Wolvervine is about to sing his song. Or will it be baying at the moon?
Aussie star Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine the X-Men movies, is getting ready to cut an album. Like a pop album, man.
Jackman started out as a musical star Down Under and is currently preparing to hit Broadway in a musical based on the life of the late Peter Allen. (That was Liza Minnelli's second gay husband, I believe.)
But Jackman is also toying with the idea of making a pop album and becoming the male equivalent of, I don't know, Jennifer Lopez (as in cross over star). I am told he's been working with famed producer Phil Ramone, the same man who gave us the biggest hits by Paul Simon, Billy Joel and nine out of 10 other pop stars of our time. Ramone is currently on the charts with Rod Stewart's comeback album.
Meanwhile, Britney Spears is starting to lay down tracks for her new album at Sony Studios here in New York. Spears, who I thought (and hoped and prayed) was taking a career break, is nevertheless back in action and looking for a new sound.
And that sound will come from Rodney Jerkins, the still youngish producer who made his mark with Whitney Houston and then with Michael Jackson. "Britney is looking for street cred," says an observer, "and she thinks Rodney can give it to her."
It's unclear whether or not Britney now knows who Yoko Ono is; she didn't, if you recall, last winter. I guess the proof will be if Yoko turns up on the new Spears album.
Last night New Yorkers proved nothing can stop them from going to a movie premiere, even a blizzard. Despite the bitter cold, slush and puddles, all the usual suspects turned up to help celebrate the release of the wonderful Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.
Director Peter Jackson was joined by stars Elijah Wood, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd and many more. Only Viggo (rhymes with ego) Mortensen failed to show, and Sir Ian McKellen was absent for unknown reasons. Rhys-Davies, though, managed to make it on crutches. He told me a wall fell on him during a film shoot in Croatia.
Susan Sarandon brought her son; Bob Balaban brought his wife, writer Lynn Grossman; Yoko Ono came with son Sean Lennon and his girlfriend Bijou Phillips (the daughter of the late John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas). Lennon and Phillips, heirs to rock 'n' roll dynasty, had their picture taken with another rocker heiress, Liv Tyler (whose parents are Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and author Bebe Buell). The audience at the Ziefgeld Theatre clapped, laughed and yelped with glee as the second episode of the trilogy unfurled. This is a big, big hit -- bigger even than the first one, which grossed a billion dollars worldwide.
So what about Part III, which is supposed to come next Christmas? I can tell you a couple of things: Jackson is exhausted from Parts I and II, and in particular bringing the whole cast back last June to shoot new bits for the latter. He will do the same this May, when he brings them all back again so he can tidy up Part III. And Part III needs it, too. Even Jackson says he hasn't looked at the film assemblage yet so he has no idea what needs to be done. And something will need to be done, since Sam's great speech at the end of Part II was among those new parts recorded last summer.
"There was such a concentration on making Part I great, that Peter spent all his time doing that," said one cast member. "We figured if it was a hit, then New Line would give us the extra money to make Parts II and III great. It was smart thinking on Peter's part."
I met the movie's co-writer Philippa Boyens, who was charming. She told me she, like Jackson and New Line's Mark Ordesky lived and breathed the story of Frodo. But even though she wrote most of the movie, "and it was an incredible headache since they were all together," one of the best lines came from Jackson himself. The line: "Many of these trees were my friends," is genius, I think and works, like so much of the movie on different levels.
So we are now awash in the riches of the holiday season, with more great films being released in a two-week period than in the last two years. The Two Towers will find its greatest awards adversary in Gangs of New York, but there are other terrific movies coming too. We'll talk about them more next week.
When I saw Julie Taymor's Frida this fall, I thought it would be a hit and get good notices. Luckily I was right, although some critics were lukewarm about it. Now Frida did get a nod from the National Board of Review (take that for what you will). It's also made an astonishing $15 million in five weeks of release, and continues to find new audiences. It also has a very high per screen percentage, which means theatres are full when they play it. Is it a Best Picture nominee? Probably not. But stars Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina are most definitely candidates, and so are the set design and remarkable score by Elliot Goldenthal. This is a good weekend to see Frida before the really big releases come rolling in. (You can also the very clever Adaptation in some areas beginning today.)
Whoops! Did I forget John C. Reilly in Chicago, Paul Newman and Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition, Robin Williams in Insomnia? Yes! So let's correct those errors. Whoops is right. There are so many supporting actors of note this year it really will be a dogfight to see which ones make the final 5 on Feb. 11th. In the end, it's all going to be about momentum from other categories: If a film gets a lot of other categories, it's going to sweep along the supporting ones as well. This happened last year with Denzel Washington, whose success in Training Day carried his talented co-star Ethan Hawke to his first nomination. I do think that Reilly is a shoo-in, however; his rendition of "Mr. Cellophane" in Chicago is just what Academy voters love to acknowledge.
And what of our little friends at the National Board of Geezers? What did they forget? Namely: Auto Focus which has all but disappeared and Insomnia and Catch Me If You Can and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Instead they went for Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (huh?).
The board, like the Hollywood Foreign Press (aka Golden Globes), still has meals with their screenings and little meetings with the stars. It's so high school, or should I say senior center. There is still no acknowledgement in National Board of Review advertising that they are not critics, but fans who pay stiff membership fees to play movie critic. And according to my sources, the Gang of Three still runs the show, like Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer. Christopher Hitchens was right -- Orwell does matter, even in screening rooms.