In MIKE LEIGH's period potboiler Vera Drake, IMELDA STAUNTON gives a super-duper performance as a sweet, frumpy little backdoor abortionist, but at a dinner for the movie at San Domenico, she turned out to be shockingly semi-glam and not wielding a knitting needle at all. (I was starting to catch onshe's an actor simply playing a role, right? Right?) "I'm enormously glamorous, as you can tell," Staunton cracked when I told her this, and we giggled like schoolgirls. Actually, saucy Staunton doesn't give a rat's rear about the self-glitzing process. "All this making up is hard work," she said, "but the film was easy!"
The British dumpling makes it look easier than scraping the stuffing out of a holiday turkey, elevating the proceedings with a demeanor that's so sympathetic I wanted to yell, "Go, babe, go! Abort more fetuses!" (Again, she politely broke into hysterics on hearing that.) Her views on the choice issue? "I feel the film is terribly compassionate about an extremely explosive subject which is so personal and difficult," Staunton said, more articulately than BUSH or KERRY. "We're just showing the facts of this unfortunate act which women have felt compelled to have done to them or to do. I'm not an activist, but I feel women have been punished for centuries for being pregnant at a time when it doesn't suit society. The end." Truebut it's not the end of the film's impact, as it goes beyond festivals and reaches actual humans. What will she do if the pro-life fanatics start getting all knicker-knotted over Vera's vaginal agenda? "I'm coming to live with you!" she said, laughing again.
OH, YOU KIDD!
With that warning, I bolted the house shut and camped out around the clock at other premiereslike the one for the snazzily acted P.S., with LAURA LINNEY doing a DEMI with ASHTON's TV co-star, the youngTony Perkinslike TOPHER GRACE. The flick's writer-director, DYLAN KIDD, is not a baby killer, though he did work at Kim's Video (where I seem to remember a Chucky poster in the elevator, adorned with a handwritten apology for the staff's attitude). "It was a dark period in my life," Kidd admitted to me at the after-party, but at least he got to meet Japanese-movie renter DAVID LEE ROTH. When Kidd realized his customer was Roth, the rocker blurted, "It's a small worlduntil they lose your luggage!" (Or the movieRoth never returned it.) Even more delightfully, Kidd remembered that a major actor once came in to rent a German urination film with the translated title Pissy Teeny. It must have been a short.
En route to the V.I.Pee room, I asked Linney how she filled the mere 48 hours she had between finishing Kinsey and starting P.S. "Trying to lose 22 pounds," she said, smiling. "It didn't happen." Well, a little substance can always lead to a certain emotional gravitas. After all, Linney is the new MERYL STREEP, right? She laughed for what seemed a solid minute. "No one could be the new Meryl Streep!" she finally said, admiringly. "I hope she's the new Laura Linney," interjected Kidd. "I love her!"
The real cinema love story of the year is between PAUL GIAMATTI and THOMAS HADEN CHURCH as buddies on a semi-losery road trip through wine-tasting country in ALEXANDER PAYNE's charming and trenchant Sideways. At a press conference after the New York Film Festival screening last week, Giamatti said he and Church clicked right from their introductory three-and-a-half-hour phone chat. "Thomas is handsome, he's manly, he's a delight," Giamatti gushed, only half smirking. "Paul's engaging," countered Church, "and he's a Mormon, which was incredibly appealing to me." Joking. More seriously, Giamatti said the liquid he guzzles all through the movie "wasn't grape juiceit was some chemical concoction. It was disgusting!" To nab some real Pinot, said Church, "We hit the wineries. It was weird at 11 in the morning, but it was like, 'Hey, research!' "
My own painstaking reportorial investigations involve hitting the Diet Cokes and getting down with Mormons at all hours. To do so, I'll even move indoors, especially since the kooky Sunday alfresco party at the Maritime Hotelhosted by ERICH CONRAD, LINCOLN PALSGROVE, and the TRINITYhas segued into the Hiro Ballroom and is now aptly called the Cuckoo Club (which is probably better than the Nuthouse). The room is a red marvel of high ceilings and gigantic hanging paper lanterns, very Auntie Mame's den meets a hotel lounge from Lost in Translation. On the first night there, DJ JOHN JOHN pumped a dance mix of LIZA's "Mein Herr" as a gay fireman wearing an "I'm a flamer" shirt told me, "I'm honest with the other guys. I say, 'You have a nice ass.' They think I'm joking!" What a pissy teeny!
A particularly fun waitress at Quo was definitely joking last week when she came at me with a large faux syringe filled with some red beverage (not grape juice) while perceptively chirping, "You haven't looked at my tits!"
But the real pisser was the last presidential debate, which showed that Kerry has obviously been programmed to go to that MARY CHENEY place as often as possible (you know, "The economy is in shambles . . . and by the way, Mary Cheney is a lesbian") and to also invoke God and the Scriptures at every turn. He even suggested that God made gay people, which is weird since the church feels gays are sinners. ("I invent you . . . and I pity you," God must have said at that beautiful moment of creation.) Meanwhile, Bush thinks homosexuality might be a choice, which is also absurd; who'd choose to be treated as a second-class citizen who, both candidates agree, is usually "struggling," though deserving of a few crumbs of tolerance? All I know is . . . Mary Cheney is a lesbian. And now it's time for Vera Drake to glamorously abort this week's column.
Dis 'n' that
But first . . . I told CHLOE SEVIGNY she looks great in those sleek Louis Vuitton ads. Typically, she said, "They got the best retouchers!" Funny, in person, she doesn't look like she needs any . . . That older blonde, MELANIE GRIFFITH, doesI hear she got hives while shooting a TV movie, Heartless, in New Orleans, thereby shutting down filming for a few days. But Mel managed to soothe her itch by running off to Mexico to see ANTONIO . . . From Heartless, let's move to Broadway's Reckless, an absurdist comedy that spans trauma, murder, and Santa Claus, with MARY-LOUISE PARKER doing her patented borderline wacko. It all aims to show the changing roles and connections behind the deceptive randomness of life's journey, and though it occasionally touches on profundity, Reckless is generally a wreck you want less of.
Speaking of which, at the Garden recently, BARRY MANILOW sang a love duet from his show Harmony with BRIAN D'ARCY JAMES. Barry told the crowd it would be "creepy" for two guys to sing it face to facei.e., to each otherso they did it back-to-back. "Did he learn that position at the Continental Baths?" said a disgruntled observer. (Manilow later apologized publicly for the bit to journalist REX WOCKNER and said it was all a joke. So is Barry's staying in the closet.)
Aiming for more legit stages, TERRENCE MCNALLY, I hear, will write the book for the upcoming Catch Me If You Can musical . . . But stop everything for this late-breaking item: MICHAEL JACKSON is against the No Child Left Behind Act.