazzling, potent couple that it took people two months to even realize they had broken up!

But Bennifer's still being shredded as we speak. You'll remember when Jersey Girl sliced JENNIFER LOPEZ out of its promotions.

Well, now even the flick's main star, BEN AFFLECK, is barely in the mix. The latest ads for the medium stinker show him with no less than four other co-stars! And Ben's looking sideways! Bette Midler would probably say, "What the fuck is he still doing there?"


LITTER BOX
Good, bad, and fugly

The week's choicest quote? Oscar winner JOHN MILLS re the upcoming Bright Young Things: "At 96, this is my first cocaine movie. I'm thrilled!" The most shameless invite? "Chelsea Clinton Hosts My Big Gay Italian Wedding." (They meant Chelsea-Clinton, the neighborhood!) The biggest high-culture controversy in the works? Prymate, a play opening on Broadway in April, stars an African American man, ANDRE DE SHIELDS, as "an aging gorilla." The second biggest? TONY KUSHNER's work in progress, Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy, has a scene in which LAURA BUSH reads The Brothers Karamazov to a group of dead Iraqi children!

The wackiest vindication? The kook who licked COURTNEY LOVE's tit in public was holding a copy of the Voice. A person of taste! (Though the guy now has a rap album and a publicist, who called me eight times last week.) And the best career move? A former pig-bottom porn star is now the assistant to one of Hollywood's most powerful flacks. No, wait, that's not a career move at all!

musto@villagevoice.com

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