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Lord of the Rings Takes in $17 Million

Lord of the Rings Opens  | | Marisa Tomei | Michael Crighton | More Lord of the Rings | Oscar Buzz 

Lord of the Rings: $17 Million Take, and Tattoos 

Peter Jackson's fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring made an excess of $17 million yesterday. According to sources inside New Line Cinema, where the staff is understandably ecstatic, the total may come closer to $18 million or more when all the tickets are counted. 

This would break a record for a one day mid-week opening of a movie. It would also indicate a box office smash beyond expectations. This first installment of the three part saga cost $120 million to make, which means that the studio is well on its way to recouping its investment in a short time. 

To celebrate this monumental achievement, I am told that director Jackson and New Line exec Mark Ordesky, who are in New Zealand working on the edit of part two, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, went out this morning and got themselves tattoos with the Rings logo. "They actually called us from a tattoo parlor," said a New Line insider. Previously, the male members of the cast, including Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood, had done the same thing.

Marisa Tomei: The Skinny on Vinny 

Several years ago, people couldn't believe it when Marisa Tomei won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in My Cousin Vinny. A nasty rumor went around that she hadn't actually won, and her name was called by mistake. 

When you see In the Bedroom, you'll realize the Academy Award was no mistake. 

Marisa has made a lot of movies since Vinny, but she's struggled to find good material. She made a lot of mistakes. (The Paper, Only You, The Perez Family) In between the movies, though, she worked hard in New York theatre productions, continuing to hone her craft. Joanne Woodward, the esteemed award-winning actress and director, became one of her biggest fans. And she's no pushover, let me tell you. 

So now Marisa tells me that the whole experience of winning the Oscar for Vinny was a blur. "I didn't know anyone when I was nominated. The only person I knew in the business was Joe Pesci. At least now I know Sissy Spacek, and I can call her and congratulate her when she gets something," she said of her In the Bedroom co-star. 

"I didn't know how to pick movies. It was overwhelming," she said.

She's gotten better at evaluating projects that come her way. "Now I'm doing a series of play readings with Al Pacino at the Workshop. A couple of years ago Arthur Penn made me a member." 

Marisa's learned a lot, obviously. There's talk of another nomination for her role in In the Bedroom. She crosses her fingers when I tell her the movie itself is on a roll. (Check the Golden Globe nominations this morning.) "Let's hope I get a little steam from that," she said. 

Marisa is still going steady with playwright Frank Pugliese. Next year she'll be the star of Pugliese's first feature film, Italian, which he also wrote. John Turturro may co-star in this indie that may do for Italians what The Brothers McMullen did for the Irish on Long Island. 

Michael Crichton's Real Life 'Lost House' 

If this is old news to you, then so be it. But I'm told that bestselling writer Michael Crichton  — who's given us everything from Jurassic Park to Disclosure to a bad headache — has almost completed divorcing wife number four, Anne-Marie Martin

But this divorce may be a tad different for the very, very tall and very, very rich Crichton. The man who also co-created ER for TV had been living in tony Bedford, New York with Martin and their 13-year-old daughter for many years. He spent a total of $50 million buying and renovating a mansion there said a source close to the Crichton action. 

"But he wanted to go back to California. So he just left the house, and Anne-Marie, and their daughter behind." 

I don't know what happens in every state, but usually if you abandon the marital home in a divorce case, you lose it. 

Martin, by the way, co-wrote the movie Twister with Crichton. Before becoming a writer, she was an actress, most notably on the NBC soap Days of Our Lives

The 59-year-old Crichton counts among his ex-wives Suzanne Childs, the talented and popular spokeswoman for Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti during the heady days of Menendez, Rodney King and O.J. Simpson

Cashbox Sings for Lord Of The Rings 

New Line Cinema honchos Michael Lynne and Steve Abramson — along with about 25 or 30 more New Line/Fine Line staffers — took over Elaine's on the Upper East Side last night waiting for box office results on Lord of the Rings

They were not disappointed. The $120 million fantasy adventure sold out all its shows last night on about 5,000 screens nationwide. In New York, some theatres added shows where there hadn't been enough. 

They plugged in a laptop at the back of Elaine's eatery and started checking theatres from around the country. At 1 a.m. they were still at it, and for all I know they're still tapping away on the computer keyboard. 

Oscar Buzz and Hype Continues: Don't Believe a Word of It 

I'm reading some strange things about the Oscars, and it's all kind of weird and nutty. Talk about manipulation of the buzz! Yikes! 

The strangest category by far is Best Actor, where publicists are working overtime and not getting very far. Sean Penn for Best Actor in I Am Sam? I don't think so, but check back with me in February. Kevin Spacey in Shipping News? His publicist told me at the movie's premiere, "Kevin is not campaigning for an Oscar, and doesn't care about getting an Oscar." So much for that. I doubt he would have been nominated anyway. 

So what will happen when all the hype shakes out? The only definite nominee is Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind. But Russ just won last year for Gladiator, so the Academy may want to bestow its honor on someone else. 

Other possible candidates — I mean real candidates, not just manufactured nonsense — include the much-honored Tom Wilkinson from In the Bedroom; Denzel Washington for his great performance in Training Day; Guy Pearce in Memento and Gene Hackman as the sly con-man patriarch of Royal Tenenbaums. Outside shots: Will Smith, as Muhammed Ali in Ali, a movie without too much of a consensus; and Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball, a movie too dark for most Academy voters.

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