Hilary Still Swank — and Loving Her Chad | Bette's Middling Show Gone, as Read Here First | Johnny Loves Chocolat Depply

Hilary Still Swank — and Loving Her Chad

Winning last year's Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress for her courageous work in Boys Don't Cry has not, I am happy to report, changed Hilary Swank. She's still very disarming, funny and charming. When no one's looking, she offers to make "monster faces" behind a linen napkin. It's never been photographed. 

Hilary and hubby Chad Lowe attended the American Museum of the Moving Image's tribute to Julia Roberts on Sunday night. Neither of them participated in the show. They told me they just came because they've recently relocated to New York. 

Lowe, by the way, is busy shooting an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

"I play a guy who's had a long incestuous affair with his mother and then murders someone who finds out about it," he said. "Sounds great, doesn't it?" 

Indeed, it does. 

Swank has just finished Charles Shyer's The Affair of the Necklace and is looking for her next role. A native Californian, she'll have a lot of adjusting to New York nightlife and society in the months to come. 

For example, she was seated next to designer Calvin Klein — who looked quite disheveled and red-faced all night, leaving the table and coming back often with his collar unbuttoned and tie askew. Poor Hilary looked a little startled. But it's New York. She'll get over it. 

Bette's Middling Show Gone, as Read Here First 

Sorry to say, this column may have instigated the early cancellation of Bette Midler's sitcom. Yesterday, CBS pulled the plug — a good two months earlier than expected. 

Readers of this column will recall that Midler and producing partner Bonnie Bruckheimer told me at the Grammy after-party for Warner Music that they were contemplating ending the misery of low ratings before CBS could get to them. 

Unfortunately, Les Moonves, CBS' astute president of entertainment, was not going to let that happen once I asked him about this possible precedent-setting move. Moonves acknowledged that Midler was a huge talent, but sometimes such talents do not fit well into the small box. 

Midler and Bruckheimer can't say, though, that this column or anyone other than themselves caused the downfall of the show. For one thing, Bette has been all over the talk shows since the start of the season complaining about how hard it is to do a sitcom. 

You know, Bette, no one is sympathetic to this plight. A lot of big stars have come from film and made these shows work. Candice Bergen and Cybill Shepherd are good examples. Michael J. Fox came back to TV with Parkinson's disease, no less, and worked like a dog. 

It didn't help that Midler also had trouble getting along with her cast. First, the extremely talented and affable James Naughton went to L.A. to film the pilot, playing Bette's husband. He left before the week was out. Then Kevin Dunn, who succeeded Naughton, bowed out a few weeks ago. 

Last night, Naughton was replaced in what would have been mid-season by Airplane!'s Robert Hays. They didn't even bother changing the character. A la Darrin in Bewitched, Roy just started being another person. 

The girl who played her young daughter on the series, Lindsay Lohan, from The Parent Trap and TV's Another World, also left. 

Midler was also not a team player at CBS. When the Grammy awards were desperate for a host, they queried Midler — who turned them down, reportedly because the fee they offered wasn't high enough. 

A source close to the star said that isn't true. 

"She couldn't do her own show and the Grammys," the source said. "Then they wanted her to weave her show's plot around the Grammys. It was too much work." 

Of course, Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Grammys a few years ago while her show, Ellen, was on the air. Oh well. 

What's next for Bette? My guess is Broadway, where she excels, can call her own shots, and not worry about focus groups or new scripts every week. 

Johnny Loves Chocolat Depply 

Contrary to reports yesterday from London, Johnny Depp loved making Chocolat. He told me so when the movie opened last December. I think the British press got it wrong in the translation. 

Chocolat, by the way, is doing gangbuster business abroad. It's a hit in England and Australia, where it's taken in almost $1.5 million in each country after about ten days of release. France and Spain are next. And then Sweden, which is Lasse Hallström's home and where he is very popular. 

The movie is fifth in the running for Best Picture at the Oscars and probably will not win. But I've heard members of the Screen Actors Guild — whose awards are presented this Sunday — heaping praise on nominated actors Juliette Binoche and Judi Dench. I think the Oscars are a more open field than previously anticipated. Sunday should be very interesting.