Martin Scorsese's long awaited epic film, Gangs of New York, is almost ready for release.
The almost is a caveat because the Daniel Day-Lewis/Leonardo DiCaprio/Cameron Diaz feature was scheduled for last Christmas, then got pushed to July. Now it's turned out to be so good that the Gangs will enter next year's Oscar race with a fall release. (Yes, we're already talking about next year's Oscars.)
An autumn release will push it away from the July release of Sam Mendes's Road to Perdition, from DreamWorks. Sources at both studios tell me that this change is preferable rather than have a DreamWorks vs. Miramax showdown this summer on the same Friday.
So what's the story with Gangs? Originally assembled at an unwieldy length of four hours, I am now told that the current version clocks in "somewhere around two and half hours." That would make it shorter than Magnolia, The Hurricane, The Insider, Ali, Lord of the Rings and several other recent big deal releases.
Scorsese is said to have done masterful work with his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker trimming and cutting Gangs to a length acceptable to him and to audiences. According to one person who was in on the massive editing project,"Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing and brilliant and will be winning all the awards next year."
The same source says that Scorsese has solved some of the problems by having DiCaprio lay in a narration voice-over that guides the audience through the story. This would be something like Ray Liotta's narration over the complex story of GoodFellas, now considered a modern classic.
Oprah Winfrey is here in Hollywood. I ran into her yesterday afternoon at the Four Seasons Hotel, where she was having an iced tea with the head of her Harpo Films production company.
"I'm here to support Halle Berry," Winfrey told me, and said that she'd taped a few episodes of her daytime talk show in advance so she'd be able to come out from Chicago for the Academy Awards.
"Halle deserves to win. I wanted to see her make history," Oprah told me. Of course, Berry — winner of the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actress from Monster's Ball — has a very good chance of grabbing the Best Actress Oscar. She'd be the first ever African American woman to do so.
I don't get a chance to talk about Oprah in this column much, but since I do now, I must confess: I am a huge Oprah fan. She has pretty much abandoned the Sally Jessy-Maury-Ricki-Jenny Jones-Jerry Springer crap that has infected so-called talk shows. Oprah mostly presents serious subjects, and is the only regular mainstream media person who still discusses books. "The ratings are not so good for those shows," she conceded. "And it doesn't matter. I don't care."
Well, bravo for her. By the way, Winfrey looks great with a capital "G" in person. I knew her through mutual friends back around 1986 when she was quite heavy. She's worked and struggled to remake herself physically — without benefit of faux cures — and deserves much praise for inspiring other people to do so too.
Last night a couple hundred or so A-listers crowded into Larry Gagosian's Beverly Hills art gallery to salute artist/director Julian Schnabel. I'm telling you: if it weren't for all the New Yorkers in this town right now, I don't know if there'd be a nightlife!
Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Robert Forster, Marisa Tomei and boyfriend/playwright Frank Pugliese, Claire Forlani, Chloe Sevigny, Rachel Griffiths, and Elton John with boyfriend David Furnish, and the gorgeous, talented Marisa Berenson were just some of the folks who came to admire Schnabel's four wall size paintings called, "Big Girl Paintings."
Schnabel, who directed the movies Before Night Falls and Basquiat, missed painting and wanted to get back to his primary art form. The canvasses were simply terrific at between seven and 13 feet high, a real success, and had the whole room buzzing.
A couple of other names also got the Schnabel party buzzing as it headed for Mr. Chow's restaurant. Dani Janssen, widow of actor David Janssen and hostess of the annual hottest "insider" Oscar party in Hollywood, made a rare cameo appearance. Dani almost never leaves home during Oscar week because she's cooking her famous monkey bread and fried chicken that she serves to the likes of Penny Marshall, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and other Oscar nominees and winners. Dani is Hollywood's unofficial royalty, and quite a looker besides! She has a quite story to tell one day, too. She and her first husband, Buddy Greco, were part of the Rat Pack with Frank, Dean, and Sammy.
Were they a couple? Designer Donna Karan, recently widowed, was kinda, sorta holding hands and hanging very close with Richard Baskin at the Schnabel event. Baskin of course is the heir to the Baskin Robbins Ice Cream fortune, and — years ago — the boyfriend of Karan's best friend Barbra Streisand. (This was years and years before the two women knew each other, I believe.) The main obstacle to this relationship, I guess, would be the ice cream. Donna will not be able to fit into her famous creations if she's going to have 31 flavors in her house!
Finally, an endnote: after eight years, my pal Robin Jonas has exited her post in the Miramax publicity department for greener pastures. Miramax, like all media companies this year, just went through a downsizing that eliminated a lot of positions. No worry about Robin, though. Recently when I was in London the head of a record company who'd worked on a project with London was singing her praises. The stars love her, and she's certain to land at another studio soon. But gosh, Robin, take a week off before jumping back in again!