By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
This week I'll be serving you up-to-the-minute trends, gossip, jokes, and maybe even a recipe for shit on a shingle.
The latest trend in Hollywood? (And yes, there are the required three examples.) It's doomy, gloomy, self-important films about a brooding breederalways played by a big starwhose loved one is the victim of our pressure-cooker international wartime situation, forcing the star on a brave, life-changing journey to track down the damage. With In the Valley of Elah, Tommy Lee Jones's son is mysteriously killed after serving in Iraq, so Jones goes on a road trip to find out what happened. In Rendition, Reese Witherspoon's ethnically profiled husband is mysteriously unreachable somewhere far away, so she goes on a road trip to find out what happened. And in the upcoming Grace Is Gone (yeah, she's gone, baby, gone), John Cusack's wife is killed in Iraq, so he goes on a road trip to find out what happened. Honey, I can't wait until this plotline itself is missingand I won't go on a road trip to find out what happened to it either.
In other John Cusack movie news, the upcoming Martian Child is based on a David Gerrold work about a single guy who adopts a kid claiming to be from Mars. But in the novella, the dad is gayer than Tyler Perry (like Gerrold himself), whereas in the movie, unsurprisingly enough, he isn't. Considering the ways of Hollywood, we know exactly what happened, right? But wait a gay minute! The guy who coadapted the screenplaya homosexual parent himselfsays the movie is actually based on the short story Gerrold wrote before the novella, a work in which no sexuality is specified for the father. So they made him straight. Got that, earthlings?
The flare-up of the week belonged to Anthony Hopkins, when asked about reports that he's suing Merchant Ivory for money owed due to his work in The City of Your Final Destination. Sir Tony fumingly said it was settled out of court in January and everything's absolutely peachy. Ask again and he'll serve you with chianti.
The familiar Oscar bid goes to Halle Berry for Things We Lost in the Fire, in whichjust as in Monster's Ballshe loses her husband and as a result goes on a road trip, I mean reaches out to someone with a tie to the dead man, someone she has some contempt for. But this time she gets to actually say the immortal line, "This is a list of all the things we lost in the fire! . . . He's gone!"
The strongest recent Oscar bid is Hal Holbrook's for his beautifully acted bit as an old wilderness codger in Into the Wild, especially since he has to stand there as the hippy-dippy kid screeches stuff at him like, "You should get out of the house! The core of man's spirit comes from new experiences!"
The zingiest old-time experience was the Friars Club roast for comic Pat Cooper at the Hilton's grand ballroom, filled with people who were either in The Sopranos or who obviously provided the basis for it. "This is the first time we've had more Italians than Jews," announced grand poobah Freddie Roman. "We don't even need security!" If there was security, they probably would have dragged Roman away as he lavishly introduced each and every non-speaking member of the daisdozens of themfor what seemed like dais, I mean days. (Typical intro: "This next guy bedded Marilyn Monroenot when she was alive.")
MC Lisa Lampanelli was more selective in her targets, singling out various notables for abuse, like Al Roker ("He lost all that weight when he stopped eating Katie Couric's shit") and Danny Aiello ("I bought Danny's last singing album on Amazon. It said, 'If you like this, you'll also like . . . earplugs.' ") And then a succession of comics of varying fame got up to roast Cooper and his admirers ("This isn't a who's who, it's a who's left"), though they seemed more intent on addressing Lampanelli's capacious privates. ( Jeffrey Ross memorably paid homage to her vagina"or as it's known in the black community, the underground railroad.") I left feeling strangely elevatedbut quickly showered anyway.
Lacerating remarks also pop up in Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, the upcoming Broadway retread of which had an open rehearsal for the press, giving us the week's must-attend revival meeting. James Frain (from The Tudors) plays the guy whose return home prompts so much havoc they need security. "It's not naturalistic," Frain told me. "It's a mythic, Greek-tragic family. I feel I'm pitching you a movie of the week. It's much more brutal and savage than that." I guess he's never seen anything on Lifetime. "It's wrong to use the word witty," he went on. "They're literally knifing each other with their speech." Baby, they can sit next to me any time! Speaking of backstabbing, with this being the very first day of rehearsal, who does Frain hate in the cast so far? "All of them," he said, laughing. "Assholes!"
At another table, director Daniel Sullivana Tony winner but not an assholetold me he had a problem figuring out who the character of Teddy was, "so I sent Pinter an e-mail and he replied with a description that was more forthcoming than he'd ever been about anything." Joking, Sullivan wrote back, "Could you do the same for all the other characters?" "Pinter replied, 'No'," the director related to me, grinning. Knowing Pinter, I'm sure he actually wrote, "[Long, chilly silence] No."