Published February 17, 2005
Believe it or not, Steven Spielberg plans to finish 2005 with two major motion pictures in release.
The twist is that one of them isn't completed yet, and the other hasn't even been started.
Spielberg is now expecting to shoot "Vengeance," a movie about the 1972 Munich Olympic games.
Eric Bana ("Hulk") is slated to star, and there's talk that up-and-coming British actor Daniel Craig will co-star in this character study concerning the killing of the Israeli Olympic team.
"Angels in America" playwright Tony Kushner has completed a script, and Spielberg is satisfied with it, which makes the project a go.
Spielberg's longtime spokesman, Marvin Levy, says "Vengeance" will get a Christmas release. That means an Oscar push for the Dreamworks/Universal picture.
Of course, it's unusual, if not impossible, to make a movie during the summer and rush it through post-production for a holiday release.
So add to that story this one: Spielberg is still shooting "War of the Worlds" with Tom Cruise.
The projected "wrap" date is in three weeks, with the release date set for June 29. It's sort of amazing they're finishing on time, considering there was a two-week break over Christmas.
Levy tells me that most of the big set pieces in "War of the Worlds" were done right at the beginning and sent to Industrial Light and Magic for special effects weeks ago. Right now, Spielberg is finishing up principal photography and editing as he goes along. Whew!
"It may not be a wet-print situation," Levy says, "but it could be close to it."
Just as Spielberg is readying the publicity and promotion for "War of the Worlds," he will begin work on "Vengeance."
Originally, he was going to shoot that film last year, but he felt the script wasn't ready, Levy says.
"It doesn't have any visual effects like 'War of the Worlds,' so it should go fast," he said.
Spielberg is no stranger to having two big movies in one year. In 1993, he coughed up Academy Award winners "Schindler's List" and "Jurassic Park," editing the latter in a trailer as he shot the former on location in Poland.
A couple of years ago, he did it again with "Minority Report" and "Catch Me If You Can."
And what about "Indiana Jones 4?"
"I just hope it gets made before Harrison Ford is on a walker," Levy quipped.
Seriously, Harrison Ford is probably in better shape than most of us.
Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the screenplay for "Catch Me If You Can," is almost done with his script for "Indiana 4."
It's possible that Spielberg will actually get to it in 2006, if he can find the time.
Vanity Fair magazine, which has prided itself on giving an annual Oscar party that invariably is exclusive and snobby, may have some trouble on its hands.
The confluence of several events may spell the end for the now-tired Hollywood event.
In short order: Nikki Finke reports in her "L.A. Weekly" column that Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter has been calling certain studio heads names behind their backs.
According to Finke, he's labeled Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg and Universal/Imagine's Brian Grazer "scumbags."
Carter's factotum, the scary Beth Kseniak, has denied the story, but where there's smoke, there are scumbags.
Katzenberg, Carter complained, has dropped him from his A-list. Finke says Carter is also mad that Katzenberg's three-year-old "The Night Before" party at the Beverly Hills Hotel has become a bigger hit than Vanity Fair's post-show shindig.
The Katzenberg gala has apparently diverted attention from what had been the big Oscar-eve invitation: Carter's luncheon at the home of mogul Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.
As for Grazer: Finke says he let it slip last year that Carter got a $100,000 fee on "A Beautiful Mind," which led to much scathing criticism about conflict of interest.
And there's more.
This is the year, again, of the black actor. Three black American actors (Jamie Foxx, Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman) and one Englishwoman of Nigerian parentage (Sophie Okonedo) are nominated for Oscars. But Vanity Fair refuses to place a black person on its cover.
On the current Hollywood issue cover, blondes Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Uma Thurman rule, while minority members Rosario Dawson and Kerry Washington are relegated to inside panels.
The sting of this is worse considering that three years have passed since Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won their Academy Awards. Neither of them has ever made it onto Vanity Fair's cover.
To make matters worse, the New York Daily News' Lloyd Grove reported yesterday that African-American food was offered recently as a "foreign specialty" in the Condé Nast cafeteria.
Condé Nast is the lily-white publisher of Vanity Fair. The meal consisted of "Jamaican beef patties, shrimp jambalaya, rice, okra, corn, black-eyed pea stew, deviled eggs and biscuits."
That's about American as you can get, unless, of course, you're used to throwing up foie gras in the bathroom after lunch to stay thin.
All of this is certain to put a damper on the Oscar party.
Back in 2002, when Berry and Washington won, both of them skipped out of the Vanity Fair bash quickly and spent their time with Elton John at his party across the street.
The ostensible reason, Berry's friends told me that night, was because of the perceived racism at the magazine.
John will be back this year with a souped-up event sponsored by luxury watchmaker Chopard.
Now, Ebony magazine has finally gotten it together for the Oscars. Linda Johnson Rice, the publisher, is launching Ebony's 60th anniversary issue with a big gala one week from tonight.
It's going to be called "Hollywood in Harlem," and Foxx, Cheadle, Freeman and Okenedo will be honored with scholarships in their names at Howard University. Foxx's scholarship will be in his grandmother's name.
Denzel, Halle, Wyclef Jean, Ashanti, Samuel L. Jackson and actress wife La Tonya Richardson, Regina King, Sam "Soul Man" Moore, Stevie Wonder, Kimberly Elise and Spike Lee are all expected to attend.
It's going to be a who's-who of Black Hollywood and a repudiation of the Vanity Fair ethos, I am told.
Celebrity wrangler Marilyn Crawford of Primetime Omnimedia is the co-host and producer. The word is going out right now, so expect the red carpet at the Crustacean Restaurant in Beverly Hills to be overloaded with A-listers.
But it's not just Black Hollywood that poses a threat to Vanity Fair. Another new party is being planned for Sunday night that could siphon off a lot of the magazine's prospective guests. This will be in addition to Dani Janssen's annual private affair, that this year will feature Clint Eastwood.
This new bash is also in a private home, and Carter and friends will not be welcome there. Already the names are piling on to RSVP. I will tell you tomorrow, perhaps, more about this latest blow to the empire.
I finally broke down and bought Bob Dylan's memoir, "Chronicles, Vol. 1" over the weekend.
The book is a wonderful de-mystifying of Dylan, who admits to being a fan of the much-derided Kingston Trio, of an early friendship with Brill Building pop singer Bobby Vee, admiring good-time rocker Johnny Rivers and liking Judy Garland's "The Man that Got Away." He even quotes Elton John's "Candle in the Wind."
There's also a lot about his self-education that every Dylan pretender-to-the-throne should pay close attention to.
But I particularly liked what Dylan wrote about one of my all-time faves, Roy Orbison. Here it is, in part:
"Orbison, though, transcended all the genres ... his stuff mixed with all the styles and some that hadn't been invented yet ... With Roy you didn't know if you were listening to mariachi or opera. He kept you on your toes. With him, it was all about fat and blood. He sounded like he was singing from an Olympian mountaintop and he meant business ... He was now singing his own compositions in three or four octaves that made you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal ... His voice could jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself, 'Man, I don't believe it.'"
After typing that out for you, I'm going right into the living room and putting on Roy's classic "In Dreams." Yee-hah!
Give that man the National Book Critics Circle Award.