Here’s a trio you hadn’t thought of before now: Michael Jackson, his nanny and former President Bill Clinton.
According to my sources, Jackson’s nanny, Grace Sanyu Rwaramba, is telling insiders that she, the singer and Clinton are headed to Rwanda this winter to raise money and awareness for the ravaged country.
As you may know, Grace has become the surrogate mother to Jackson’s three children and has been on the “lam” with him since leaving the United States in June 2005. Jackson et al are living on the Irish estate of dance maven Michael Flatley.
But Grace, a Rwandan native, is determined to return to her country with aid and money. It’s a noble thought, and one that Rwaramba has been angling for since going to work for Jackson in the early 1990s.
While she was in London with the pop singer last week for the World Music Awards, Rwaramba apparently confided in several people there that she and Jackson had secured the help of Clinton and his foundation.
Clinton, of course, has been raising money in bucket loads this fall for African relief. He’s already helping Madonna in Malawi. Pitching in with Jackson is not so far-fetched.
The Clinton-Jackson connection dates back to April 24, 2002, when Jackson put on a mini-performance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for the Democratic National Committee.
He danced and sang to “Dangerous,” “Black and White” and “Heal the World,” and helped Clinton raise about $2.7 million for the party. It may have been the last time anyone saw Jackson work on stage.
Will it happen? No one knows for sure, and Clinton’s people did not respond by deadline yesterday. But for months, Jackson insiders have been telling me of the nanny’s desire to become “important” in her native land, to somehow leverage her association with Jackson into the mix.
Of course, before that happens, Jackson will journey back to Japan where a local promoter will use him as a Christmas ornament and underwrite all expenses plus pay him a hefty fee.
Last year, Prince Abdullah of Bahrain spent hundreds of thousands of dollars flying in Jackson’s friends to the Middle Eastern emirate.
But without a patron this year, Jackson must rely on the Japanese to fund his winter follies.
Zhang Yimou and Gong Li are back together. Maybe you didn’t know they’d been apart. They made several movies together while they were a couple, from 1987 to 1995, including classics like "To Live," "Red Sorghum," "Shanghai Triad" and "Ju Dou." But then, the Woody and Mia of Chinese film broke up and that was it. Until now.
This past year, Zhang Yimou called the beautiful Gong Li and asked her to star in "The Curse of the Golden Flower." She accepted, even though recently she’s been in two big Hollywood productions: "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Miami Vice."
In the time since they’d worked together, of course, Zhang Yimou had made "The House of Flying Daggers" and "Hero," two big hits. So maybe the karma was right.
In any case, “Golden Flower” is a spectacular project, full of flying warriors, lush costumes and eye-popping cinematography. It’s a lush action adventure film, very violent and very beautiful. What more could you want?
The big shock is that “Golden Flower” is said to have cost only $20 million because it was made in China. Had it been produced in the West, you could triple that amount. Zhang Yimou says he had 1,000 extras on set, although some other estimates ranged from 2,000 to 10,000.
About 25 percent of the film is computer generated, but you’d never know it. The work is the highest possible quality and fits in seamlessly with the real actors who are clanking around in armor.
Last night, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics — the studio that’s been releasing Zhang Yimou’s films here for the last 15 years — threw a little soiree at Alice Tully Hall to introduce “Golden Flower” before its Dec. 22 release.
The guests included opera great Placido Domingo, who’s about to open in Zhang Yimou’s first American opera, "The First Emperor," about the Met; Candice Bergen, who’s not subscribing to the global-warming theory and keeping it pretty chilly; Glenn Close; Bebe Neuwirth; Dan Hedaya; and so on.
Afterward at dinner at restaurant Gabriel, there were a lot of questions for Zhang Yimou, who doesn’t speak English, and Gong Li, who does, a little. Luckily, they had a translator.
In case you’re interested, Gong Li is 41 but looks 28. It must be the Beijing water. She is even more stunning in person. Second, Zhang Yimou, despite government sponsorship, is always looking over his shoulder in China and has to weigh what kind of movie he’s making to avoid censorship.
But, yes, they do get red carpet premieres in China, Gong Li said, with paparazzi. That’s probably not what Nixon and Kissinger had in mind with the opening of China, but there it is.
As for this Placido Domingo thing, Zhang Yimou has conducted operas in Paris and Florence, but the language barrier is a problem.
“I didn’t know what they were singing,” he said through his interpreter, which required a lot of running back and forth to the libretto. Still his work was acclaimed. But does he prefer stage or film?
“Movies,” he said, with a big grin.
Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby” had a great first weekend, hitting the top 10 at No. 9 with $4.9 million at 1,667 theaters. “Bobby” seems to be the great divider, as far as reviewers go: Some love it, some don’t.
My guess is that it will be a “fifth slot” Oscar movie, fighting with the compelling-yet-incoherent “Babel” to join "Dreamgirls," "The Departed" and "Volver" for Best Picture.
The fourth slot? The word is “The Good Shepherd” may turn out to be a surprise entry, and there’s a lot of sentiment for “The Queen” based on Helen Mirren’s performance.
“Bobby” is helped because it boasts at least two Best Supporting nominees in Sharon Stone and Freddy Rodriguez. …
And what of “Little Children,” a film that just won’t take off despite good reviews? Eight weeks into release, no one outside of the media seems particularly interested in the fate of these suburbanites.
Nevertheless, Kate Winslet is still hot in the Best Actress category, and don’t be surprised if Jackie Earle Haley turns up on a lot of Supporting lists. New Line is probably waiting for back-to-back announcements from the well-fed National Board of Review and Golden Globes before putting up the big bucks. …