A lot of big name stars are unwittingly about to start raising money for Scientology, thanks to Michael Jackson.
At 3 p.m. PST Monday, Jackson is launching a worldwide Internet download of his charity single, “What More Can I Give?” For $2 a shot, Jackson fans will be able to hear this record, made two years ago but never released. The record features Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, members of 'N Sync, The Backstreet Boys and others.
But what fans — and the two dozen participating artists — probably don’t know is that proceeds from the single download are going, in part, to Scientology. Jackson has designated The HELP Organization, which uses study techniques developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, as one of the beneficiaries of his largesse.
The other charities Jackson will send “part” of these proceeds to include: Oneness, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and something called the International Child Art Foundation. Information about Jackson’s plans can be found at www.whatmorecanigive.com.
The Oneness Foundation is run by one of Jackson’s record producers, who also produced the Spanish language version of the single. Ironically, Oneness — a boutique operation — was supposed to benefit from the sales of tickets to Neverland last month, as was the Make a Wish Foundation. Neither group has yet to see any money from the Neverland open house event.
Scientology’s HELP — as well as Oneness, Mr. Hollands and ICAF — were not the designees when Jackson convinced people like Usher, Luther Vandross, Tom Petty, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, Beyonce Knowles and other superstars to participate in this recording two years ago. At the time, the stars thought they were participating in a fund raising event for families of the Sept. 11 tragedy. Now, however, “What More Can I Give?” will be collecting money for causes many of the stars may not have intended.
HELP, which stands for Hollywood Literacy and Education Program, is a subsidiary of the Church of Scientology. The copyright on the HELP Web site, which Jackson’s Web site is now linking to, states: “The Hollywood Education and Literacy Project is licensed by Applied Scholastics International to use the Study Technology of L. Ron Hubbard. Applied Scholastics is a trademark and service mark owned by the Association of Better Living and Education International and is used with its permission.”
The Association for Better Living is yet another Scientology offshoot, which, according to their Web site, adheres to the teachings of founder Hubbard, the late science fiction writer. Referred to as ABLE, the association is an umbrella name for Scientology’s different 12 step and learning programs.
Jackson was briefly married to a Scientologist, Lisa Marie Presley, in the late 1990s.
Calls to Jackson’s company, MJJ Productions, proved useless. An answering service operator said they were on vacation.
“Every actor says he wants to direct, but I’ve written a script.”
That was Sir Anthony Hopkins talking with me about the film script he wrote and wants to direct. We were at a dinner Thursday night for his new movie “The Human Stain.”
My dear colleague Liz Smith hosted said dinner at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, with guests like Dominick Dunne, actress Phyllis Newman with her beautiful lyricist daughter and her preternaturally young-looking husband, plus Gay and Nan Talese, Bob Balaban and wife Lynn Grossman, Foreign Affairs editor Jim Hoge, “Kramer vs. Kramer” author Avery Corman, and of course, the movie’s brilliant director, Robert Benton.
Hopkins has indeed written a script, which he’s named after the title character: Bonhoffer. “I couldn’t tell you what it’s about,” he said. “It’s quite odd.”
“I read and I loved it,” proclaimed his wife, Stella, to whom he’s been married since March 1 of this year.
“I’ve given it to Lakeshore Entertainment and they’re showing it to Miramax,” said Sir Anthony. “So we’ll see what they say.”
They may all say "yes" since “The Human Stain” is being distributed by Miramax, as is Hopkins’ next film, "Proof," based on the award-winning stage play.
“I never saw the play,” he told me. “I don’t see plays anymore. I don’t do anything. I’m lazy. I live in Malibu. My brain has turned to sand.”
Well, not quite. In “The Human Stain,” Hopkins dances with Gary Sinise in a very sweet, non-erotic (thank God) way. It turns out he’s never danced before on film.
“I don’t dance, period. In school, my teacher called me Motor Moron because I was so uncoordinated.”
I asked Stella about this. She concurred. “He doesn’t dance even with me.”
“I don’t do anything!” he laughed.
He does like to sit in his house in Malibu and listen to music. Opera? Classical? No. “Country and western,” he said. “I’m very eclectic.”
“The Human Stain” opens Friday. It’s by no means a perfect film, but it has so many wonderful elements that I will tell you more about them before then. Suffice to say, Nicole Kidman is back on the Oscar track, as are Anna Deavere Smith and a newcomer named Wentworth Miller, who’s about to be a big deal.
Steven Tyler is a father-in-law again! And to a rock musician again. (Remember the old adage about your children doing to you what you did your parents ....) His second eldest child, Mia, daughter of the late Cyrinda Foxe, got hitched Saturday night.
According to friends, the lovely Mia -- a model with a billboard up right now in Times Square -- married Papa Roach drummer Dave Buckner during Aerosmith's show in Las Vegas!
Reported -- where else -- on the Rock This Way Web site, Tyler told the audience at the MGM Grand: "Hey Vegas, I need a favor, my daughter wants to get married tonight. Can I get a witness? Can I get a witness?"
Mia is a year-and-a-half younger than her sister, Liv, the "Lord of the Rings" actress whose mother is Bebe Buell. Liv was married last spring to rocker Royston Langdon. Buell got married last year to rocker Jim Wallerstein. That makes three weddings in the extended family in 14 months. And who says rockers don't have normal lives?
My spies tell me that Broadway actor Raul Esparza’s snit the other day at rehearsals for “Taboo” was not so different than anything else they’ve ever seen.
Esparza apparently didn’t like something producer Rosie O’Donnell said about his costume toward the end of the Act I run-through. He said, abruptly, “Since when are costumes more important than people?”
O’Donnell, without missing a beat or losing her temper, replied: “Why don’t we discuss it later?”
Esparza promptly left and, according to my insiders, went home and took a bath. He returned for the evening show.
In “Taboo,” Esparza plays a narrator of the story of Boy George, and evidently does so very well. But the character is something of a self-indulgent fop given to criticizing everyone around him. The talented Esparza may have been too much in character when he exited the theater. The bath may have cooled him down. In any case, all of the “Taboo” cast will be on stage tomorrow night when previews begin.
The 11th annual Hamptons International Film Festival kicked off this weekend with lots of celebrities and not just a few film debuts.
But it was actor Campbell Scott who stole the show. The son of late legends George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst finally burst through last year as an actor in “Roger Dodger.” But now he’s directed his own feature film and it’s a beauty.
“Off the Map” is not Scott’s first directing job, technically. He co-directed the wonderful “Big Night” with Stanley Tucci. But “Off the Map” finds him on his own, with multi-Oscar nominee Joan Allen, veteran actor Sam Elliott, and “Oz” star J.K. Simmons as his stars. The film will be released in March 2004 by Manhattan Pictures, although there’s a good chance a pre-Oscar run this year could put Allen in the dodgy race for best actress.
The film is a character study of a family living over the edge of poverty in Taos, N.M., and how their lives are changed by a visit from an IRS auditor. (This is already funny considering they claim an annual income of $5,000 or less.) “Off the Map,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January, is exactly the kind of film that needs to be seen on tape or DVD by Academy voters if it’s to be eligible for anything. The Independent Spirit Awards should be looking at it, too.
What I still don’t know: Why is the main character named Charles Grodin? Is it after the actor/writer/raconteur? And why is a dead pet named Harry Dean Stanton?
The screening of “Off the Map” was simultaneous to the Saturday night showing of New Line Cinema’s “Elf.” Even though “Elf” is not really film festival material, New Line traditionally holds an annual dinner at Nick and Toni’s following a screening of one of its films on Saturday evening. And so they did, with a clutch of familiar faces in the crowd including Anna Deavere Smith (see above), former Variety publisher Gerry Byrne with his beautiful wife Liz (one of our favorite people), not to mention the aforementioned Balabans, New Line honcho Michael Lynne and more!
Other films of note at the festival included “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself,” an engaging look at two brothers in Glasgow (ThinkFilms), “The Cooler” starring William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin (Lions Gate), and “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (Lions Gate), which is most notable for its exceptional cinematography by Eduardo Serra.
Serra’s work is so good it made me look up his credits. (He also composed Ian Softley’s remarkable “Wings of the Dove” back in 1997, which made me wonder: What happened to Softley after he made the questionable “K-PAX” a couple of years later?)
Plus, Garland Jeffreys, a festival juror in the sound category, played a show at the Stephen Talkhouse on Friday night. Not bad!
With a variety of sponsors including American Airlines, Travel & Leisure, Time Warner Cable and those cute little Mini Cooper cars, the Hamptons Festival is fast becoming an important addition to the film festival circuit. HIFF is great at showing wonderful indie films that have already made splashes in other venues. If they want to take the HIFF to the next level, they’re going to have find some films that make news on their own. And by the looks of things, that will be their next accomplishment in 2004.
On Wednesday night, J Records is taking over Roseland for its left-field hit group, Maroon 5. They’re a rock group, the hardest thing to “break” right now in the record business, but of course the crack J staff and Clive Davis have a hit on their hands. The group is getting its first gold record. But right before Maroon 5 takes the stage, New England’s hottest unsigned band, Vacationland, will turn in a showcase down at Don Hill’s. Expect the J rock A&R guys down there, along with reps from other labels. Vacationland’s “Addicted to the Knife” is a must-add on my car CD ... Tonight, Paul Weller hits Town Hall in Manhattan. If you don’t know Weller’s work, you’ve missed a huge part of modern rock history from The Jam to Style Council to his own excellent solo albums.