Forget about Brad Pitt as hulky, sulky Achilles in the new film "Troy." Apparently, Pitt's even better at playing referee.
Pitt's latest movie, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" — about a husband and wife who think their marriage is boring until they discover they are hit men assigned to kill one another — still has not wrapped production after having starting on January 7. And that may be because director Doug Liman and co-star Angelina Jolie have disagreed on just about everything the former has asked the latter to do.
Enter Pitt, who, I am told, has spent a great deal of the film keeping Angelina mollified. That would account for their sudden friendship, I guess, and all the nasty tabloid rumors.
That's not all. According to my sources, the budget for this action adventure film has swelled to between $125 and $150 million — a lot considering it started out as a remake of a 1941 Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
"It's Hitchcock in name only by now," my source says. "Everything he did in words, we're doing in explosions."
The "Smith" gang still has two more weeks of work in Los Angeles, and even that won't be the end. Thanks to Pitt's schedule, the principals will have to return for two more weeks of work in August.
But Pitt gets high marks from observers for keeping things light while all else has fallen apart.
"Between the written word and what was shot would be three different things," says a set insider. "Someone would set up a stunt with the stunt coordinator, for example, and then Doug would want to do 10 other things that weren't possible."
Several times Jolie is said to have been close to a meltdown, only to be assuaged or entertained by Pitt.
"He's one of the neatest guys on a set," says a source. But a few times the set had to cleared as Liman — who's only made one other action flick, "The Bourne Identity" — and his two stars would wind up negotiating how a scene should be played.
"You can tell when there's tension on a set," says my source. "The whole thing reminds me of 'The Alamo.'"
That film, which also skyrocketed out of budgetary control, has mostly been pulled from theatres after a disastrous run and a loss of nearly $100 million.
Meantime, Pitt will really be in the hot seat this weekend with the opening of "Troy." This is the kind of big studio movie that used to get Oscar nominations just because it cost a lot and had so many people's careers riding on it. But "Troy" is kind of a mess and very static. It's hard to imagine audiences sitting still for it.
At the premiere, there was more activity in the theatre than on the screen. I haven't seen so many people walking around during an event since an ELO concert in 1976.
In the end, "Troy" will live or die on Pitt's likeability factor. If it's a hit, it won't matter how much "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" costs. If it's not, Jennifer Aniston may consider doing a "Friends" big-screen movie. (Just kidding!)
By the way: I don't know if this was an inside joke or not, but there's a funny moment in "Troy" when Achilles (Pitt) is calling for Eric Bana's Hector to come out of the fortress walls and fight him. Pitt is heard all through the scene screaming Hector's name over and over.
"To hector someone" is an old-fashioned English phrase meaning "to worry or harass" them. The term is thought to have derived from Hector's name, even though the name Hector means, literally, "holding fast."
But that Achilles! He was a real heel.
Twenty years after he first started playing Dr. Frasier Crane, Kelsey Grammer ends his long run tonight. I read in passing that he may resurrect "Frasier."
Let me recommend against that. It's been a great run. It's time to put it to bed.
Nevertheless, "Frasier" was probably the best sitcom of the last decade, far better than "Friends" and different than "Seinfeld" or "Curb Your Enthusiasm." No show was as literate or erudite. The references on "Frasier" were always, happily, so effete even Dennis Miller could enjoy them.
Surprisingly, though, the episodes I really loved were the ones modeled on French farce. No show has done slamming doors as well as "Frasier." The timing of the cast was always impeccable.
You don't think of "Frasier" as a physical comedy, but more often than not it was, with characters often trapped in wrong bedrooms, hiding from one another, or narrowly missing those they shouldn't encounter.
Will there ever be adult comedies again, sitcoms in which every line isn't a put-down, a sexual come-on or corny one-liner? I sure hope so. But right now this series may be the end of a long line that stretched from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" through "Cheers" and ending with characters who knew opera, architecture, history, art and haute cuisine.
Without "Frasier" it's back to a lot of whoopee cushions — and that's if we're really lucky.
The long knives are out for Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter. Is it any surprise? In fact, it had to happen eventually.
Carter's involvement with Hollywood has gone from mocking it (when he was editor of Spy) to becoming the community's concubine. There hasn't been a cover profile of a celebrity with any substance in years.
Of course, one could argue stars and their publicists wouldn't agree to do pieces in the magazine unless they were favorable. But in recent years, the stories have become templates, fill-in-the-blank articles that are completely interchangeable.
Carter wants to be taken seriously for his editorials about the Iraq war and President Bush. Yet, no one is listening even though his opinions have grown more and more shrill.
Maybe that's because the rest of Vanity Fair, as it concerns its main subject area, has lost virtually all of its credibility. At a time when Disney is in corporate disarray, Paramount Pictures has almost ceased to exist, Warner Bros. has gone through a number of changes and Universal's been sold to NBC, Vanity Fair remains mum rather than offend anyone.
The last story is really the one that may undo Carter. Why no inspection of the Universal mess? The reason is that way at the center of it is Barry Diller, Carter's best buddy and the thorn in Vivendi Universal's paw.
They socialize together endlessly, throw Oscar parties together, and carry on shamelessly. Not only did they co-produce a documentary about Robert Evans, but Diller's wife, designer Diane von Furstenberg, inventor of the wrap dress, has been on the Vanity Fair masthead for years as a "contributing editor."
The folks at Showtime thought I was being snarky the other day about their great Tribeca Film Festival party at Nobu. I wasn't — the food was so exceptional, no one cared whether there were celebs on hand or not.
But for the record there were plenty: Glenn Close, Tim Daly, Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, James McDaniel, Vinessa Shaw, Tim Blake Nelson, Scott Cohen, Laura Harring and Michael C. Hall of "Six Feet Under" among them.
Hey, we love Showtime, especially its leader Matt Blank. The Kobe beef probably just went to our heads!