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Denzel Praises Gwyneth's Dad

Denzel Washington |  Martha Stewart | South Park Pinocchio

Denzel Praises Gwyneth's Dad

Oscar-winner Denzel Washington had nothing but praise last night for his old friend, Bruce Paltrow.

Paltrow, the director/writer/producer who was also the father of Gwyneth and Jake, and husband of actress Blythe Danner, succumbed to cancer two weeks ago.

But Washington, who was in New York for the GQ Awards, couldn't get over that Paltrow was gone.

"He was my producer on St. Elsewhere, and he is responsible for letting my movie career start," Washington recalled. "He let me out to do movies. I would come back to the show, but he was very good about letting me go do other projects."

Washington told me that without Paltrow's encouragement he would not have been able to make either A Soldier's Story or Cry Freedom, the mid-1980s films that established him in the business. Three years later, in 1989, he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Glory.

Paltrow's death definitely moved him. "He was a sweet guy," Denzel said.

I suppose the same could be said for Washington. He brought a table of people from his new movie, Antwone Fisher, to the elegant GQ Awards. (The proceedings were taped for NBC.) This is the movie about a man with a tortuous childhood who finally finds his way with the help of a psychiatrist. The real Antwone Fisher wrote the script that became the movie about his life. He was there last night, sitting alongside the actor who plays him in the film (Derek Luke) and the actress who is his onscreen girlfriend (the absolutely stunning Joy Bryant).

When Washington met Fisher, he was a security guard on the Sony lot. The latter told the former his story, and with the help of producer Todd Black, they worked for nine years to bring the movie to fruition. When Black looked for an unknown to play the title role, he found Luke working in the Sony gift shop.

I mean, it's a story for Hedda Hopper!

Now, Washington has directed his first feature, and the advance buzz is off the charts. Luke -- who's already picked up two new jobs as a result of Fisher -- is 28, married and about to become the most talked about breakthrough star in Hollywood. Bryant, a model with few acting credits, is so uncommonly beautiful that we should soon be seeing her in every magazine (with the exception, of course, of Vanity Fair).

The whole Antwone Fisher gang is headed to the Oscars, captained by the inimitable Denzel. Stay tuned...

Martha Stewart May Be In Good Company

Everyone wants to know who the two unnamed people were who got tipped off in the Sam Waksal/Martha Stewart case?

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Michael Schacter referred to two more people that ImClone founder Sam Waksal might have warned in advance of his company's financial problems. One of these people made $30 million by knowing that the FDA was not going to approve Waksal's cancer drug Erbitux -- and sold the stock in advance of the notice.

The other insider made $600,000.

Now Waksal-watchers are wondering who the people are, and if their names will ever surface. In court they were identified as "good friends."

Yesterday these so-called experts zeroed in on some likely suspects. Among them: New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman; Planet Hollywood founder Keith Barish and, most likely, financier Carl Icahn. It was Icahn who tried to bail ImClone out earlier this year. He is said to be the odds on favorite for the $30 million man.

Zuckerman, who attended Waksal's Christmas party last December and invited him to spend Christmas with him in Aspen before the scandal broke, has kept his distance so far from the story. Before this column called the Daily News back on June 11, the paper barely even mentioned ImClone or Stewart in its coverage. At the time, the business editor told me he didn't think ImClone was much of a story. The next day the Daily News ran a front page four color of Stewart. Since then, their coverage has dwarfed that of all other local papers.

Barish, according to his friends, "didn't think Sam knew what he was doing" and had no stock. That's the same line used by many, although Waksal's sometime date, Patricia Duff Medavoy Perelman, is said to have lost perhaps millions on ImClone stock because Waksal didn't bother to call her when he got the advance bad news. It was Duff, who's also dated Zuckerman and former New Jersey Senator Bob Torricelli, whose name was on Waksal's call logs last December 27. She was inviting him to lunch with her and her toddler daughter.

South Park Creators Pull the Strings

South Park's madcap creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have signed to do their next movie.

I must confess, when Matt told me about it the other night, I was thrilled.

"It's going to be marionettes," he said. In fact, the Paramount feature will be an ode to the great work of British puppeteer and filmmaker Gerry Anderson, the brilliant inventor of Thunderbirds, Fireball XL-5 and Supercar in the early sixties.

"The only difference of course is that it's going to be R-rated, very over the top, and no holds barred," Matt said.

Coincidentally, Stone figures in a current release right now, Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. As it happens, Stone is from Littleton, Colorado.

"When we were watching everything on TV, there was one kid who ran back into the school. Of course, he was wearing a South Park T-shirt. It used to be I had to explain where I was from. Now when you say Littleton, everyone knows."

Stone is basically a fan of Moore's and likes the movie, but has problems with "the last 20 minutes."

"I thought he ruined his argument that it wasn't about guns by going to Kmart and getting the bullets taken off the shelves," he said. "I also didn't like the visit with Charlton Heston. It's hard to make Heston look sympathetic, but Moore did it. You can't help but think this is an 80-year-old man with Alzheimer's. And he looked so frail."

Pinocchio Gets His Queen

Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni's update of Pinocchio, already a smash hit in Italy, will be dubbed into English for American release.

And the first two actors who've signed up are Queen Latifah and King of Queens star Kevin James.

Miramax is planning to dub all the voices, with the exception of Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi, the director's wife and an Oscar nominee for Life is Beautiful.

The movie, which looks like it's going to be aimed at the children's market here, broke box office records in Italy when it opened last week.

Latifah, sources say, will be cast as the narrator. Other actors are being cast now. Expect other actors from the Miramax extended family to be drafted for the project.

The recordings, according to insiders, should take no more than a couple of weeks. Pinocchio opens here in December.