When Rosie O'Donnell retires from the talk show game on May 23, it will not be the last we hear from her.
A subdued Rosie told me last night at the combination anniversary party for her successful magazine and book party for her just released memoir, Find Me, that she will not go gently into that good night.
"I've got so many ways that I want to express myself creatively," she said. "First I'm directing a movie from a script I wrote based on a novel. My agent showed the script to Showtime and they said 'Yes' in less than a day."
The novel is America, by E.R. Frank, a highly praised story for young adults about a teenage boy who drifts from foster care to a park bench to a juvenile detention facility, eventually landing in a mental hospital. Rosie will begin production in the fall.
So begins a new chapter in Rosie O’Donnell's remarkable life. She is also taking photographs, some of which were on display last night at the International Center for Photography, where her celebration occurred. Among Rosie's guests: Roberta Flack, Macy Gray, Luther Vandross, and Patti LaBelle, all of whom performed for the invited audience. Phil Donahue was also among the well wishers (his wife, Marlo Thomas, is Rosie's guest today), as was Rosie's successor, Caroline Rhea, and Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon and Mary Tyler Moore and singer Michael Bolton. Rhea, one of my favorite people around town, starts the new show in September.
Rosie is not sorry to be wrapping up her show after all this time. "I felt like there was nothing left to do creatively," she told me. But Rosie has no reason to feel anything but proud of her accomplishments. In five years of daily chatting she comported herself with grace, enthusiasm, and charm. Even if you disagreed with her politics, you knew her heart was in the right place. She was never vulgar or coarse. She introduced the expression "cutie patootie" into the American lexicon. She made it okay to be fat, and okay to fail at a diet. For those two things alone, we should thank her!
After much back and forth, sources tell me a cast is starting to form for director Fred Schepisi's film version of Steve Martin's play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Set in 1904, the play imagines what would have happened if a 23-year-old Picasso met a similarly young Albert Einstein in the café called the Lapin Agile (jumping rabbit) and fought for the same young woman's attention.
From time to time different actors' names have been bandied about. But if all goes according to plan,. Martin will co-star with his pal, Kevin Kline and an all-star group that includes Emily Watson.
Also rumored to be jumping aboard are Ryan Phillippe, who would play Picasso, and Phillippe's real life wife, Reese Witherspoon, as Picasso's girlfriend.
Producers Cast Change a Surprise
The big news on Broadway yesterday was the firing of British actor Henry Goodman, who'd replaced Nathan Lane in the mega hit The Producers. Goodman's replacement is Tony winner Brad Oscar, who already stars in the award winning show as Franz Liebkind, the Nazi author of the show's fictitious play, Springtime for Hitler.
But Oscar found out just like everyone else: right after the Sunday matinee at the St. James Theatre. Another cast member told me last night that Oscar was so shocked he was calling his family and opening bottles of champagne. "He had no idea they were going to do this," said my spy. Oscar's own understudy will step into his role tonight, but no one knows if that's permanent. "If they don't hire him, he'll quit," said my source. "He's that good."
All the roles in The Producers, with the exception of the two main ones, are still being played by the original Tony award-winning actors.
So what happened? Goodman just wasn't jelling in the role of hapless, Machiavellian Broadway producer Max Bialystock. And with the Broadway box office suffering in general from 9/11 and the economy, the producers of The Producers wanted to make sure their gold standard was shining. Word of mouth on Goodman was not the best.
On the other hand, actor Steven Weber — known best from the sitcom Wings — seems to be a hit as Leo Bloom, the part originated on stage by Matthew Broderick. My source said, "Steven really gets it, and people are enjoying him."
Last week, I told you that rap impresario Irv Gotti confirmed that Tommy Mottola had lifted at least two concepts by Mariah Carey from her Glitter project before it was released and had handed them to Jennifer Lopez.
Now it seems that Gotti's protégé, rapper Ja Rule, who made first Mariah's record and then a copycat recording for Lopez, confirms what Gotti said.
In audio clip that can be heard at www.z100.com
Ja Rule — who re-recorded Carey's "If We" as Lopez remixed "I'm Real" — tells the radio station: "I got a call from J. Lo and them, they heard the record that I did for her (Mariah) somehow, and they thought the record was like incredible. So they called me and said, 'We want you to do a record for J. Lo's new single, 'I'm Real,' but we need it now. Like right now. We're shooting the video Saturday.' It was like Thursday, I got the call. So they bring the record over, and drop it off. Like with no instructions, like, 'Do what you want Ja.' And that was the whole awkward thing about it, like, 'What do you mean? Do what I want.' I was like, 'I've never wrote a whole R&B record,' and it just shocked me. And he was like, 'Yeah, do what you want with it.'"
The Ja Rule interview is now being featured on the Z100 site, which is interesting because in the past the station — owned by Clear Channel Communications — would never have taken on the head of a record company in such a way. But it seems like evidence is starting to seep out that Mottola really did orchestrate the undermining of Carey's career. As I also reported earlier, when Carey discovered what had happened it gave her the leverage to take Glitter away from Sony even though she had two albums left on her contract.
Fox411 is taking Wednesday off for mental maintenance and maybe even a full night's sleep. See you again on Thursday.