Everyone's Glad About Gladiator; Russell Crowe Phones Home
"We're starting to feel comfortable in evening clothes."
So said Walter Parkes, the head of Dreamworks, when I caught up with him at the Governor's Ball after the Oscar show. Parkes has many reasons to be cheerful since the five-year-old studio has now won back-to-back best picture awards (last year with American Beauty). It's quite an accomplishment. Altogether, their Gladiator cleaned up. And this reporter's favorite film, Almost Famous, quite rightly received the award for best original screenplay, written by its director Cameron Crowe.
At the Governor's Ball — which takes place in one of those magnificent edifice sized custom tents set up behind the Shrine Auditorium — a preponderance of stars gathered to accept acclaim and chow down on the first food anyone had seen in almost five hours.
Russell Crowe, newly humbled as best actor, huddled with his mother and family members. He immediately got on the phone with his brother in Australia, passed his tiny cell phone to his mom, then took it back and began calling everyone in Oz to tell them the news. I asked Crowe, between calls, about his lovely acceptance speech. Who wrote it, I wondered? "I just put it together on the spot," he replied.
The stars do pour into the Governor's Ball, although none of them stay more than an hour. Julia Roberts, fresh from her coronation and take charge acceptance speech, moved her posse out of there in less than that time. Indeed, she was the first celebrity to clear out. But the rest of the nominees — from Benicio Del Toro and the Traffic crowd to the Dreamworks/Gladiator squad — all stuck around and devoured Wolfgang Puck's sumptuous meal and chocolate mousse Oscar desserts.
In one corner, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell basked in the glory of daughter Kate Hudson's nomination and burgeoning career. Goldie told me, "Kate has always been a special kid." Russell was particularly pleased to accept kudos as a stepdad who's worked hard to build a family. And, they remain a happy couple with no plans to separate or anything else as per the tabloids.
"It's gotten to be like Days of our Lives," Goldie joked. "Every week, he's run off with a masseuse or I've run off with a masseur. It's too funny for words."
Kate and husband Chris Robinson spent a chunk of time chatting with Ben Stiller and his wife, Christine Taylor, and that was what the Governor's Ball was mostly about — old friends getting together and new friendships forming.
Joaquin Phoenix, very much the prankster and always in a good mood, spent copious amounts of time advising Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell. Jeff Bridges, the Coen Brothers, Frances McDormand, Ridley Scott, and Catherine Zeta Jones all ebbed and flowed around each other exchanging compliments.
In the lobby of the Shrine, Charlton Heston — who seemed quite frail and walked with a bit of uncertainty — encountered a fan who encouraged him to keep speaking out on political issues. But the more important question: What about this updated Planet of the Apes, which is coming out this year? "I'm in it," he told me. "I did a surprise cameo. But I won't tell you what it is. I'm sworn to secrecy!"
One of my personal favorite couples, Mike Myers and wife Robin Ruzan, kept mostly to themselves at the Governor's Ball. But I was able to talk with Mike about what happened with his planned Sprockets film, which died when he was sued by Universal Pictures for pulling the plug.
"The script just wasn't ready," Mike said. "It needed a lot more work. In the past when I've told a studio I needed more time, there was no problem. And even though they sued me, it wasn't a problem for my career. I mean, Universal — the same studio — offered me another movie for $20 million a week later. And MGM offered The Pink Panther."
Sprockets is not dead, however. Myers said that the project could come back when he has the time to work out the problems. He is working on the script for Austin Powers 3 right now. And his bigger news is about a movie he just finished.
"I did a week of work on Gwyneth Paltrow's new movie, A View from the Top. It was the best week I ever spent working on a film and the most fun I ever had. All my scenes are Gwyneth and Christina Applegate, and they were just great." View is a comedy about flight attendants and pilots directed by Bruno Barreto and also starring Mark Ruffalo from You Can Count On Me.
So will Myers' week just wind up being a couple of scenes? Apparently not. A source at Miramax says, "Mike is so funny, we'll make the most of that week. He's going to be in it a lot." Myers' last turn as a paid-for actor was in Miramax's 54, in which he also gave a week and wound up stealing the show as late nightclub owner Steve Rubell.
"You were robbed." That's what Oscar nominee Geoffrey Rush said to Oscar nominee Ed Harris at Elton John's very private underground post-midnight bash. (This is Elton's annual fundraiser for his very charitable AIDS foundation, co-sponsored this year by InStyle Magazine and Chopard Watches.)
Rush, who is quite an amusing and friendly fellow, sidled up to Harris and his wife, actress Amy Madigan, who were among the chockablock A-list types having a private bash in the concrete, jail-gray colored basement of the nightspot Moomba.
And here was the irony: Only a few short blocks away, the whole world was jockeying for a way to get into Vanity Fair's grotesque, over-the-top carnival at Morton's restaurant. But security was so vicious there, and the crowd so filled with hangers-on and low level p.r. people, that many of the stars took the trip up the street and found privacy with Elton.
Oscar nominee and past winner Juliette Binoche, stuck in a limo line for 45 minutes, decided ultimately to skip Vanity Fair and just go home and pack. She flew home to Paris today.
But down in Elton's bunker, things could not have been cozier. Sean "Puffy" Combs arrived and worked the little room, eventually exchanging power hugs with Elton. They then kissed each other's hands, hugged again, and Puffy-recently exonerated-took off into the night.
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones put in an appearance, as well as Sigourney Weaver (smashing in a red gown and upswept hair), Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, Rush, Harris, Madigan, Michael Bolton, Val Kilmer, scandal-plagued Denise Rich (the star of the Clinton-Marc Rich pardon drama), Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson, Dreamworks president Jeffrey Katzenberg, Benicio Del Toro, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson with their 12-year-old son Chet, the very funny Hilary Swank and her equally enjoyable husband actor Chad Lowe, and — most importantly — rocker Sting with wife Trudie Styler.
On Trudie I must convey the award for best gown mostly unseen by the public. It was a long sweeping dress with a train, and as the design progressed down the bodice a garden of flowers spilled down and out along the pleats. It looked as though she were wearing a moveable garden. Quite amazing. "It was designed by Jean Paul Gautier," Styler told me. I think it was one of the two fashion questions this reporter asked all night. But you had to.
The Stings (or the Sumners, I suppose) had with them their 15-year-old-son, a tow-headed tall, fun kid who's on holiday from school in London. Two of the couple's girls, Mickey and Coco, are apparently traveling abroad (what a life!) in places like India and Cuba, learning about the world. Sting's oldest son, Joe, 24, is about to make his debut as a singer. There are at least three more kids in that household, but where they were I couldn't tell you. Hopefully, they were home, asleep, as the rest of us should have been.
Tom Cruise Surprises Oscar
He wasn't listed in the lavish Academy program among presenters. And he wasn't expected to attend. But Tom Cruise showed up and gave the best director award, which, and as it turned, out was a shock too when Steven Soderbergh won for Traffic.
I can tell you exclusively that Cruise spent at least part of Sunday afternoon screening Dimension Films's upcoming release Spy Kids for his own kids Isabella and Conor. The raved-about film concerns kids who have to help their parents — who are real spies — out of a jam. I wonder if Isabella and Conor think their own parents are spies, what with their penchant for international travel and the attendant drama of fame.
Nicole Kidman had been expected at the Oscars — particularly because she was supposed to promote Moulin Rouge — but she was inexplicably absent.
The other surprise presenters were Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Michael Douglas, who was pressed into service when it looked as though Traffic might win best picture. Douglas, who's an upstanding guy in the Hollywood community, was happy to pitch in even after being passed over for a nomination this year. That takes a lot of integrity.
This year's Oscar show was a hit. Host Steve Martin did killer standup comedy and kept everyone moving along. The musical numbers were tolerable, the set itself was elegant with a touch of retro, and for once the mix of presenters were bi-racial and well mixed among men and women. There was a nice vibe in the Shrine. I don't know who got the TV set for shortest speech, but as Julia Roberts put it so well, "I have a TV already, thanks." Producer Gil Cates should get an Emmy Award for his work. And the TV should be donated to the public school across the street from the Shrine, which desperately needs funds and resources, I am told by one of its teachers.