Gossip About Steve Carell, Joaquin Phoenix, and Katie Holmes

Plus Amy Ryan: not your everyday Jane

Everyday realism reached its early peak with Marty, the 1955 flick about a lonely butcher meeting a wan schoolteacher and wondering whether he should still go bowling on Saturday night.

Well, it's back! The genre returns with Jack Goes Boating, based on Bob Glaudini's play about two working-class couples trying to make connections amid the pot-holes and pot luck.

The always fab Amy Ryan is Connie, an imperfect but likable funeral-home worker who gets set up with a limo driver (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who directed) as their friends, Daphne Rubin-Vega and John Ortiz, take the opposite trajectory and face shattering love problems complete with staccato dialogue and dramatic monologues. (It's not a musical, in case you were asking.)

Ryan: "I'm not conceived as a glamour girl."
Splash News/Newscom
Ryan: "I'm not conceived as a glamour girl."

But the Queens-born Ryan is no everyday Jane. She was Oscar-nominated for 2007's Gone Baby Gone, bagged two Tony nominations for revivals, and on The Office, she's Holly Flax, the human-resources rep whose resources include romancing Steve Carell.

Our gritty yet amusing phoner went like so:

Me: Hi, Amy. My favorite line your Connie character says is, "I'm not ready yet for penis penetration."

Ryan: [Laughs.] Who is, really?

Me: I am. You don't know who you're talking to!

Ryan: I like that woman. She's a timid, shy person, but not when it comes to what she wants. She's very direct.

Me: With lines like that, I can definitely get into the gritty drama thing.

Ryan: The film puts a spotlight on all the people we pass on the street and don't really look at—what are they like? It's a part of New York that's diminishing rapidly since bankers moved in and the Carrie Bradshaws are clinging on.

Me: In my neighborhood! Was it weird being the only one added to a cast that had already done the piece at the Public Theater?

Ryan: No. They kept approaching it with new questions, so things shifted and I wasn't a completely new kid in school in a transfer suit.

Me: You're sort of becoming the go-to person for anti-glamourpusses—in Gone Baby Gone, for example.

Ryan: For her world, she was pretty hot! But I gravitate toward these characters anyway. I'm not conceived as a glamour girl. I feel more comfortable as an actor telling stories of everyman.

Me: But you do like being styled and fluffed for red-carpet events, right?

Ryan: I love it! You go to parties and then return all the stuff, and you don't get the credit-card bill.

Me: Well, Oscar night is the ultimate red-carpet bonanza. Was it aptly surreal?

Ryan: Yes, and leading up to it are all the functions. You're so relieved to finally, truly rest. It's exhausting, but, like a roller-coaster ride, it's a fun, happy experience. I just believe in nominations—not winning. [Laughs.]

Me: Are you coming back to The Office?

Ryan: I'm going to L.A. in a month to do a few more episodes. It's Steve Carell's last season. We left off where she was transferred to New Hampshire and couldn't do a long-distance relationship.

Me: Are we talking an Emmy Award? I mean nomination.

Ryan: [Laughs.] I strive for a nomination only. Then I can get the trifecta!

Good Times and Bum Times

Double Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix doesn't go boating, but he does jump off cliffs (literally and figuratively) in the eye-opening documentary I'm Still Here. In one especially harrowing scene, Phoenix is interviewed by Ramin Setoodeh, the Newsweek reporter who later wrote the much-reviled piece about how actors who like penis penetration supposedly can't convince as straight. It's Godzilla vs. Queen Kong!

Bringing up Phoenix's new anti-acting stance, Setoodeh says to the Eminem wannabe that "all the journalists waiting outside to talk to you are wondering if this is a hoax." Phoenix explodes. "It's hard not to get offended," he snarls, "when you sit there with your little smile and you say, 'We think this is a hoax.' Because you're talking about my life. As if my life is a fucking joke to you. You can do the 'Some may say' and put it on them, but it's your question."

Alas, your momentary joy that the twit is being confronted is quickly overpowered by the sense that Joaquin Phoenix is a much bigger oaf.

In other movie-star-interview developments, guess what the press at the junket for The Romantics wasn't allowed to ask the cast? Anything personal! Imagine spending an hour grilling Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel about their craft?

There were no restrictions when Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson—the satirical rock musical moving to Broadway—gave the media a mini-preview the other day. The high point had Benjamin Walker (as President Andrew Jackson) snuggling up to a journalist mid-song for the line, "You want to see my stimulus package? You're just the right height!" On Broadway, who will he choose to do that to every night? "Whoever's dead center," Walker told me after the preview as I made a mental note of my future seating choice.

While I had the actor's attention, I asked if it's true that he turned down a role in the next XTube, I mean X-Men, flick. "The deal started to sour in a way where it was not worth leaving this show," Walker admitted. "If I'd committed to it, I'd never forgive myself." Me neither!

Also committed, Jackson's writer/director, Alex Timbers, told me how the musical has grown en route to Broadway: "We'll have a 130-foot stack of LED tubes. And there'll be a horse hanging over the audience." "It's sort of your chandelier," I suggested, adding that if it falls, this can turn into a Godfather musical.

Michael Feinstein no longer has Dame Edna hanging over him; he has left her for Barbara Cook, the two of them starring in the lovely "Cheek to Cheek" show at Feinstein's nightclub at the Loews Regency. "We'll do punk, rap, and thrash," Feinstein jokes at the outset, but instead, they sing standards—he cutely, earnestly, and with big lungs, and she with the expected creamy profundity. And they get frisky, too. When one song starts out sounding like "Fever," Feinstein says, "I'm not Peggy Lee with her 12 facelifts. Late in her life, she was no longer singing out of her mouth. But she was great!" Cook, meanwhile, announces that Catherine Zeta-Jones didn't deserve the Tony—and she dishes on herself, too, admitting that she once followed a hot tenor around the globe in pure lust. "The gonads have a mind of their own," reveals Cook, unexpectedly. And one suspects she's ready for them.

Same place, another night, and Tony nominee Orfeh was absolutely on fire, covering pop hits with a rich voice and personality and a fab husband (Wicked's Andy Karl) singing back-up. Someone give this lady a chart to top.

Fashion Week lured my stimulus package to the FIT Couture Council's lunch for Karl Lagerfeld at Avery Fisher, where the designer's food looked a bit different from everyone else's. It turns out he'd had it personally ordered out from Nobu! If I'd known delivery was an option, I would have gotten a pepperoni pizza.

People had to sneak their own booze into Next magazine's zanily fun Fashion's Night Out event at Limelight Marketplace, but at least that allowed the drag queens to soberly survey the scene. In the process, they realized how removed this place is from the old Limelight ("No booze, drugs, or cock," observed Sherry Vine) and how it's somewhat lacking as a mall, too ("If you're gonna make it a mall, it should have a Panda Express and a Taco Bell," declared Mimi Imfurst). Now that's everyday realism.

musto@villagevoice.com

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