Stephen Glass—the motherfucking scumbag journalist who made up stories for The New Republic—doesn’t deserve such a solid biopic as Shattered Glass, but he’s gotten it, and that’s no lie. The film compellingly details Glass’s undoing as his diabolical fabrications are discovered by editor Chuck Lane, and the result is so cleansing, The New Republic is supposedly throwing the premiere (though maybe they just figure it’ll take attention away from their latest scandal, the one involving another writer’s Jew remarks).
Over lunch at the Bryant Park Hotel, Hayden Christensen (who plays Glass) and Peter Sarsgaard (who’s Chuck Lane) submitted to my interrogation so truthfully that their noses didn’t grow, even as my chins tripled. Why doesn’t the flick include any backstory on how Glass got that way? Well, said baby-faced Sarsgaard, writer-director Billy Ray dropped such a scene—a conversation between Glass and his mom—because glib attempts at pop psychology don’t really further mankind in any way. (Ray’s childhood must have made him really cautious.)
Surprisingly, not everything Ray did use is the gospel truth, even though the flick’s supposedly about the dire importance of accuracy. Glass has at least one composite character, for starters, but Sarsgaard explained that too, saying that with real people, “if you play it exactly the way they said it happened, it’s not always helpful to their story. That said, it’s important to pay attention to what their intentions were.”
My intention has long been to pay attention to Sarsgaard, who was also brilliant as an ex-con killer in Boys Don’t Cry—it’s called range, folks—and whose career has moved in small steps, which he prefers to being overhyped and eaten alive. Meanwhile, Christensen—who looks more solid in person—has the big-hoopla role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise, but he’s made a point of seeking out non-clone-army-related side jobs. “Hollywood’s not as creative as you’d like it to be,” he earnestly told me. “If people halfway like you in a part, then my experience is, everything you get offered after that is just that character redefined. You make a concerted effort to find things yourself.” So how did Christensen land Shattered Glass? “I produced it!” he said, laughing. “I said, ‘Hayden, you’ve got to fucking let yourself go on this movie. Give yourself a part!’ ”
With only minimal prodding, the guys also let themselves go about Billy Ray (“He’s like an intuitive baseball coach,” said Sarsgaard. “He slaps you on the ass before you do a scene”), Lost in Translation (“I have a huge crush on both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson after seeing that movie,” confessed Sarsgaard. “I actually miss them being together”), and whether Christensen would ever agree to do, say, Star Wars on Ice (“I can pull it off,” he said, grinning. “First IMAX, then the Ice Capades!”)
But we couldn’t go back to our searingly truthful lives without addressing one other lying scumbag, so I wondered how the guys felt about Esquire‘s since-retracted idea to have Jayson Blair review Shattered Glass. “If it takes a schmuck like Blair writing a piece in Esquire to get more people to see the movie, that would be valid,” Sarsgaard said, “except I don’t think people would really care.” Besides, it would probably jump-start an awful trend—Polanski reviewing Mystic River? Tom Cruise critiquing Elf? Let’s stop there.
For the really veracity-minded, The Golden Girls Live!—a/k/a Shattered Gas—packs the upper level of Rose’s Turn with rerun addicts who thrill to the faithful re-creation of actual Golden Girls scripts. The funny drag show—presented as if it were on “Estrogen television for women and homosexuals”—is not exactly Masterpiece Theatre, but it’s a welcome respite on the way to Shady Pines. And there’s an added charge in learning that the guys playing Sophia (Peter Mac, who also directed) and Dorothy (John Schaefer, a riot) are real-life lovers. Somehow that gave me a hot flash.
On Broadway, The Retreat From Moscow is a domestic drama that gets mired in TV-movie theatrics (“Don’t do this, Alice!”), self-congratulatory literary allusions, and homages to The Goat. (Spurned wife Eileen Atkins dumps the silverware on the floor.) By Act II, though, the play attains a profound beauty and makes you yearn to be on an Atkins diet—watching only glorious her from now on.
As for real-life marital melodrama, nothing tops Liza Minnelli‘s alleged hate crimes against David Gest, and even Stephen Glass would verify that. I loved Gest’s lawyer saying on TV that as a result of his supposed injuries, “David’s had a series of injections in his head and face.” So what else is new? But even though David’s favorite things to do are suing for $10 million (remember VH1?) and tossing out Liza’s furniture (maybe that’s why she shot back with lamps, if not silverware), let’s not dismiss his spousal abuse claims that easily. I’ve always sensed that beneath the insistent sparkle, Liza has a very dark side, and she obviously has a naive side, too; last year, she was apparently the only one who didn’t know that her new hubby was a taskmaster-slash-sponge. (Then again, she thought Peter Allen was straight.)
But Liza—with nine hip replacements and a limp—beating defenseless “Puffy Daddy” Gest? I just can’t picture it. In fact, Liza herself—well, comic Mario Cantone doing an impression of her—just called me to rasp, “I never hurt him! The only thing I ever did was strap a dildo on and fuck him up the ass. He squealed a little, but it was consensual!”
I’m horrified to use that as a segue, but the Kobe Bryant case came up at the Blue Fin lunch for Showtime’s upcoming lesbian series The L Word, where co-star Mia Kirshner told me she feels the legal treatment of the accuser has been “disgusting and irrelevant. A woman’s sexual history has nothing to do with a rape trial!” California resident Kirshner also had steaming-hot opinions about new governor Arnold. “It’s insane!” she balked. “He was elected because he’s photogenic, but he’s really not.”
Still, the Gropinator would absolutely love The L Word. As they showed clips of the slender, gorgeous cast members cruising and caressing each other, straight guys in the crowd licked their liver lips. But where are the diesel dykes? There are some in the show, Kirshner assured, and besides, it’s not supposed to represent everyone, “it’s [writer/producer] Ilene Chaiken‘s world.” Well, I never thought I’d be fighting for stereotypes, but there had better be some fat, bearded, Birkenstock-wearing butches in there or I’ll be furious!
At the opening of Michael Ault‘s new bottle-service pavilion, Nocturne, the slinky female dancers wore masks and lingerie, and cynics might say that the resulting boîte—described as “a cross between an Eyes Wide Shut set and a Venetian Carnival seen through the eyes of Tim Burton“—is to decadence as Pamela Mackey is to feminism.
And finally, my thighs were wide shut at a fully clothed, Liz Smith-co-hosted dinner for The Human Stain, where star Anthony Hopkins told me, with shattering truthfulness, “Doing a movie is just a job. I show up and do it. I don’t take it too seriously.” Well, my job was to track down Dominick Dunne at another table and ask about the Liza mess. (After all, his appearance at the wedding cemented it as a crime scene.) “It was a marriage about a wedding,” Dunne deadpanned. So it should have ended there? “It did end there,” he said, laughing. And now, this column ends here. Blame my fucked-up childhood for all the mistakes.