At glamorous movie premieres, you stand out in the cold as some power-crazed doorman tells you to “step the fuck back,” advice you ignore, pushing into the theater to pick up your ticket so you can horizontalize your ass and wait an hour as they look for a V.I.P. seat for Naomi Campbell. It’s so gala! But it’s still worth it to schmooze with edited-out cast members, choke on free popcorn, and even eventually see the film.
Lately, I’ve gotten into more premieres than a groupie at the Kremlin. There was one for Spike Lee‘s 25th Hour, which is immortal just for the line “When you’re in jail taking it up the butt from a bunch of guys calling you Shirley, you’ll only have yourself and Governor Rockefeller to blame!” At the after-party at the Metropolitan Pavilion, there was no such recreational option—just the mildly insouciant chance to make your own Caesar salad. Dripping with anchovy juice, I learned from writer Victor Colicchio that the cable series Spike Lee’s doing based on Peter Gatien will have the deposed club owner’s story as a running thread, but the main plot will be semi-fictionalized stuff about young nightlife wannabes who seek out “the limelight.” The series was supposedly approved by MTV, but Spike decided it wouldn’t look right without the proper budget, so now it’s being dangled before the moneybags at Showtime and FX. (Whoever does it, I hope they throw a big premiere.)
By the salad bar, Comedy Central comic Dave Chappelle gave me other cable news, saying that Eminem has approached that very channel to do some kind of animated show. It’ll no doubt have SpongeBob getting fucked up the ass by a bunch of guys calling him Shirley. As for the major networks, Chappelle asked fellow guest Lisa Ling if it was hard for her to leave The View. “No!” she said, definitively. “I was on it for three years and it was right for that time, but now I’m a traveling motherfucker!” (She’s hosting National Geographic Explorer.) At this point, Rosario Dawson‘s mom—the stars keep coming—ambled over to ask Ling to book her daughter on The View. (I guess she doesn’t want Rosario to be on Explorer. And by the way, Brittany Murphy didn’t want to be in 25th Hour. I hear she backed out five days before shooting, paving the way for Anna Paquin.)
At the 23rd hour, Antwone Fisher had a premiere party at 66—which is one 6 short of my ideal kind of place—so I dragged my traveling motherfucker butt there to fawn over director-co-star Denzel Washington. The absorbing, hankie-provoking biopic had me at hello, even if the composite girlfriend character is icky and the last reel gets bogged down in mush. Alas, Denzel didn’t show—he was sick—but star Derek Luke did. Luke is mesmerizing in the movie; he just isn’t that well schooled in giving up real-life charm (though admittedly my questions were not exactly Pulitzer winners). When I asked him if Fisher mainly went sociopathic when he felt put-upon, Luke said, “I disagree with that. The film really explains what he had. That’s alI I can say about that. So let’s move on to the next question.” Um, all righty then, does Luke like watching himself in the movie? “I don’t like critiquing,” he replied, weirdly. Please—critiquing’s my favorite thing to do besides making my own salad.
Theatrical people playing highly theatrical people fill up the cast of Nicholas Nickleby, so at that premiere bash at St. Bartholomew’s, they laid on the charm with a trowel and a fare-thee-well. You just had to deal with the fact that the stars were in a fancier room, with a way nicer dinner, than the press—an ironic comment, I’m sure, on the class distinctions Dickens so harshly criticized. I also made sure to avoid the producer who recently came up to me and yelped, “You didn’t like Nicholas Nickleby!” (the most startling confrontation since last month, when publicist Bobby Zarem shrieked, “This is the first time you’ve said hello back in 10 years!”). Anyway, though it’s true I might not want to have Nickleby‘s babies, I did enjoy it, partly since it’s way shorter than that eight-hour Broadway version, which is still taking curtain calls in my mind.
Nickleby co-star Jamie Bell showed up and oozed likability, even though he was in the better room. Has he grown up since Billy Elliot? “Yes!” the rapidly evolving studlet said. “Everyone expected me to grow up, so I had to, to stay with the crowd.” That’s nice—though I told Jamie I used to love the contemptuous looks he’d throw at the camera on awards shows. “I don’t buy into that whole kind of thing,” he admitted. “I don’t like awards ceremonies. I prefer to be home with my PlayStation.” (Now that’s grown-up.)
Also straining toward adulthood, co-star Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) told me she’s not sick of always being called a young Julia Roberts, since Julia’s so darned wonderful, “but I am looking forward to just being Annie Hathaway!” (Hey, so am I.) Is she ever a nutty-cuckoo bad girl? “I’ve got a good heart,” she answered. “I’m just a little naughty sometimes.” (Hey, so am I!)
The naughty, bawdy Barry Humphries plays Mrs. Crummles—you heard me—and told me he came up with the characterization by summoning “that type of provincial theater lady. Every small county has one.” (In Jackson, it’s Trent Lott.) Has anyone ever refused to come onstage with his other gal pal, Dame Edna? “No,” said the sly puss, “no one says no to Dame Edna!”
Finally, I couldn’t say nay to talking with adapter-director Doug McGrath, who’s been up and down so many times I’ve gotten whiplash watching, though he seems way up again with this one. “But I never feel that up,” McGrath told me, “because I think any minute they’re gonna take it away!”
In other words, you could get gonged like ’70s schlockmeister Chuck Barris—we’re moving on to another premiere, folks—whose Confessions of a Dangerous Mind biopic even outdoes Auto Focus in its steamy, E!-style revelations. That one said sitcom star Bob Crane was a wild fuck machine, but this flick claims Barris was a fuck machine and a CIA killer. (Even more treacherously, he did The Gong Show.) Interestingly, Sam Rockwell, who plays the part, comes from the Derek Luke school of oral retention. Is the CIA stuff true? “I think so,” he cutely told me at the premiere. Was Barris deeply cynical? “A little bit. I don’t know,” Rockwell stammered. Is that your butt in the film? “No,” he said. “They got me an ass double!”
Meanwhile, Elaine May‘s Adult Entertainment has been flaunting its body parts with increased integrity. Last week, I wrote about how the show borrows liberally from cable queen Robin Byrd‘s persona, all in the name of satire. Well, with a little prompting from the Byrd, they’ve now agreed to give her credit in the program. How adult of Entertainment. Now everybody step the fuck back—my ass double’s making a salad.