Jude Law | Ashlee Simpson | Ben AffleckChristopher Reeve

Hey Jude: 'Alfie' Star Not Engaged

Jude Law, the star of the week as we head toward Friday's opening of "Alfie," got a nice surprise Friday afternoon.

His girlfriend, actress Sienna Miller, flew in from Venice, Italy — where she's been filming Lasse Hallström's "Casanova" — to watch him prepare for hosting "Saturday Night Live."

Sienna flew in business class with no entourage to help her, and slept soundly even while other passengers were reading all about her life with Jude in trashy supermarket tabloids.

Perhaps Sienna's presence is what fueled Law's nicely executed performance on "Saturday Night Live," where he played a number of roles, including debutante teen divorcée Nicky Hilton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Sienna certainly must have been a consolation to Law after the show, when nearly everyone who'd been watching was discussing "singer" Ashlee Simpson's gigantic career-stopping flub (see below).

So, the big question: Are Jude and Sienna engaged? The answer is: no.

That's right from Sienna, who could possibly find herself in the matrimonial state one day, but let's not forget that she is very young, and that Law is only recently divorced from Sadie Frost.

Sienna's also got a burgeoning career to look after, appearing alongside silver-screen staples Lena Olin and Jeremy Irons as well as Heath Ledger in the aforementioned "Casanova."

By the way: This project is one of the few times that Hallström, who's been nominated three times for Oscars and has directed two Best Picture nominees — "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolat" — has worked with his wife, Ms. Olin, who won an Oscar nomination herself for Paul Mazursky's wonderful 1989 film "Enemies: A Love Story."

The "Casanova" shoot is going smoothly in Venice. On Thursday night, the entire cast was invited by the Diamond Trading Company (also known as DeBeers) to its big, black-tie gala on the isle of San Giorgio Maggiore.

The island is home to the monks of San Giorgio, which meant that when the disco music started around 11 p.m., the doors to the converted dance hall had to be shut tight. These monks are caterers with integrity.

The 300 guests, including "English Patient" Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas and Duran Duran supermodel wife Yasmin Le Bon, were ferried by private boats from Venice's San Clemente Palace Hotel on a neighboring isle to see $15 million worth of diamonds.

Dubbed "Nature's Miracle," the exhibit consisted of 10 special pieces of jewelry designed by award winners in a worldwide contest.

The whole event was a bit like a party scene from a James Bond movie or "The Italian Job." The heads of more than a dozen big jewelry houses were there, including Damiani, Escada, Georg Jensen, H. Stern, Mouawad, Moussaieff, Scavia, Stefan Hafner and Carrera y Carrera.

I kept waiting for some kind of explosion, a helicopter escape and a rescue by Interpol agents. Alas, such action and adventure only happens in the movies.

The diamonds, including one heart-stopper described as "a 56-carat pear-cut D flawless" number from Chopard, were all safely guarded — just in case Jude wants to give one to Sienna any time soon.

Ashlee Simpson's Lip-Synch Lapse

In case you don't know by now, Jessica Simpson's little sister, Ashlee, who happens to have the No. 1 album in the country, had a singing malfunction on Saturday night that may end her career.

Ashlee, the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," was the victim of a snafu when someone in the control room pushed the wrong button and the same song she'd sung in her first segment began playing again.

Ashlee, who had obviously lip-synched the first song, became confused. Her band tried to switch back into the first song, but Simpson just gave up, did a weird little jig and shrugged off the stage.

Later, at the end of the show, she had the audacity to blame the band for playing the wrong song.

It's no surprise that this latest pre-fabricated pop star can't sing live (and at this point has no shame either).

She joins a rather stellar group of mostly female peers who have been manufactured by managers and record companies. They don't write their own material and they don't sing it either.

They've been created in studios and then sent on the road as karaoke acts. Their fans would be mighty surprised to hear many of the pop stars of today attempt to sing without technological augmentation.

That's why you don't hear or see most of these alleged stars trying the "Star-Spangled Banner" at sports events or even attempt to chime in at jam sessions following awards dinners.

I reported in this column three or four years ago how, at the conclusion of a Clive Davis pre-Grammy dinner show, certain pop singers remained in the audience rather than be exposed on stage.

The ones who could sing did: Patti LaBelle, Mary J. Blige, even Justin Timberlake. The ones who couldn't, or who were too frightened, remained in their seats.

Let's put it this way: In the last five years, though they've often been present, I've never heard Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez even so much as hum out loud without a full stage set-up, dancers swirling about and lots of back-up singers.

But I have been lucky enough to see Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Alicia Keys, Julia Fordham, Joss Stone, Carla Thomas, Ann Peebles, Natalie Cole, Mary Wilson, Cher, Cyndi Lauper, Valerie Simpson of Ashford and Simpson fame (no relation to Jessica and Ashlee) and many others rise to the occasion without a tape or a computer disk in sight.

So here's a reality show guaranteed to get ratings: All of today's pop stars "unplugged," with just a microphone and an accompanist. We'll do a "sing-off" and see who really has the pipes and who has been faking it.

Ben Affleck Survives a Bad 'Christmas'

The folks at DreamWorks — who've had nice hits this year with "The Terminal," "Collateral" and "Shrek 2" — weren't so thrilled a few months ago when I said Ben Affleck's "Surviving Christmas" was going to be a huge dud.

Remember that it was shot in January and February of 2003 and that co-star James Gandolfini wouldn't come onto the set because the script was so bad.

Filming was halted, new pages were written and the shoot was moved to Los Angeles from the Midwest.

On Friday, "Surviving Christmas" was hustled into theatres on the heels of horrendous reviews. It earned an astonishing $4.5 million. That means it took in $1.5 million a day.

Anyway, it's over and I'm sure everyone associated with it is glad to see "Surviving Christmas" headed to a video bin.

And by the way, it's not Ben's fault. Next time, make sure the script is finished, folks.

Reeve's Inspiration

Tonight on A&E, don't miss the late Christopher Reeve's last piece of work before he died.

He directed "The Brooke Ellison Story," which is about a young woman who vows to overcome paralysis caused by an accident. You cannot be anything but awed by all that Reeve accomplished after his own accident.

He told me last year that he planned another directorial project: a film of Richard Bach's inspirational "Illusions." But in the end, it was Reeve who was truly inspirational

Finally: Congratulations to Vincent Rubino, whose film "The Breakup Artist" won the Audience Award last night at the 12th annual Hamptons International Film Festival. More tomorrow about the other winners at what has become an important stop on the festival circuit.