Quentin Tarantino | John Lennon Tribute | Alicia Keys | Angie Stone | Richard Johnson

Tarantino Picks Actors for New Film

Quentin Tarantino was one of the many stars who showed up the other night for the IFP Gotham Awards in New York. 

It was quite a night, with honorees Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman on hand, as well as director Martin Scorsese, and Thurman's husband, Ethan Hawke

At one table I spotted Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan chatting up actor John Turturro. Leggy Famke Janssen was sitting catty-cornered to the spot where Diane Sawyer and Glenn Close huddled together in all their blondness. I also ran into Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, who told me she was thrilled with the success of her new TV series, The Education of Max Bickford

But it was Tarantino, resplendent in a black velvet Nehru jacket from Shanghai Tang ($500 from their catalog), who was of most interest. 

(Scorsese isn't talking right now until he dots the i's and crosses the t's on Gangs of New York. DeNiro, a nice man, never has much to say anyway.) 

Tarantino's news is that he's getting Kill Bill ready for production. With the deals not quite made, he has his eyes on Michael Madsen and Lucy Liu to join Warren Beatty and Thurman in the noir thriller. 

"I finished the script in August," Quentin told me. "Now we're in pre-production, waiting for Uma to have her baby. We'll start next spring." 

As soon as Kill Bill is ready, Tarantino will launch instantly into Inglorious Youth, his original World War II epic. "We'll be editing one and filming the other," he told me. 

So his many fans, including this writer, will have two new movies back to back by 2003. In the meantime, rent Jackie Brown this weekend. It just gets better and better.

John Lennon Re-Imagined 

Just some final thoughts on Tuesday night's TNT special, Come Together, saluting John Lennon

There was so much bunting and red, white and blue, young people might not know that Lennon was not so patriotic.

Lennon and wife Yoko Ono were vehement anti-war protesters, don't forget. Lennon was followed and hounded by the FBI until his death. The Nixon White House tried to keep Lennon from re-entering the United States on many occasions and J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, looked into deporting him. And the John Lennon who really existed went to bat for small guys the then-government was after, like jailed pot smokers. Without Paul McCartney to temper his sometimes-caustic nature, Lennon wrote songs like "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" and "Working Class Hero."

John Lennon was a revolutionary, not a flag-waver. He believed in peace, true. But he was also too smart for the Bob Hope-type treatment he got Tuesday night.

For more information, check out a Web site: http://www.lennonfbifiles.com.

Ali Is Short for Alicia ... Keys 

I loved the announcement yesterday that Sony/Columbia Pictures' Ali has been moved to Dec. 25 because it's a better date. 

No, my dears, it's been moved because it's not ready. How could it be? I was just getting ready to tell you that newly minted star Alicia Keys is going into the studio next week to record the theme song for the film. Keys beat out a lot of competition including a song written by Denise Rich (you know our Denise, ex-wife of pardoned ex-fugitive Marc Rich) and Herbie Crichlow (he wrote the Backstreet Boys' biggest hits and is now out on his own). 

Keys, by the way, has now sold 2.6 million copies of her debut CD on J Records, Songs in A Minor. It's number 2 on Soundscan next week, right behind Jay-Z

Michael Mann is famous for taking a loooong time completing his films. The Insider went on forever. And so did Heat. And you know what, they're always worth it. 

P.S.: Christmas Day has more significance than just being a big holiday in the movie business. In order to qualify for Oscars, a movie must play one whole week in New York or Los Angeles before Dec. 31. It just happens that the 25th is the first day of the last week of the year.

Angie Is Stone Solid 

Angie Stone, J Records' next big star, hit a home run Tuesday night. She performed at the Schomburg Center in Harlem for New York radio people and record execs and knocked them out. 

In the audience besides J founder Clive Davis: the inimitable Wyclef Jean, who has a label deal with Davis called Clef Records. Wyclef came with his brother, Sam, who's his manager and a lawyer here in New York. They are still getting over the untimely death of their dad this summer. 

As for Angie, she's compared to Aretha, Gladys and a bunch of other soul divas. But I think her voice reminds me of Millie Jackson or Denise LaSalle — very southern and rich. Angie is a big girl with a big voice and a big Afro. She also has a cherubic face and a wide smile that is almost always flashing. She looks happy and she sounds it too. Her first single, "Brotha," off the album Magohany Soul, is a hit. And wait until everyone hears her song called "So Pissed." It's done with that smile, and you wind up singing along to its unsinkable melody. 

Angie is also featured on Nile Rodgers' We Are Family record, which is just hitting radio this week. Listen for her unmistakable lead vocals.

A Diary Worth Keeping 

My pal Richard Johnson, the hard-driving writer/editor of the New York Post's Page Six, has been writing a column all this week on Slate.com. It's a special one-week appearance in which Johnson gives his diary. You don't get to hear Richard's voice in Page Six because of the brevity of the items. But he's a damn good writer, and Slate would do well to keep him on. Congrats, Richard!

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