Streisand Interview Charlize Theron Jacko Boomerangs

Streisand 'Actors Studio' Interview in Limbo?

Maybe you've wondered: Whatever happened to that Barbra Streisand interview with James Lipton for "Inside the Actors Studio?"

Lipton taped Streisand in front of a live audience on October 5, and initially Bravo advertised an October 26 broadcast.

But the show didn't air on Sunday night. There were rumblings that Streisand didn't like the way she looked on camera and was holding up airing of the show.

The singer-actress-director is notorious for her perfectionism, especially when it comes to the way she looks on screen.

For her American Film Institute tribute, for example, Streisand set the lighting and designed the stage and all the accoutrements. She even put real Tiffany lamps at every table.

When she appeared on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show," the set had to be flipped so it favored Streisand's preferred profile.

But Lipton, whom I spoke to on the phone yesterday while he was busy in his editing bay, says Barbra's been no problem.

"She spent five hours with us," he said. "Five hours! We wanted to use this as a two-hour special for our 10th anniversary. So I'm going slowly, taking my time, looking at everything. She was incredibly candid. At times I felt like her psychiatrist."

Lipton says he doesn't know when the show will air, but that so far Streisand has been nothing but helpful. "She's giving us extraordinary access to old clips from musicals, all kinds of things."

When I mentioned that Barbra was notoriously particular about the way she's lit, he said: "I don't know an actress her age who isn't. And they should be."

"Inside the Actors Studio" has a policy I was unaware of, and which is quite different from "60 Minutes" or other interview shows done for news organizations, newspapers, or magazines.

They show the subject the final interview before it airs and let them make changes and suggestions. So Lipton will show Streisand the finished product before it airs.

"We do that with everyone. And knowing that beforehand makes them much more comfortable when we do the interview."

Indeed.

Charlize Theron Strips It Down for Oscar

You know Charlize Theron from a series of so-so movies such as "The Italian Job," "Reindeer Games" and "Sweet November." I met the 28-year-old South African beauty at a dinner for her first real film, "2 Days in the Valley," back in 1997.

She was as green and doe-eyed as any ingénue. She seemed destined for sexy roles without much substance.

Until now, that was the case.

Completely out of left field, Theron has produced and stars in a new movie called "Monster" in which she plays serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

Newmarket Films won't release "Monster" until December 26 for an Oscar-week run, but let me tell you right now: Handled the right way, Theron's stripped-down, raw performance could easily get her nominated for every major award. She could even win the Oscar. She is that good.

Wuornos was executed last year after spending a dozen years on death row. A hardened street prostitute who'd suffered numerous sexual abuses as a child, her conviction was for murdering seven men.

On the face of it, she is not a sympathetic character. But in this film, written and directed sensitively by Patty Jenkins, Theron infuses Wuornos with an unexpected pathos.

Theron automatically joins the ranks of Hilary Swank and Halle Berry, who did similarly acclaimed work respectively in "Boys Don't Cry" and "Monster's Ball."

When Theron first appears on screen, you almost want to stop the film for a minute to absorb what she's done to herself. Gone is the gorgeous young girl with a perfect figure and beaming smile.

In her place is a kind of frightening behemoth who walks with a waddle (Theron gained at least 25 pounds for the role), speaks with an off-putting overbite (she wears a dental plate for the character) and seems to have dermatological problems of some severity.

Theron's lovely face is distended and puffy, marked by the sheer danger of life of on the street and the horror of the abuse she has suffered.

You simply cannot believe this is the same person. And yet, right away there is something enormously likeable about the fictional Aileen Wuornos. It's unbelievable.

There are a couple of supporting players in "Monster," including the great veteran actor Bruce Dern as one of Aileen's buddies. But much has to be said for Christina Ricci as Wuornos's complicit but clueless lover and companion.

It's almost impossible for these two performances to be rewarded without one another. Ricci is likely to get Best Supporting attention for her excellent, understated work.

"Monster" is a crushing experience, extremely brutal — literally and figuratively. Jenkins is unflinching in depicting Wuornos's life, and we get to see a whole underworld of prostitution, mental handicaps and avarice. She paints a devastatingly harsh picture.

Theron, stripped of makeup, rendered virtually unrecognizable, pulls some magic out of herself from places maybe she didn't know existed.

Of course, when Wuornos is killing her victims, it's hard not to think of Theron's own real-life story, in which she witnessed her mother kill her abusive father when she was only 15 years old. But I think it's a lot more than that.

When Nicole Kidman (who may have two Best Actress considerations for the third year in a row) found her stride with "Moulin Rouge" and "The Others," it was expected. She'd shown her potential earlier in "To Die For."

With Theron, it's a complete revelation. The real excitement in "Monster" is seeing an artist bloom to maturity. You can only wonder what she'll do next.

Jacko Story Boomerangs Back

I reported exclusively in this space two days ago that Michael Jackson's charity single, "What More Can I Give?" would throw off some proceeds to HELP, a literacy program run by the Church of Scientology.

It seems British newspapers picked up the story yesterday and are now taking credit for it, especially The Mirror. Tsk, tsk, chappies. Please do give credit when you're helping yourselves to other people's stories.