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Sharon Stone Blasts Bush on AIDS

Sharon Stone | 'Da Vinci Code' | 'X-Men 3'

Sharon Stone Blasts Bush on AIDS

Sharon Stone took no prisoners Thursday night in her opening remarks at the annual Cinema Against AIDS dinner in Cannes.

Speaking before several hundred of the wealthiest people in the world, Stone — a vision in white linen with a Medusa’s nest of blond hair extensions — opened the 25th annual AmFar dinner with a thunderbolt against President Bush.

“Our president has spent $167 million on abstinence programs,” she said. “And zero dollars on sex education. Zero dollars on teaching about safe sex.”

Her remarks, part of an impassioned plea, were met with thunderous applause and instant approval. Before the night was over, AmFar raised $4.5 million for AIDS research, a new high level mark and $1 million more than last year.

Among the guests: Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who presided over the gala for the 13th year in a row and helped shape it into a magnificent night of fashion, fun and finance.

In a brilliant stroke, Weinstein convinced famed artist Julian Schnabel to donate two of his “dish” paintings to high bidders. They went for a total of $750,000 — a bargain in the art world and a boon to AmFar.

But it was Stone, as usual, who ginned the audience up into giving. She elicited hundreds of thousands of dollars for all kinds of high-end auction items that came with celebrity attachments from many in attendance, including Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, supermodel Petra Nemcova and designers Roberto Cavalli, John Galliano and Kenneth Cole — the latter was this year’s well-spoken dinner chair.

Stone was helped greatly, too, by Robin Williams, who took the stage every so often to amuse the several hundred formally attired swells who dined on veal, chocolate cake and champagne under a massive, often under-ventilated, dramatically lit tent next to the Moulins de Mougins restaurant about a half-hour north of Cannes.

At one point, Williams even good naturedly baited the paparazzi photographers stationed at the opposite end of the tent about possibly bidding on the impossibly expensive items.

“Take a picture of Angelina Jolie’s baby,” he said, “and you can buy this.”

And they got even more assistance from Wyclef Jean, the genius hip-hop/R&B performer who led the crowd in rousing versions of “La Bamba,” “Rivers of Babylon” and his own hit, “(Somebody Call) 911.”

Wyclef and his remarkable band of musicians were passing through town on their way to Monaco. Saturday night, they’re performing for another group of high rollers to raise money for Haitian relief.

People like Stone, Jean and Ferguson have become the new generation's versions of the late Audrey Hepburn and Peter Ustinov, going anywhere for charity.

Among the more famous guests who danced to Wyclef: Ivana Trump, Lance Armstrong, Faye Dunaway, Boris Becker, Denise Rich, actor Gael Garcia Bernal, Samuel L. Jackson and La Tanya Richardson, director Peter Bogdanovich, Michelle Yeoh, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran and Sofia Coppola — enjoying her “Marie Antoinette” success, not to mention sponsors Vincent Roberti of Palisades Pictures, and Bold Films’ Michel Litvak.

But it was Ferguson, dressed in a stunning turquoise Marquesa gown, who set the diners straight about raising money for the cause.

“Aren’t we lucky?” she said from the stage to people who’d anteed up $5,000 a ticket. She then told a story about how a little girl named Mellie whom she’d just met in Sierra Leone was dying of AIDS, following her mother’s death from the same disease.

And it wasn’t like the stars on stage didn’t chip in. Williams spent $70,000 on a custom-designed Giorgio Armani black diamond bauble, and Stone donated back Elton John’s “red piano,” for which she’d originally forked over $170,000.

And Julian Schnabel, a curmudgeon-like figure who rarely speaks in public, urged the crowd to bid higher for a rare piece of art Keith Haring had made for the late Herb Ritts. Each died from AIDS.

“Keith wasn’t even a friend of mine,” Schnabel explained to the crowd about Haring. “He didn’t even like me.” The painting sold for a bargain price of $160,000.

'Da Vinci' Miracle: $100M in 7 Days

And on the seventh day, God rested. But not before “The Da Vinci Code,” a movie that was promoted before it opened like a box-office messiah and then ridiculed in the same breath for even existing, broke the $100 million mark.

It happened Thursday, less than a week after the Ron Howard movie was laughed at here in Cannes and then stomped on by critics who seemed poised to destroy it.

In the end, nothing they said mattered. Fans of the book, as this reporter predicted, flocked to the movie in droves.

The result is that by Saturday, even if it’s knocked to second place by “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Da Vinci” will surpass Tom Cruise’s limping “Mission: Impossible 3,” which opened two weeks earlier and cost far more to produce.

No, “The Da Vinci Code” is not a great movie; it’s terribly flawed. But so are most films based on commercial, bestselling blockbusters. This is the work of Dan Brown, a lucky hack writer. He’s not Doctorow, Irving or Roth. He’s not even Patricia Highsmith, or Leon Uris on a good day.

But “Da Vinci” was enough of a worldwide phenomenon that its fans are apparently resistant to any criticism. They were captivated less by the book’s religious themes than by its thriller plot and hint of romance between the main characters.

That the movie succeeds in the former and not at all in the latter doesn’t bother them. They’ve just had the thing so deeply embedded in their imaginations that they had to see it played out.

What’s next for the “Da Vinci” crowd? Besides playing online games, they should insist on an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, a Thomas Kinkade limited edition fluorescent painting of the “Last Supper” and a Home Shopping line of iconic jewelry. The possibilities are endless. And frightening.

'X' Marks the Spot; Penelope's Vacation

Click back here late Saturday afternoon, eastern time, to see how “X-Men 3: The Last Stand,” shaped up at the box office. Web site boxofficemojo.com is predicting $101 million for the four-day weekend. Anything more will be gravy, but my guess is that there will be repeat viewers among the teen set. Brett Ratner, the hardest working kid in show biz, has done a terrific job of wrapping up the trilogy with finesse and fireworks.…

Penelope Cruz told me a lot about her summer vacation plans but never once mentioned her alleged boyfriend Matthew McConaughey. Is it over? Did it ever begin? Will the lovely Penelope ever find a man who is worthy of her? Dios mio! She needs someone great to walk her up all those red carpets next winter when she’s Oscar nominated, etc....

Most amusing during Cannes were the infrequent appearances of members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. The Golden Globe voters used their tax-free money, a multimillion-dollar gift from NBC, to junket over here and eat all the free food they could at roundtable luncheons. They are a complete and utter joke, taking pictures of themselves with the stars and acting a little less composed than Lucy and Ethel at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. With the exception of one actual journalist — the estimable Emmanuel Levy — this gang is reviled by actual foreign press, many of whom delighted me with tales of how little these characters are taken seriously in their countries. But they love a good buffet....