Disney once again finds itself in the position of having a movie it no longer wants.
Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto," which Disney was supposed to release on Dec. 8, is "being shopped" to other potential distributors, sources tell me.
One potential distributor for "Apocalypto" is Lions Gate, an independent company with a history of rescuing distressed projects. In the past they've picked up Kevin Smith's "Dogma" and Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" when Miramax was prevented from putting them out by their own agreements with Disney.
This column was the first to speculate more than a week ago that since Gibson's arrest for drunk driving and the scandal involving his anti-Semitic tirade, Disney would not want to invest any money into "Apocalypto," which already was an iffy project at best.
A spokesperson for Lions Gate declined to comment on whether the company had talked to Disney or Gibson. At the same time, a reliable insider who knew the players in this game assured me that Disney was quietly shopping the film and that Lions Gate was first on its list of hopeful buyers.
More to come ...
Red Buttons didn’t want a memorial service or a funeral. He didn’t want his 1,100-page memoir to be published either.
But hey, he’s gone, and people loved him, so friends like Arthur Kassel, Norby Walters, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Mark Fleishman invited several dozen of Red’s pals over to the Century Club in Century City on Monday night to say goodbye the right way: with deli sandwiches and a red carpet.
The occasion was billed as a “celebration of love and laughter” for Red Buttons, the Oscar-winning dramatic actor and comedian who died last month at the age of 87. Only in Hollywood does a memorial service get a red carpet and a publicist.
The guests came any way they could, even if they weren’t exactly mobile. This was not the Lindsay Lohan crowd, let me tell you. It’s a rarity when this reporter, at age 49, is the youngest person in the room.
I was on Monday night a mere tyke in the presence of Rose Marie, the comedian and singer from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” who turns 83 next week.
Nanette Fabray, still so pretty and active at 85, walked in under her own steam. Rhonda Fleming, who turns 83 tomorrow, was there, as was Mickey Rooney, also 85, who came with his eighth “young” 70-ish wife, Jan.
Steve Allen’s widow, Jayne Meadows, also 85, chatted with Variety’s “Iron Man” Army Archerd and veteran publicist Warren Cowan, who are each thriving octogenarians.
There were some actual youngsters, too: Michele Lee and Joan van Ark (Red appeared on "Knots Landing"), Robert Forster, Charles Durning, Rob Reiner, Barbara Eden, Sally Kirkland and Sally Kellerman, Connie Stevens, Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, Valerie Harper, Doris Roberts, famed publicist Paul Bloch and — for the under 60 crowd — Kevin Nealon, Bill Maher and Byron Allen.
The only person missing from the advertised tip sheet was Larry King. As far as I could tell, no one mentioned his absence.
But did I mention that this gathering, which was held under a giant, revolving disco ball at the strangely suburban-feeling, stand-alone Century Club in otherwise sterile Century City, fielded not one but two former California governors — Gray Davis and Pete Wilson? And they’re from different parties, yet.
There were clips shown from Red’s career, including his searing appearances on "ER" that won him an Emmy nomination in 2005.
His range was quite impressive; maybe only Robin Williams would be his contemporary equivalent for moving back and forth from drama to comedy with such ease.
The best joke of the night was told by Durning, who recalled Buttons saying to him: “If you have sex with an animal make sure it’s a horse.” Pause. “Why? Because at least you’re guaranteed a ride home.”
I mean, you had to be there, in that room on Monday night. Monty Hall spoke, and I had to restrain myself from offering him a dollar if he had a jeweled hatpin or a men’s three-inch plastic comb in his pocket (Hall turns 85 in two weeks. Mazel Tov!)
Most everyone who came was from old Jewish Hollywood, and if they weren’t Jewish for real, they were honorary.
Maher, who seemed a little fresh-baked when he first arrived, said from the dais, “I wish Red had lived one more month to see this Mel Gibson story. He would have said, ‘Mel Gibson just signed a three-picture deal with … Hezbollah.'”
Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant (who appears to have been separated at birth from Rooney) declared what remained of Monday and all of Tuesday “Red Buttons Day.” Rooney recalled that he’d served in the Army with Buttons.
Kirkland told a story about how just a few years ago, Buttons consoled her at an Oscar ceremony because she’d broken up with a boyfriend that day. Meadows revealed that Red and Allen had been best friends. “They are together now, laughing it up, up there.”
By this point, a normal person would either have left or pulled out a video camera. I did neither, because the scene — these last vestiges of a Hollywood community — was so compelling.
Stiller (Frank Costanza from "Seinfeld" to you youngsters) told of the greatest piece of advice Buttons had ever given him.
“I’d seen him do his one-man show,” recalled Stiller, who had always been an act with his wife, Meara. “I told him afterwards, ‘You thrilled me so much that I’ve decided to do my own.’”
Stiller paused for the beat. “Red said ...” — another beat — “Don’t.” Big laughs.
Usually I agree with my colleague Cindy Adams on most things. She’s an astute observer and one of the wittiest writers in the world.
But I have to say we’ll agree to disagree about Oliver Stone’s "World Trade Center," which opens today.
For one thing, the movie is not slow at all. It is, however, intense because two men are trapped under a building in rubble, anticipating their deaths.
My favorite part of this movie, in fact, are those scenes between Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena as they wait for help. Claustrophobic? Yes, I should think so. After all, they are pinned under concrete and metal.
Rejecting “World Trade Center” because you think it’s too soon or too slow or whatever invalidates the experience of the two men whose stories are told, John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, not to mention their comrades who died that day.
If you think the movie might be too intense for you to take, try and remember that this actually happened, that the men lived and that they are sharing their experiences with us.
If you’re really patriotic or sensitive, the way to show appreciation to these men is to at least go and hear and see their stories. We certainly owe all the firefighters and police officers at least that much after five years.
And it’s not so hard to do: “World Trade Center” is a damn good movie. On the second go around, relieved of worrying about how Stone was going to handle everything, I got to see things I hadn’t noticed the first time.
For one thing, Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal give really nicely textured performances as the wives. Indeed, all the women of “WTC” — including Donna Murphy, Patti D'Arbanville and especially Viola Davis — are subtle and strong.
The men are no slouches, either. Cage has a great scene as the stoic McLoughlin when he admits to Jimeno that he’s not well-liked and doesn’t smile a lot. This is what he was thinking about while the world collapsed over him.
And Jimeno — well you almost have to meet the real Will Jimeno to appreciate how good Pena’s performance really is.
Pena, who’s been in two Paul Haggis films — “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby” — is the most winning “newcomer” in several movie seasons. He completely captures the real Jimeno’s inherent optimism in the face of death.
McLoughlin and Jimeno’s stories are valid, historic and moving. Let’s not let our fears about Sept. 11 lead us to ignore this film. This would dishonor the filmmaker, the actors and mostly the people who had to live through this nightmare.
"World Trade Center" is about them, not about us. It’s McLoughlin and Jimeno, who’ve had to relive their near-death experience. We’re only being asked to appreciate what they endured.