Reese Witherspoon has just turned 30, and she tells me “she loves it.”
Witherspoon came out last night to support husband Ryan Phillippe at the New York premiere of Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers.”
Phillippe is one of several very solid players in this well-told tale of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He’s joined by Jesse Bradford, John Slattery, John Benjamin Hickey and Joseph Cross — all of whom were there last night at the penthouse terrace of the Soho Grand Hotel, enjoying the magnificent views of the Empire State Building.
Reese was in a good mood, to say the least. She’s had a lot of time off since winning the Oscar for “Walk the Line.” She starts filming a new movie, “Rendition,” with Jake Gyllenhaal next month, directed by Gavin Hood (of the Oscar-winning “Tsotsi").
As Reese explains it, it’s about Americans intersecting with the Muslim world. An unknown Egyptian actor will play her husband, who is tortured in the Middle East by Gyllenhaal. “It’s like 'Crash,' with a lot of different characters,” she explained.
Is it nice not to be the star of the movie, I asked?
She smiled that Reese smile, took a moment and then replied: “Well, I am, I guess. I’m the woman. I’m the moral center. But I can do it!” she laughed. “Bring it on! I can handle it!”
Then she added: “Where are all the real women in movies? Have you noticed, they’re just not there?”
Scarlett Johansson, I said. “Now, she rocks!” Reese responded.
Witherspoon turned 30 last March; Phillippe hit 32 in September. She said last night of her age, “I love it. I mean, I really feel like me. I feel strong.”
We toasted glasses. She’s far more relaxed than in the days of “Sweet Home Alabama” — a nice change.
Witherspoon and Phillippe have been married since 1999 and have two kids, even though the tabloids tried to get them pregnant last spring.
It isn’t easy for two actors to be married, let alone be young, attractive and have one hotter than the other — at least for now.
Phillippe is philosophical about it. “Let my wife be the movie star,” he told me. “I’m happy just to work with great directors and be a part of great films.”
In recent years, Ryan has been in both Robert Altman’s Oscar-nominated "Gosford Park" and Paul Haggis’ Oscar-winning "Crash."
And now, with "Flags of Our Fathers," he’s worked with Eastwood.
“That’s all I want for right now,” he said. “No more junk. I don’t have a plan or anything, it’s just what’s happening.”
He’s just finishing what could turn out to be a great sleeper for 2007, the second movie by Kimberly Peirce (director of "Boys Don’t Cry"). Phillippe stars as a soldier on leave who doesn’t want to go back to war. It could be his breakthrough (in movies, as in life, women always mature faster, so Reese’s lead on him could be narrowed soon).
And he’s also got “Breach,” directed by Billy Ray (“Shattered Glass”), in which he plays the young FBI agent who goes up against real-life spy Robert Hanssen. And some time in the near future he may play a young Picasso in Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”
Right now, though, Phillippe will take a break while Reese makes “Rendition.” And hopefully their tempestuous marriage, which no one said will last, will get through its fabled seventh year without winding up on the cover of Us Weekly (that may be a bigger reason to stay together than these days than “the children”).
Also spotted at the "Flags" gathering: Lauren Bacall, shaking hands with fledgling filmmaker Nick Jarecki, who told her she was “a legend of the silver screen.” Bacall, in her trademark husky voice, replied: “You can just say, 'Nice to meet you.''"
Dana Delany looked very hot in a red dress she borrowed from her NBC series “Kidnapped."
Sarah Jessica Parker came to support her pal, Hickey, who along with Slattery does a nice turn in “Flags.” Hickey is also in “Infamous,” which means he’s an overnight sensation after years of working toward it. SJP has always been his steadfast supporter. What’s she doing now? “Nothing!” she said. “Taking my son to school!”
Bradford came with his parents. His mom, Terry, is an actress who’s always done commercials. Did you know that Jesse was No. 1 on his high school tennis team in Norwalk, Conn., and that he once played James Blake? He did not win.
Cross, 20, makes a name for himself this fall in “Flags” and as the lead in “Running With Scissors,” opposite Annette Bening.
“She’s very intense,” Cross said of Bening, who — as a very eccentric, mad woman — is actually the calming force in a movie full of nuts. “She was always in character.”
Cross shook his head in disbelief that he survived the shoot. Now he can get through anything.
Michael Jackson is accusing his former attorneys of conspiring to put him into involuntary bankruptcy.
In papers filed on Aug. 29 in Tarzana, Calif., but unseen until now, Jackson accuses former attorneys Ayscough & Marar of “approaching other lawyers” who represented Jackson “in an effort to get such lawyers to join [with them] in forcing Jackson into involuntary bankruptcy …”
Jackson also claims in the papers that Brent Ayscough — the attorney who unsuccessfully represented him in a lawsuit brought by former partner Marc Schaffel — threatened to expose confidential information about Jackson to the press, violated rules of professional conduct and committed both negligence and malpractice.
In other words: Jackson does not want to pay Ayscough the $216,000 in back fees for which the attorney sued him just one month earlier. He’s also embarrassed that in his filing, Ayscough "unmasks" Jackson’s horrific financial situation even more by telling the press just how much money Jackson owes everyone around him.
Ayscough, Jackson says in the cross complaint to the July suit, listed as many of Jackson’s debts as possible, most of which had been published here in this column at various times in the past.
It’s a diversionary tactic to say the least on the part of Jackson’s current attorney, William Mundell, to take the focus off of Jackson’s long-simmering predicament: He does not pay his bills and usually shirks responsibility after signing agreements.
The most glaring of these situations right now continues to be the $48 million lawsuit brought upon Jackson by Darien Dash, cousin of hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash.
Dash claims he has Jackson’s signature on a document promising to pay Dash a 9 percent fee for securing financing for a $275-million loan in 2004. Jackson says he didn’t do it, and so do his current insiders.
But Jackson’s problems are a perpetual case of extended refinancing toward oblivion. That huge loan is now up to $325 million, and is held by Fortress Investments, a debt firm that is now auctioning off the rights to hundreds of songs written by Nashville songwriters who thought they were ensuring their futures when they allowed Fortress to collateralize their work.
Fortress continues to hold Jackson’s fate similarly in its hands, restrained only by a deal in which Sony Music can swoop in and save Jackson rather than have him default on the loan.
Jackson’s day-to-day living remains just as precarious, which raises a new question: Who is underwriting his current living expenses in Ireland?
According to sources, Jackson is subsisting on a lot less than we previously thought. His annual royalty income from his own songs comes to about $7 million, which means $3.5 million after taxes.
Last April, he may have received between $5 million to $10 million from his refinancing with Fortress, but the money is borrowed and will one day have to be paid back.
That’s not a lot for the deposed King of Pop, a man-boy who likes to surround himself with a lot of toys and worthless junk.
Now that he no longer has the Prince of Bahrain to help him, Jackson will have to live carefully if he’s not going back to work. Paying big legal bills is right at the top of things he doesn’t like to do.
This latest maneuver, though, may turn out to be more costly, if he winds up not paying the lawyers who are suing the lawyers.
Jerry Seinfeld was a surprise guest Sunday night on Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Stars.” Unscheduled amongst a host of comedy kings, Seinfeld came on like a hit man following Jack Black’s very funny opening song and "killed," as they say in the business.
Seinfeld’s whole routine about cell phones and the business of people communicating looked simple, but it was sublime. He’s become to this generation what Alan King was to the last.
Other highlights of the night included: Ben Stiller’s running gag as David Blaine … Jimmy Fallon in a white disco suit as Barry Gibb … Amy Poehler as Sharon Stone … John Stewart’s inimitable hosting … and of course, an appearance by Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, in another teaser for his imminent hit movie.
And Elvis Costello rocked, sending himself up, playing snippets of songs and then a full-length version of “Pump It Up.”
The star of the night, however, was Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the creation of Robert Smigel of "Saturday Night Live," who sang with a faux version of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Smigel and his wife, Michelle, put together this extraordinary evening to raise money for autism research and ended up pulling in $2 million. Bravo to them ... and to Moby, who ran the band and took a lot of good-natured hits from the comics.
But where was David Letterman, who was advertised but didn’t show?
Later, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, overzealous security guards kept actor Paul Rudd’s publicist from checking in with him because “she wasn’t on the list.” Ha!
Rudd and some others had sequestered themselves behind a velvet rope in the middle of the party, where other celebs roamed free. Very funny stuff ...