Chocolat Couple: As Charming as Their Movie | Mariah: Kung Fu Fighting on the Web | Dana: Don't Believe Everything You Read | Clintons' Gifts Don't Register | More Sundance News 

Chocolat Couple: As Charming as Their Movie

Director Lasse Hallström and actress Lena Olin are perhaps the least well known but best looking couple in the American movie business right now. He is handsome and lanky, she could have been a cover girl model if she hadn't opted to follow her father — a famous Swedish actor — into the theatre. 

Hallström became famous with the charming My Life as a Dog, which foreignfilms.com ranks as the only non-Bergman movie in their top 10 Swedish films of all time. Olin first got noticed in The Unbearable Lightness of Being with Juliette Binoche and Daniel Day-Lewis

She was nominated for an Oscar for Enemies: A Love Story. He was nominated for The Cider House Rules. They spend their summers in Sweden, but Hallström and Olin, who have two children of their own and one apiece from previous marriages, live in horsey upper Westchester County, N.Y., and look more the part than those who've been there for generations. Last summer Hallström reunited them all — plus his friend Johnny Depp from What's Eating Gilbert Grape — in Chocolat, which got four Golden Globe nominations and now looms as an Oscar contender. 

They met, the couple told me recently, because Hallström kept sending notes to Olin while she was shooting the Sydney Pollack movie Havana in the Dominican Republic. 

"I sent her notes once a month," Lasse said. 

"More like once a week," replied Lena. 

Havana pretty much blunted Olin's career for a while, she says. "It's not that I got burnt. But if Havana hadn't hurt me as it did, I was on my way and got cut off. I paid the price for its failure." 

She went on to do Mr. Jones with Richard Gere, and Romeo is Bleeding with Gary Oldman — which made three strikes and she was out. That was after the enormous success of Unbearable Lightness and the Oscar nomination for Enemies

What happened then? "We just stayed in Sweden, walking around and hugging each other. We'd go and get carrot juice, have lunch, pick up my son. We lived in the smallest place, you could hardly move. It was fun, we had a good time. ... And Lasse passed up a lot of movies because we couldn't leave Stockholm, because we were together," Olin said. 

"We had just found each other," said Lasse. "We couldn't imagine not being together." 

They've been together ever since, starting with Gilbert Grape (Hallström directed Leonardo DiCaprio to his first Oscar nomination) and through the seven nominations for Cider House. Now they've worked together in Chocolat, with Olin making a powerful, understated comeback as Josephine, the abused wife of a local bar owner. This spring they'll move up to Nova Scotia for the filming of The Shipping News starring Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore. But they won't be leaving the East Coast for Los Angeles any time soon. 

"To me it was such a culture shock," Lasse says. "Going to San Francisco was like going back to Europe." 

Lena adds: "You get very isolated from life. But Hollywood is a warm and intimate community. It's much warmer and more generous than the Swedish film business." 

 

Mariah: Kung Fu Fighting on the Web 

The new Mariah Carey Web site is up, and this time it's not run by Sony Music. It's the singer's very own enterprise. 

The biggest surprise: An animated cartoon feature in which Mariah battles a big-haired rival named Bianca. With Matrix/Crouching Tiger-like flying the two go at it, and Mariah pretty much beats poor Bianca to a pulp. The final scene is of Bianca with a lot of scratches and bruises on her face. I guess the message is: Don't mess with Miss Mariah. 

The new site also debuts the return of Mariah's voice messages, the ones that Sony didn't like because she was criticizing them for botching her career. The new message is fairly tame, though. It's accompanied by a video clip in which you can see Mariah playing with underprivileged kids on an Aspen snow bank. 

In the still pictures from her Aspen Christmas, Mariah poses in a skimpy white halter top under her ski parka. The title for the whole thing should be: Benevolent Bunny. In one picture, she stands between Will Smith and rapper Jay-Z. All of their eyes are bugging out. I don't blame them. 

Last week I ran into actor/director Vondie Curtis-Hall, who directed Mariah in her first feature film, All That Glitters. And guess what? Hall said Mariah can act, the film is okay, and will not be an embarrassment. "We showed some of it to the studio recently and they're very happy," Vondie said. 

So there! 

 

Dana: Don't Believe Everything You Read 

It was reported elsewhere yesterday that Dana Giacchetto might have bilked Matt Damon out of more than $100,000. Not so, I'm afraid, although it sounds like a good story. Damon invested money with Giacchetto personally, and his business manager reimbursed him when the scandal was uncovered. He did not lose a million bucks to Giacchetto and, as far as I know, his family wasn't involved. 

Also, the rock group Phish got Giacchetto to sign a letter of confession in December 1999, before anyone else got to him, for about $4 million. As this column reported last spring, Phish took a lot of artwork from Giacchetto's loft in trade. You read it here first, nearly nine months ago. 

Clintons' Gifts Don't Register 

Lots of talk about the private gifts toted off by Hill and Bill on January 20, including flatware and china from Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, and Ted Danson and Mary Steenbergen

Yeah, the Reagans left the White House with $8 million in gifts which they had to pay taxes on later, but here's my question: What sort of flatware costs nearly $5,000? 

Sounds like it was purchased through the Pentagon. 

More Sundance News 

Sales of indie films are dribbling in. As reported everywhere yesterday, Miramax picked up Todd Field's In the Bedroom for about $1.5 million. This family drama stars Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson as parents who lose their 25 year old son (Nick Stahl, who's great in the movie) to a murder. William Mapother is the complexly-drawn killer. Marisa Tomei is his ex-wife, and Stahl's older girlfriend. 

In the Bedroom had better be edited down by at least thirty minutes or audiences are going to nod off after Stahl gets killed. While all the performances are good, the current running time undermines them. Let's hope Miramax, home of the fearless edit, will chop away. 

Still waiting for news about more economical and pleasing films like Lift, Scotland PA, and Intimacy. There's also been some low buzz on The Deep End and Believers, but I've heard nothing so far about Michael Cuesta's L.I.E. This is a very disturbing film about latchkey teens in Suffolk County Long Island and pedophilia. 

All I can say is, I felt like I needed to take a shower after L.I.E. was over. But the two 16 year olds in the movie, Billy Kay — who's from Long Island and also plays Shayne Lewis on CBS's Guiding Light, and Paul Franklin Dano — seem wise beyond their years. I can't wait to see them each in something else. 

And I hate end on a down note, but still no one can figure out what Daniel Waters was doing with Happy Campers. Waters was the writer of the cult hit Heathers. He wrote and directed Campers, spurred on by New Line Cinema's now-deposed Mike De Luca. At the premiere screening, Waters told us: "It was only a matter of time before De Luca was executed" — because he was such a visionary! 

Campers is so awful it's indescribable — the sort of thing you get on Cinemax at 3 a.m. It's scarier than Scary Movie and deserves a special rating: R13. Most of the audience left before it was over; those who didn't said, "DeLuca should have his head handed to him." And he has. 

Go Giants!