It's your big night out and you can't find a babysitter. Well, it seems movie stars can't, either.
Julianne Moore, who stars in The Hours and has two small children (including a four-month-old), couldn't arrange for help on Sunday night. So she left her sorta, kinda husband Bart Freundlich at home with the kids so she could do the press line for The Hours, then skipped the premiere after-party.
She has obviously not read the Hollywood manual for child rearing. Would Joan Crawford have done that?
But Julianne's co-stars Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, as well as Stephen Dillane, all showed up for the extraordinary Hours, as did director Stephen Daldry, screenwriter David Hare, author Michael Cunningham (who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel), costume designer Ann Roth and composer Philip Glass.
An expansive Scott Rudin, the producer, actually looked happy all night. And why not? For the first time in his long career, the adaptation of a literary novel has worked brilliantly. It's a tricky business, as he has learned.
The screening itself was packed with luminaries. In one row, if you can imagine, sat in order: Mr. and Mrs. Rupert Murdoch, followed by the rapper Q-Tip, Kidman and then Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone with his lady friend.
Elsewhere were Harvey and Eve Weinstein, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, Paramount's Sherry Lansing and some literary bigshots: Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt and William J. Kennedy (Ironweed) with their wives.
Need more names? Before the night was over, we ran into Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, Marcia Gay Harden, Parker Posey, Joe Grifasi, Claire Danes, John C. Reilly (a sure Oscar nominee for Chicago, by the way), Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott (grooving on awards and great notices in Roger Dodger) and Patricia Clarkson (winner of the New York Film Critics supporting actress prize in Far From Heaven), Jeff Daniels, Sophie Dahl, Michele Lee, ABC's Joel Siegel, Ian Holm, photographer Bruce Weber, Christine Baranski, Phyllis George, Julian Schnabel, Jack Black, the effervescent Caroline Rhea, legendary actress Rosemary Harris, director Kimberly Peirce, Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon, Cherry Jones, Salman Rushdie, George Plimpton, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Rudnick and CNBC Wall Street babe Maria Bartiromo.
(I also had the pleasure of meeting Meryl Streep's sister-in-law, Maeve Kinkead, the very fine actress who starred on Guiding Light for 20 years as Vanessa Chamberlain. Kinkead, who has an elegant forbearance and a great mane of silver hair, told me that she'd consider returning to the soap now after a break. Someone at CBS had better call her today!)
Paramount, which rarely premieres movies in New York, really pulled off a spectacular Oscar-like night in the Big Apple. I hope this encourages them to do more.
And what about The Hours anyway? Liz Smith loved this movie to pieces. Let me tell you what I think: It's terrific. Maybe not the best movie I've ever seen, but very affecting, wonderfully acted and put together and, in the end, quite sad.
Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep are each guaranteed Best Actress nods (Julianne will get hers for Far From Heaven). Ed Harris is also quite good as the pivotal character of Richard, the poet with AIDS who's supposed to be feted. Also, David Hare will likely be cited for best adapted screenplay.
I will say this about the acting: Streep is so good you can't touch her. She's amazing. But we all knew that, didn't we?
The real surprise continues to be Kidman, who has blossomed over the last three years in the most unexpected ways. Her portrayal of Virginia Woolf is riveting. I have a feeling that she's on her way, at last, to an Oscar. She's also the kind of star Hollywood hasn't had in a long time.
After she'd de-limo'd in front of the theatre, Kidman suddenly took her whole entourage of publicists and security and crossed the street to meet fans and shake hands. She is turning into the Itzhak Perlman of actresses, giving heartfelt virtuoso performances wherever she goes. And those, my friends, always end with standing ovations.
Whitney Houston's got trouble in the sales department abroad. Her Just Whitney is already off the British charts after one week. The album was released there on Nov. 25 and hit the charts the following week at No. 76. Now it's gone, which is very alarming indeed.
Here in the US, Hitsdailydouble is still counting the album sales for last week. Final numbers should put Whitney at around No. 12 with around 190,000 copies sold. According to the charts at Radio and Records, which measures airplay, no American radio stations are playing any tracks from the album in any significant numbers.
All I can say is, "Holy smokes, Batman!" Houston has $20 million of Arista's money in her bank account, an advance against sales. If the situation doesn't turn around, Arista could try and bargain their way out of the deal they made with her — $80 million left to go. It's happened before. Ask Mariah Carey.
What can Houston do? If she cares, that is. Get herself onto Leno, Letterman, Oprah, Caroline Rhea, etc. Arrive on time, eliminate all shenanigans. Sing, sing, sing. Go to major radio outlets and meet the programmers, do on-air interviews. Act responsibly.
Whatever she does, this is not the time to disappear, unless it's into a rehab program. That's something the world will forgive her for.
I would tell you about Spike Lee's 25th Hour and its premiere last night, but alas, I cannot.
Disney, citing my poor treatment of their last feature, Sweet Home Alabama, barred me from the premiere. A publicist for the studio actually said to me, "We let you in our house and you trashed it, so we're not letting you in again."
The premiere for Sweet Home Alabama, one of the worst formula movies I've ever seen, was a disaster. Star Reese Witherspoon came into the party with her coat on, gave a couple of terse, predigested answers to questions, used publicists to block access to her, and then left.
All the while, her husband, Ryan Phillippe, stayed outside and smoked. I reported all this in this column because there was nothing else to do.
So now, no 25th Hour. Too bad. I've heard that it's not Oscar material, but that it's been liked at advance screenings. If Disney, which is desperate, had released it in September they might have gotten more attention.
But the truth is that Disney's Touchstone unit, which is supposed to release material for adults, hasn't had much luck of late. Except for Signs — a movie we raved about in this space — the company has had to rely on Sweet Home all year.
Their other releases were the sci-fi dragon thriller Reign of Fire, which I didn't see, and Bad Company, which I wish I hadn't seen. Bad Company, with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock, was — like Alabama — macaroni and cheese from a box that's been in your cupboard for a couple of years. I've still got a lingering pain from it.
What's up with Disney and Touchstone, anyway? It's as if the latter does not exist, even though they've had production deals with Julia Roberts, Robin Williams and Nicolas Cage at various times.
Disney has never been comfortable making adult (I don't mean pornographic) films because there's always the chance that someone will say, "How can the famous children's-movie company endorse this?" Of course, their most famous release was Pretty Woman, in which Cinderella was a prostitute played by Julia Roberts.
What's going on at the "real" Disney should be of some concern, too. When Jeffrey Katzenberg left in 1995 to start DreamWorks, he took most of the animation department with him.
Last year, DreamWorks' Shrek bested Disney's Monsters, Inc., and it wasn't the first time his new company got the best of his former employer. Lately, Disney animation has taken a hit from the flop Treasure Planet.
Also, there was last year's The Emperor's New Groove debacle. The movie started out as something else — Kingdom of the Sun, with songs by Sting — but his songs were axed and the project completely changed.
I'm sure that experience, recorded in Trudie Styler's documentary, has put other pop singer-songwriters off the idea of doing their own animated score.
So let's all check out 25th Hour when it hits theatres. Spike Lee is an important voice in cinema and should not be ignored. Also, Edward Norton is a terrific actor, as well as a writer (he re-wrote Frida even though he didn't get screen credit). And let's hope Disney's house is safe to go into again sometime soon.