Nicole, Reese, Meryl May Act Together in New Film

Nicole Kidman | Aretha Franklin | Janet Jackson

Nicole, Reese, Meryl: Triple Play

Nicole Kidman is yes, indeed, preparing for her wedding this coming weekend in Australia.

But her next film, I’m told, may be a triple play with major co-stars. Nicole is trying to get Reese Witherspoon and possibly Meryl Streep to co-star with her in "Headhunters."

This is a comedy in which three schoolteachers from New Jersey head to Monaco for glamour and gambling. Jez Butterworth, who wrote Nicole's underrated "Birthday Girl," will direct from his own script.

Meanwhile, Kidman is telling friends she's planning on becoming a Tennessee housewife once she and country star Keith Urban tie the knot.

Ironically, Urban's Tennessee home is a little rural, and Kidman has confided in friends that she’s nervous about being so far from the action. But a house in Hollywood should solve those problems.

As for pregnancy rumors, Kidman’s publicist says she isn’t, and we’ll take her at her word. Kidman has said numerous times in the past that she would like to have a child herself, after adopting Isabella and Conor with ex-husband Tom Cruise.

Meanwhile, the question that everyone’s asking but no one's answering is where is little Suri Cruise, the baby Katie Holmes supposedly had with Tom Cruise in April?

While other celebrity babies have made their debuts in every press outlet, Suri has been kept under wraps. It’s not like Cruise abhors publicity — I mean, we know what lengths he’ll go to promote a movie.

And "Mission: Impossible 3" could have used the press buzz from the kind of action that Shiloh Jolie-Pitt received this month. The movie was downgraded last weekend from 1,900 theaters to 1,000 and should take another downsizing this weekend as it fades from view.

Of course, Tom could be waiting for the DVD release before he shows Suri off. One idea could be putting her footprints into the DVD box as a bonus!

As for Nicole, no star deserves happiness more than she. Kidman has led a weirdly disjointed existence for the last four years, dating the likes of Lenny Kravitz. In the end, though, it’s interesting to note that like Jennifer Lopez, she may have found her mate in someone with whom she has the most in common.

Aretha: Triumphant Return to the Apollo

The Queen of Soul made a triumphant return to Harlem's Apollo Theater last night, some 20 years after her last appearance.

The show capped a busy time at the landmark theater, which two nights ago raised more than $1 million at a gala that featured Gladys and Bubba Knight, Chaka Khan and Little Richard.

Much of this is due to the efforts of Chuck Jackson, the great soul singer ("Any Day Now") who's made the Apollo his personal project.

Last night, though, it was Miss Aretha's turn to shine. In front a star-studded audience that was so jam packed Gov. Pataki couldn't get tickets, the one and only queen of soul rocked the house back to its heyday.

She arrived in a turquoise satin gown with accompanying full-length wrap, a dress that from the knees to the floor was covered in similarly colored short, densely sewn feathers. Our Aretha, in other words, was a sight to behold. And something in her appearance signaled that she was ready to hold court, that this show was important.

It was so important that she launched right into her greatest, biggest hit, Otis Redding's "Respect," and then followed it right up with her most important recording, "Ain’t No Way," which was composed by her late sister Carolyn. Talk about hitting the ground running — there was no stopping her from then on.

From "Sparkle," she sang jivey Curtis Mayfield songs including "Giving Him Something He Can Feel," added in her sister Carolyn's lesser known "Angel," and then her wonderful Stevie Wonder hit "Until You Come Back to Me." The quartet of songs gave her a chance to unwind, bump and grind, using the popular refrain in the third — "I'm gonna knock on your door" — as a chance to let loose with fist jabs in the air.

During "Rock Steady," Aretha got so loose in fact that she bunched up her dress from the middle and did a little soul stomping. She also invited Rev. Al Sharpton up on stage, and he showed off his fairly impressive James Brown moves to a standing ovation.

There was more, of course, but never enough: Aretha doing "Church," a gospel number and a nice bit of her mesmerizing piano playing.

She played one new song, which she said, self-deprecatingly, was from her new album called "Aretha: A Woman Who Fell Out of Love."

It was too bad Clive Davis wasn’t in the audience. The new song was terrific. Aretha declared, in reference to love, "If it’s not real, I don’t want it." But that could be the theme of her career, too. Everything about her is real, there is no artifice.

She did talk about being back at the Apollo after such a long time and described how comedian Redd Foxx showed her how to curtsy properly ("I'm not doing it for you now," she laughed).

"This was my first professional gig," she said, and recalled running up and down the narrow backstage stairs "with four shows ahead of me."

Do we really understand how Aretha Franklin paid her dues? Probably not. That she now sings Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" with ease and then segues back into gospel for a finale is one of those modern mysteries or miracles. Like Gladys Knight's performance only one night earlier at the Apollo, Aretha is a wonder of the world.

Now, we're not so jaded that we didn't hang out backstage in the green room to see her afterward. We ran into her son, Teddy Richards, a talented singer/songwriter who plays in her band and who’s about to start a tour with INXS in Germany.

Two nice ladies from OssieChristine's Catering in Yonkers loaded us down with delicious peach cobbler and macaroni and cheese while we talked to one man who makes Aretha’s private investments and another who designed the turquoise gown.

Aretha’s famed manager/publicist/guru Ruth Bowen waited patiently, too. There was a lot of discussion about Billy Preston’s tacky funeral, which was going on simultaneously in Los Angeles.

Finally, Aretha emerged from her dressing room. Her cherubic cheeks were glistening.

"I felt it out there. I was really energized," she said.

What about that shimmying around in several of the songs?

"I was just dancing," she said. "I was feeling good."

She signed a couple of autographs, and then realized how late it was. There's a second show tonight, Wednesday, and it's completely sold out again.

"Come back tomorrow and see me," she said. "We'll do it again." And then she was gone.

P.S. Aretha: If you want to sing one more song by your sister Carolyn tonight, here's a request for "Without Love," another mini-masterpiece.

Janet Jackson's Back, Too; Young Sidekicks

Janet Jackson's new single, "Call on Me," has just been released. It's the first single from her forthcoming album, "20 Years." There's been some online griping, but I kind of like "Call on Me." It's a breezy summer single, and a good sign that Janet's nosedive with her last album has been corrected.…

I don't use one, but nearly every young celeb I meet is flipping open a Sidekick PDA. Last night in Los Angeles, T-Mobile launched the third edition with Cybill Shepherd’s actress daughter Clementine Ford, Laura Prepon from "That '70s Show" and comic star Dane Cook all expected to come out to scarf up samples. The Sidekicks are to kids what Motorola Razr phones are to adults these days. Me, I'm sticking to a rotary phone and a party line.…

I am remiss in not mentioning the death last week at age 77 of Barbara Epstein, co-editor and founder of The New York Review of Books with Robert Silvers, her ex-husband Jason Epstein and the late literary giants Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick.

Most readers of this column will not know these names, alas, but this little gang is as important to modern American literary history as The New Yorker gang, Dorothy Parker, etc. In these lowered standard times, Barbara Epstein's contribution to intellectual pursuits looks in retrospect more magnificent than ever. Thank you, Barbara….