A Whale of a Movie: Moby Dick May Come to Big Screen
Will Herman Melville's classic novel of man and the sea be coming to a local cineplex soon?
That's what will happen if Brian Helgeland has his way. Helgeland, of course, is the writer of LA Confidential and the writer/director of Payback, starring Mel Gibson and James Coburn.
On Friday, Helgeland's marvelous A Knight's Tale opens nationwide. It's a surefire hit starring Heath Ledger in a comic, light-hearted send-up of Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love, and Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Geoffrey Chaucer, called "Geoff" by his friends, is a main character, so that should give you an idea of the satirical elements. There are a lot of inside jokes and winks, and a modern rock soundtrack that is well applied (when the knights return to England, Thin Lizzy sings "The Boys Are Back in Town").
Helgeland liked the Knight's cast so much that he's written a script of Moby Dick for the exact same group. That would be Ledger along with Rufus Sewell, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, and Shannyn Sossamon. But movie studios are not jumping at the chance to make this film, the original Jaws meets The Perfect Storm, if you will.
"So far just about everyone has passed on it," he told me on Monday night at a little post-screening cocktail party for Knight's at the Sony screening room on Madison Avenue. The whole cast was there, and following the screening they adjourned to Tao, a big nightspot restaurant on East 58th St. to celebrate Knight's positive reception.
"Of course, it's in public domain, so there are no rights to buy. That keeps costs down. But I think we could do it with exactly this group," Helgeland said of Moby Dick. We discussed the fact that electronic rocker Moby claims to be a distant descendant of Melville. Maybe he could do the music.
Meantime, Helgeland, 42, who is tall, Nordic and has shaggy blonde hair, is sporting a gap in his smile. A front tooth is missing, thanks to star Ledger (that's star Heath Ledger, by the way, and not the Newark Star-Ledger).
"It didn't happen during shooting, either," he told me. "We were demonstrating jousting at a post-production meeting, and by accident Heath knocked it loose. It didn't come out right away, but now it has and I have to wait until June to get a new tooth."
Besides Ledger, who at 22 is at about be the Leo of the year, a couple of other newly minted stars are in A Knight's Tale, including Tudyk, a blond Texan who shows off a very convincing Cockney accent and bright red hair as the knight's friend and herald. Tudyk is currently in a recurring role on Frasier as the new owner of the radio station.
Shannyn Sossamon, 21, a dark-haired beauty whom Ledger woos, was discovered at a party in Los Angeles for Gwyneth Paltrow. She was allegedly deejaying, although she says now she was "just there" and doesn't even care for Paltrow particularly. Ah, to be young and beautiful.
So what was it like giving her direction? Helgeland said, "It was just like directing James Coburn in Payback."
Replied Shannyn: "As if I knew who that was." Of course, Coburn only won the Oscar in 1999. That's two whole years ago!
How much more ridiculous will the Denise Rich public-relations show be? She's already done interviews with Barbara Walters and Larry King in which she's purposely come across as flaky and dim-witted.
At least King had the good sense to own up to his past associations with Rich at her parties and fund-raisers. Barbara failed to mention the number of times she grazed at Denise's table.
Tsk, tsk, Barbara. You were in that triplex apartment last October for the Gorbachev party — the same party at which Denise entertained the newer Mrs. Rich, who was there with former Clinton attorney Jack Quinn to work on plans for the pardon.
Walters also never mentioned the name Beth Dozoretz, the Clinton fund-raiser who grew up with Denise in Worcester, Massachusetts. Denise spent all of the Christmas holiday at Dozoretz's Aspen, Colo., digs working on pardon plans. Clinton called them there. Larry King mentioned Dozoretz's name, but not the lifelong connection between the women.
In these two nutty interviews, Denise Rich insisted that her daughter's death in 1996 was what catalyzed her relationship with the Clintons — and her interest in obtaining a pardon for Marc Rich.
Some of this was attributed to Marc, a fugitive, being unable to see his children. But Denise's kids lived with her and Marc in Switzerland until the early '90s. When Denise moved home, "the kids" — who are both adults and one has kids of her own — still were able to travel back to Switzerland to see Rich at any time. They could have also visited him in Spain or Israel.
Denise, in fact, yachts off the Spanish resort of Marbella every year. By coincidence, Marc Rich owns a resort in Marbella and has Spanish citizenship.
It’s not like they all had to meet in Hell’s Kitchen under a thirty-watt lightbulb.
Denise claims she was indeed motivated to get into politics by her daughter Gabrielle's death in 1996. That doesn't explain the following contributions:
According to federal election recortds, she gave $105,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 1993; another $105,000 to the DNC in 1994; and $55,000 in 1995. Also in 1995, she gave Bill Clinton's Presidential campaign two checks for $1,000 apiece from her own checkbook — not soft money. But since that was double the amount she was allowed to give, one check had to be credited back to her.
This doesn't count various small contributions to Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sen. Arlen Specter (the Republican from oil-rich Pennsylvania) and some other more minor candidates.
Gabrielle Rich Aouad died, sadly, in 1996. By then, Denise Rich was already a full-fledged Democratic donor for almost four years.
The original theorem about Marc Rich stands: protected under the first Bush administration, Rich was nervous that the newly elected Democrats and Bill Clinton might cause trouble for him. Therefore, the donations started pouring right after the 1992 election. And people who believe that Denise Rich is naïve, flaky, spacey, or otherwise not knowledgeable about her husband’s business or personal mission since her return to the United States are themselves naïve.