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Brad, Angelina Were Close but Platonic

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie | Lauren Bacall

Brad and Angie Were Close, but Platonic

Many months ago, I told you that the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" had gone awry.

It was, according to my very good source, out of control because the actors would not listen to director Doug Liman.

Things were so bad on the set that Pitt had taken to directing Jolie himself and had become her shield against Liman, my source said.

A few months later, Liman took exception to this when we met.

Of course, he's a professional, and there was no need for Pitt to be so protective of Jolie. No matter what suggestions Brad made, Liman directed the movie.

Now we have the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston break-up, and with it a lot of speculation that Pitt and Jolie's closeness on the set went beyond acceptable boundaries.

Yesterday's papers, especially in Britain, went flat-out for an affair, using all kinds of reasoning.

But my source sticks to the same story given last year, even in the face of public scrutiny. There was no funny business between Pitt and the pillowy-lipped Jolie.

"There were just being playful and having a good time. She was always with the baby. If they had an affair, it was well hidden," my source said. "You can tell if people were messing around, and they weren't. Extras were taking pictures with picture phones, so they started taking the phones off the set."

You can tell the public really wants Brad to have cheated on Jennifer, or for Jennifer to have turned out to be a monstrous woman who refused to bear his children. How ridiculous is this, anyway?

My pal, Maggie Murphy, of the new Life weekly, quips that maybe Brad had just had enough of hanging around with Courteney Cox and David Arquette.

"I think he liked being with George Clooney and Julia Roberts more," she said.

I will add, semi-seriously, that movie and TV folk don't necessarily mix.

You cannot have two mega-personalities in a relationship where both are needy, egotistical, insecure and dependent on public approbation.

One of them would have to be subservient to the other, and in this case, it wasn't going to happen. It's rare when two actors can handle seesawing success in this high-stakes game.

And don't forget that Brad and Jennifer, while not exactly Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep, are stars with a capital "S." It's a whole different world.

Bacall Remembers Heston Without Fondness

Lauren Bacall, who's now officially moved into grande dame-hood, had not such nice memories of Charlton Heston last night at the 70th annual New York Film Critics Awards.

She recalled the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, at which all previous winners were invited to take a group photograph.

"Charlton Heston, as usual, did not acknowledge my presence," she said.

The remark drew a big laugh since Bacall's New York, left-leaning liberalism would be the distinct opposite of Mr. NRA's politics

At the photo shoot, to make Bacall's story short, Heston was sitting in the seat allotted to Pedro Almodóvar.

"I said, 'Pedro, you must take your seat. They're starting.' He said, 'I would, but Charlton Heston is in it,'" Bacall recalled.

"Pedro said to Heston, 'You are a great star, but you are in my seat,'" she continued. "And Heston refused to acknowledge him either. So Pedro came and sat with me."

I asked her later if she and Heston ever liked each other.

"Let's put it this way," she responded with faux imperiousness, "Charlton Heston and I never acknowledged each other."

Bacall was there last night to acknowledge Almodóvar for "Bad Education," which won Best Foreign Language Film. But the night pretty much belonged to Alexander Payne's "Sideways," which won Best Film, Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay.

Virginia Madsen, who won the supporting-actress prize, said, "This is not a place I ever thought I'd be standing."

How true. After the show, I asked her how this career renaissance was going.

"I'm loving it," she said, "and I'm so happy for [the production]. I went through a long audition process. It's amazing."

Clint Eastwood won Best Director for "Million Dollar Baby," which was also chosen over the weekend by the National Society of Film Critics as Best Picture. The Oscar race seems to have narrowed now to "Baby" versus "The Aviator," but there's a lot more to come.

Eastwood, who is the soul of brevity, started his acceptance speech by saying he would have cut Hilary Swank's introduction of him "by two paragraphs." She called him an "evergreen" in a very lovely speech of her own.

"I always believed the secret to making a film was good casting. Then you sit back and let the picture take care of itself. Outside of the AARP sticker on my trailer," the almost 75-year-old movie icon joked, "I'm no different than any other director."

Eastwood thanked his forever studio, Warner Brothers, but reminded us that even being him isn't enough sometimes to get a movie made.

"The last few projects have been an arm-wrestle," he said.

He wasn't kidding. Eastwood has been very vocal in the past about Warner's perceived lack of enthusiasm for his "True Crime," "Blood Work" and "Space Cowboys."

But all that's over now, and Eastwood is hard at work preparing his next movie, which is about the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima.

Also bounding about at the NYFCC dinner, which was held in the mostly unlit and grim ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel: Liev Schreiber, "Incredibles" director Brad Bird and star Sarah Vowell (who voiced Violet Parr), "Closer" star Clive Owen (Best Supporting Actor) and the voluble Al Franken, who came to present Michael Moore with the Best Non-Fiction Film award for "Fahrenheit 9/11." Moore was in Los Angeles accepting the People's Choice Award.

Franken said that he had anticipated meeting Mel Gibson at a Hollywood agent's Oscar party last year, and had practiced what he might say: "Your dad and my dad probably wouldn't have gotten along."

Franken introduced Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, who was accepting for Moore since he was the one who put up the money for the film. He joked that Weinstein "stood by this movie even in the face of certain success."

Weinstein, looking trim, pointed out that Miramax had never abandoned a film just because it was controversial. In the cases of "Kids," "Priest," "Dogma" and "Fahrenheit 9/11," the films were all released, even if Weinstein had had to put up his own money.

He also said that Moore had foregone being nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar this year so he could show the movie on cable TV and in Germany on election eve.

"The proceeds went to veterans' groups," Weinstein said.

Still, a lot of the gossip among studio heads and producers last night was about James Stewart's article in The New Yorker last week about Disney and Michael Eisner.

Several were shocked at how sympathetically Michael Ovitz came out in the story, and how capricious and undermining Eisner appeared. Sources tell me that some of what was in The New Yorker was different from what will be in Stewart's book.

"The New Yorker added in some material on Ovitz to make it more balanced," one source said.

When the actual book is ready, which should be in about a month, I'm told that the further depictions of Eisner will only be worse.

"And yet, the Disney board does nothing," said my source.

If you haven't seen The New Yorker yet, it's a must-read. As one studio head said, rolling his eyes last night: "To think that Eisner could treat Ovitz that way and then expect to go on vacation with him..."

Look, it's Hollywood. Any subterfuge is possible.