Lance Bass, my favorite member of 'N Sync, is getting ready to be a spaceman. (Maybe someone should turn him on to the famous Harry Nilsson song.)
Lance is in New York this week, and when I saw him last night at the premiere of The Sweetest Thing, he talked to me about his plans to fly into outer space this fall with Russia. As has been reported widely, Lance visited the Russian space program and volunteered to be the youngest non-pro to go up, up and away. Russia has accepted his offer. Their next flight is on Nov. 4.
"I've passed all the physical tests," Lance told me. "I did everything they needed, they took all the blood and now we go into heavy training."
The project will not go undocumented. Lance says he's negotiating with a major network to help him produce a film about his experiences. The deal should be done shortly.
So how will this all work? For one thing, Lance has to learn Russian. "I'm going up with a Russian and a Belgian," he said. "Right now I'm working with translators, but up there I'll have to be able to speak Russian."
No, he's not kidding. He's already taking intensive Russian lessons.
"It was always my dream to be an astronaut, and now I'm going to do it," he said. He is earnest, and completely invested emotionally in this project. This is not a publicity stunt.
How this will affect 'N Sync's next tour and album is unclear, but since Justin Timberlake is cutting a solo album, Lance will have some time to himself. And what of Justin and Britney Spears, and their famous breakup, I asked Lance?
"She came on the road with us right after the Grammy's and they were bickering all the time. They're still bickering," Lance said, "and they're not completely broken up."
No word on whether or not Britney's ignorance of Yoko Ono or Linda McCartney had anything to do with it.
I did like a pair of young women from Britney's extended posse whom I was introduced to last night. When I asked them who actually sang Britney's songs onstage, one of them wittily replied: "She's a performer, OK? It's a different thing."
See what you can learn?
OK, so it's not Annie Hall. Or Airplane. Or There's Something About Mary.
In fact The Sweetest Thing, which should be renamed The Dumbest Thing, is a combo platter of Mary and Sex and the City. It is atrociously awful, vulgar without redemption, coarse, and often not even amusing.
But I'd be lying if I said no one liked it. "You have to be in the mood for it," said a friend of mine.
The movie, and I use that term loosely, was directed by Roger Kumble, whose father ran the infamous mega New York law firm Finley Kumble before its fiery demise in the 1990s. (Wags called it Finley Krumble.) So if this guy needs a lawyer, he'll know who to call.
It's not that the direction is terrible. Kumble gets Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair to go where no one has gone before. There are plenty of gross-out, disgusto jokes: One girl gets smacked in the eye with a penis, a dry cleaner is made to lick dried sperm from a dress and Diaz — pushing hard now to become the Lucille Ball of the wacko set — gets to play with her breasts.
Diaz also got a reported $15 million for this 80-minute calamity, so listen, she's laughing all the way to the bank. She doesn't care whether or not reviewers like this Thing, or dismiss it.
The $15 million should do a lot to make her feel better about being ripped off by money manager Dana Giacchetto last year. Diaz declined, nicely, to talk to me about Giacchetto, who's currently in prison. She did say she's seen Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, and "it's incredible," she reports. She meant it in a good way.
As for Thing, if you must go, listen for not one but two Diane Warren songs that are made fun of — "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and "How Do I Live." Otherwise the pleasures are few and far between. It will probably be a huge hit when it opens this weekend.
How crazy was that cover story in the Sunday edition of The New York Times about Gangs of New York? If only the reporter or the editor had read this column a couple of weeks ago, they'd have known that the Martin Scorsese epic was finished, clocked in at two hours and forty minutes, and despite the many artistic and commercial debates about its length, the movie is considered a success among all its producers.
Unlike with Titanic, which was being fiddled with right up to its November release date, Gangs is now done. There shouldn't be too much gossip about it until it actually opens in December. A 20-minute excerpt will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival — something else I reported two weeks ago — and that should calm everyone down. Anyone who reads this column will also recall that I reported in October that Scorsese used some of his extra footage in the short film he made for The Concert for New York. That footage was gorgeous and compelling — I think it may be on the concert DVD, in fact.