Leo, Cameron and Stars Gang Up in New York
Last night's premiere of Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York was so hotly anticipated that there was not an empty seat anywhere in the Ziegfeld Theatre. In fact, people stood for the movie's full two and a half hours, or sat on the stairs to the balcony when they couldn't find seats.
Among those who nearly gave up before locating single seats were actors Roy Scheider and Peter Gallagher. I mean, it was that crowded with stars and Hollywood insiders.
Directors Sidney Lumet, Barry Sonnenfeld and James Toback were scattered in there along with Stanley Tucci, Harvey Keitel, Tim Robbins, Harry Evans and Tina Brown, Regis and Joy Philbin with Michael and Laurie (Hibberd) Gelman, and actresses Sylvia Miles and Celia Weston.
But certainly the biggest draw of the evening — besides the cast and director — were Nicole Kidman and director Baz Luhrmann, who came with Nic and his wife, Catherine Martin.
Nicole — who will be up for Best Actress as Virginia Woolf in The Hours — was just in from Romania. She's been shooting Cold Mountain there with Anthony Minghella, but showed no sign of weariness.
Looking dazzling in a black catsuit, she posed for pictures and chatted with everyone. And she, like the audience, loved the movie. (Gangs, like the documentary I co-produced, is distributed by Miramax.)
The cast of Gangs and their associates made The Sopranos look like a small ensemble. Scorsese came with his wife Helen, Daniel Day-Lewis — the film's certain Best Actor nominee and probable winner — brought along his wife, Rebecca Miller, and Rebecca's legendary playwright father Arthur Miller.
Leonardo DiCaprio had friends and family with him, but no girlfriend (sorry, no gossip there). Other members of the Gangs ensemble included Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Liam Neeson (with his wife, Natasha Richardson, who really posed for the paparazzi), Henry Thomas, and Cameron Diaz in a hot-pink hat.
U2's Bono and The Edge also put in an appearance, and played an acoustic version of their theme song from Gangs — The Hands That Built New York — at the post-party held at the New York Public Library.
They did not seem to have any contact with model Naomi Campbell, who was once engaged to The Edge, or Naomi's date for the evening, Roc-A-Fella Records chief Damon Dash. Somewhere in there I spotted Jimmy Fallon and Billy Joel as well director Joel Coen.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the evening, industry-wise, was Hollywood former superpower Michael Ovitz getting along with former partner Rick Yorn, who is now in business with current superagent Jeff Kwatinetz. All three were there, the latter with a new short haircut.
Ovitz helped put Gangs together and represented Scorsese, Diaz, and DiCaprio at the time, and gets an executive-producer credit on the film. He and Yorn, especially, made an effort to show a united front. Ovitz's pleasant demeanor and healthy appearance only showed that in Hollywood you can never count anyone out — and certainly not him. He will be back.
I will tell you that the audience cheered — whooped, too — at the end of Gangs, and while some found it violent, nearly everyone I spoke to seemed to feel that many Oscar nominations are coming its way.
Especially cited was Daniel Day-Lewis, who as usual transforms himself so fully into his character that you can't see the actor anymore. I asked his wife if he brought Bill the Butcher home with him during the 10-month shoot — Day-Lewis is famous for staying in character for the duration of a film.
Said Miller, herself a writer/director/actress (Personal Velocity): "I'm not at liberty to say. There are some things you'll never know." But I was under the impression Miller does not allow that sort of thing at home, especially with young children in the house.
As for Leo, he told me he was particularly proud of his work on Gangs, although he's also accepting kudos for Catch Me If You Can. He was busy finding his own camera to take pictures with for souvenirs and was happy to meet the 10-year-old Irish boy who plays his character in the beginning of the movie.
After a while, though, DiCaprio took his posse of pals and repaired to the highest floor of the library to have a private party while the other actors remained below. Said his security guard: "He's scared of the photographers who are down here." He needn't have been.
More tomorrow from this big premiere, and this epic, classic movie which opens December 20th against another wonderful blockbuster, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
The Whitney Houston story becomes a reality today as Just Whitney goes on sale in record stores.
Will it be a hit? Does it matter? You bet. My sources tell quite definitely that Whitney received a $20 million check last year from Arista Records as an advance on her $100 million deal. Since then, Arista has issued her even more checks, meaning all of this fortune was advance based on projected sales of Just Whitney.
Talk about pressure. Houston is now in the position of having to debut at No. 1 next week and sell about 5 million albums domestically in order to make this deal pay off in any way for Arista and the company's prez, L.A. Reid.
On top of that, I learned over the weekend that Reid rejected an album's worth of songs that Houston recorded in addition to the 10 that made it onto the final track listing for Just Whitney.
Ironically, two of the ten are personally published by Reid's Hitco Music Publishing, which means he shares in the profits of the songs themselves in addition to being president of Arista.
"Whitney recorded a whole other album that L.A. Reid rejected," said my source, and similar sentiments were echoed by other sources I spoke to today. Considering that Just Whitney is lacking in Houston's trademark big ballads, one can only wonder what's going on here.
"I think it's all about L.A. vs. Clive Davis," said one source. "He wants to make her in his own image and get Whitney away from what Clive did with her. He wants to make her sound more ghetto."
We're watching the sales of Mariah Carey's new album, Charmbracelet, very carefully. Her last album, Glitter, was a bust. It was also sabotaged by people at her old label. The cards were stacked against her.
With about half the record stores counted, Hitsdailydouble.com put Carey at No. 1 last night. She'd sold about 150,000 albums so far, way ahead of Eminem, Shania Twain and Jennifer Lopez. If that trend keeps up, by this evening she could have almost 300,000 total in the hands of customers. In other words, she's baaaack.
Mariah did everything Whitney didn't — she understood her situation and listened to a crack team of specialists. On that team was Jerry Blair, the radio promotion guy who'd steered her to fame for 11 years at Columbia Records. Blair, like Carey, was pitched out of Columbia by the people in charge. Now they are having the last laugh. And it's a hearty one at that.