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Kravitz May Play Hendrix in Biopic

Lenny Kravitz | Judi Dench | National Board of Review

Lenny Kravitz in Talks to Play Jimi Hendrix

You read it here first: Lenny Kravitz is now in talks to play Jimi Hendrix in a biopic of the most famous guitarist in rock history.

Sources tell me that Kravitz has secured the dramatic rights to Hendrix’s music through his estate, and that his plan is to make his acting debut with the independent film.

Lee Daniels, who directed the forthcoming "Shadowboxer" and produced "Monster’s Ball," is said to be the producer/director.

Kravitz is a natural to play Hendrix, from his look to his musical ability. And he may have the acting gene since his mother, the late Roxie Roker, was a star of "The Jeffersons" on TV in the 1970s.

One thing the producers might have to do during post-production is eliminate Lenny’s many trademark tattoos. This is a lesson for all you kids out there getting tats: one day you may not want them. They’re not easy to eliminate.

So now we’ve had biopics of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, and this new Hendrix movie. Plus, of course, Tina Turner and Jerry Lee Lewis in recent years. What’s next?

How about Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye? And how about Mary Wilson’s “Dreamgirl” autobiography about The Supremes? Now, that’s a story people would line up to hear. Instead, they may have to settle for the musical “Dreamgirls” being turned into an upcoming film.

Judi Dench Presents: Another Oscar?

When Oscar-winner Dame Judi Dench walked into New York City's Osteria del Circo for a dinner following the screening of her film “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” she got a standing ovation from the A-list crowd including Bebe Neuwirth, Joan Collins with husband Percy, Anna Deveare Smith, actresses Kate Burton, Lois Smith, Estelle Parsons, screenwriter Jim Hart, actor Bob Dishy and actress wife Judy Graubart, Adriane Lenox (Tony winner from the play "Doubt"), plus Will Frears (the film director’s theater director son) and theater producer Fred Zollo.

Don’t underestimate Dame Judi, ever. She will be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and she might very well take it all this time around. Her previous Oscar is in the supporting category for “Shakespeare in Love.” She was also nominated for “Iris” and “Mrs. Brown.”

There were obviously a lot of actors in the room last night. They all seem to agree: Dench can do no wrong. They’re right. Dame Judi has transcended the medium. Like Meryl Streep, she is virtually flawless. Her comic timing is impeccable, and her ability to assume a fictional persona is staggering.

By the way, there’s a pretty good chance she will be a double nominee this year. She just about steals “Pride and Prejudice” as Mr. Darcy’s imperious aunt, in a supporting role. And there’s also a good chance, depending on how things play out, that “Mrs. Henderson Presents” will be a Best Picture nominee in the wake of “Shakespeare” and “Topsy Turvy.” The Academy loves movies about the theater, and “Mrs. Henderson” is top notch, four stars all the way.

Are 'Syriana,' 'Geisha' Being Set Up for NBR?

As the movie biz breathlessly awaits annual awards next Tuesday from the fan-based National Board of Review, here is a startling new scandal to go with the old one.

As I told you last month, a group of NBR board members who’ve been “fired” have asked the New York State Attorney General’s office to investigate malfeasance in the organization.

Here’s an update: You may recall a few weeks ago I reported that the board of directors of the NBR now included Berkeley, Calif., psycho (and sex) therapist Daniel Goldstine.

You’ll be pleased to know that Dr. Goldstine, whose connection to the movie business is being on the board of the Pacific Film Archive, also has a conflict of interest. His son is Josh Goldstine, head of creative marketing for Sony Pictures.

He is not, we may conclude, a disinterested party in who gets the NBR’s top awards. The Goldstines are said to be close friends of the current NBR president, Annie Schulhof and her husband, Tom, brother of former Sony chairman Mickey Schulhof.

This would account for last year’s civil war among the NBR leaders over giving the top movie of the year to Miramax’s "Finding Neverland" or Sony/Columbia’s "Closer." The former won. The latter had to settle for Best Ensemble Acting, an award that other groups like the Screen Actors Guild gave to "Sideways."

“The larger group wanted 'Finding Neverland',” my source says. “But Annie pushed hard for 'Closer'. It was a fight.”

Closer, directed by Mike Nichols, while having many fine characteristics, was not even nominated for an Academy Award in the long run. "Finding Neverland" was nominated in several categories.

The NBR has been never been a totally “clean” organization. “It’s believability has always been questioned,” says a former member. But Schulhof has turned out to be its most controversial and polarizing leader, appointing friends to the board, giving her veterinarian free ads in the group’s annual fundraising book and turning the place into one of even more secrecy and clique-ishness.

I doubt, for example, that the general public realizes only 12 people select all the winners of the NBR awards. Schulhof, according to sources, runs the elite, Skull and Bones-like Exceptional Photoplay Committee with an iron fist, making sure it’s stocked with her cronies like Inez Glucksman and Keith Edwards.

Though the NBR attends hundreds of screenings, dines with stars and directors, has personal Q&A sessions with them, in the end, I am told, it’s Schulhof and her Gang of 12 who make the final decisions.

All this should be interesting, since Sony/Columbia’s "Memoirs of a Geisha" — a certain Oscar nominee and potential box office hit — has become a hot potato with the NBR. “The group didn’t like it so much,” says one insider, “but Annie will fight for it since it’s Columbia.”

Sony is also represented in this year’s Oscar race by "Capote," a Sony Pictures Classics release thanks to the merger with MGM/United Artists.

Sony, however, is not Schulhof’s only favorite studio. Warner Bros. is very dear to her, I am told, thanks to a close friendship with longtime Warner exec, Dan Fellman. Warner’s big Oscar movie this year is the well-reviewed "Syriana," starring George Clooney.

“Annie told several people that 'Syriana' was going to get something before it was even shown,” a source tells me. “She said if nothing else, it would win the Freedom of Expression award.”

Last year, Warner’s was an NBR favorite with Clint Eastwood’s "Million Dollar Baby" and Martin Scorsese’s "The Aviator" receiving many citations. Eastwood has also been an NBR favorite in the couple of years.

Even though the Fellmans and Schulhofs are indeed close personal friends, it’s unlikely that Dan Fellman would have made any overt suggestion to Schulhof about getting awards.

But Annie Schulhof may be doing favors on her own without being asked for her friends in the movie business. She’s recently started a production company, Pipedream Films, and has hopes, I am told by sources, of becoming a “player” in the business.

Meantime, I have cleared up one NBR mystery. I’ve reported in the past that inexplicably the not-for-profit group says it spends over $100,000 on “screenings” even though the studios treat them to the screenings. The NBR nevertheless lists the expense that way on their federal tax filing. But Leon Friedman, the group’s attorney, told me yesterday that in fact the $100,000 is for salaries for three NBR employees. Why not list it that way?

“In the past, those people were freelance,” says Friedman. “Now they’re paid and the next tax filing will reflect that.”

But there are clear lines on the Form 990 tax form for salaries and wages even if the people employed are freelance. Less generous types might think the NBR has lied to the Internal Revenue Service for the last several years.

More news: the next tax filing will also reveal that the new group’s newest staff director is getting at least $75,000 a year to screen movies and keep the peace between the 160 or so members and the 12-member Photoplay Committee that actually runs things.

The NBR, by the way, charges $500 a ticket to members and $1,000 a ticket to non-members to attend its annual gala at New York City's Tavern on the Green. Sources tell me the actual cost per person is around $150 “at the most.”

In 2003, the NBR gave a minuscule $17,000 in grants to filmmakers according to their most recent available filing.