Britney Spears may look disheveled from too much partying, but rumors of her professional demise are premature.
Sources inside Jive Records tell me that despite stories last week about the pop tart being dropped by her label, nothing is further from the truth.
"Britney is safe. She's been recording since even before the blow up with Kevin Federline," says my source. “She’s working with a lot of different producers. Jive is not dropping her.”
Indeed, with the current crazy climate in the record biz, Jive wouldn’t be very smart if they let go of a known commodity.
“Let’s put it this way,” says an insider, “she’s just a hit away from being back. Why drop her now?”
Dropping Britney would also be a terrible PR move for Jive right now, too. To turn against a single mother of two — even if she is a party girl — would not play well in the public’s mind. If Courtney Love can make a comeback, then Britney Spears certainly can.
The source continues: “If you think back to her last record, everyone said she was finished then. The word was that Pink would have the hit album, and that Britney was over. In the U.S., at least, that didn’t happen. It was the reverse. Britney had a monster album.”
So Spears is off the hook for the time being. But patience can wear thin even in the mercurial music biz. So she’d better get back in the studio and get serious fast.
“Dreamgirls” director Bill Condon is getting ready to shoot a new video of Jennifer Hudson singing “And I Am Telling You …”
Condon told me last night at the New York Film Critics’ awards ceremony that the video will be completely unlike “Dreamgirls” but made to attract even more of an audience for the hit film musical.
Hudson, meantime, picked up her first of many awards as Best Supporting Actress. There will be dozens more to come, as well as the Oscar, but the New York Critics was the first and probably the most important.
Still, though, she is nervously referring to her loss on “American Idol” several seasons ago. “Who cares what Simon Cowell has to say?” she exclaimed, I hope for the last time.
Hudson would do better to dedicate her wins to the memories of the late Florence Ballard, the singing Supreme who inspired her character, and Michael Bennett, the man who created "Dreamgirls."
Forest Whitaker accepted the first of his many prizes as Best Actor, as well. I asked him if he was going to all 700 cities where he was voted Best Actor by local critics. “I think just New York and Los Angeles,” he said.
The only player missing was Helen Mirren, who has a slew of Best Actress plaques waiting for her. But Dame Helen is shooting a film and won’t be in town until later today or tomorrow.
None of the winning actors was the show stopper on Sunday night, however. Those distinctions went to Robin Williams, who was a presenter, and Martin Scorsese, who won for Best Director for "The Departed."
Much of Williams’ comic routine, which was brilliantly hilarious as usual, cannot be transcribed (I hope someone can put it on YouTube.com. But one funny line that whizzed by: “I feel like a leper giving a facial.”)
Williams more or less rescued the night, as many of the presenters and winners were earnest in the extreme. Williams knew that, which is why he finished with a real rubber-chicken-dinner joke in which Madame Charles De Gaulle’s accented pronunciation of “happiness” comes out as “a penis.” You had to be there.
Scorsese was introduced by Leonardo DiCaprio, who said he’d written his speech on “cue cards.” Even so, it was the picture of impersonality (Leo, how about some anecdotes?)
Working the opposite end of this spectrum, Scorsese — seeming more relaxed and ebullient than in recent years — accepted his Best Director award with a riotously self-aware laundry list of obscure movies he’d made his cast watch while making “The Departed.”
“I showed them all 'Ashes and Diamonds,'” Andrzej Wajda’s Polish 1958 film about war, Scorsese said, than added: “It’s stuff to talk about on the weekends.”
Some films he showed them, he said, were for “light and composition” and had nothing to do with “The Departed.”
He said that DiCaprio and his friends were a good audience for this, but you can almost imagine a gang of 30-year-olds rolling their eyes as Scorsese — with his rapid-fire patter and frightening grasp of film history — starts cueing up the next reel.
Scorsese used the moment as an opportunity to thank “everyone” who worked on “The Departed,” underscoring the names of Paramount’s Brad Grey, who was recently denied the chance by the Academy Awards to have his name read out as a producer of the movie, but with whom Scorsese has just signed a lucrative new contract.
The director also emphasized Alan Horn of Warner Bros., the studio he’s leaving and which has helped make “The Departed” a hit.
But Scorsese left out a few names and failed to mention — maybe he didn’t know — that Mark Wahlberg, who was in the audience, had just been named Best Supporting Actor by the National Society of Film Critics.
Throughout all of this evening, which took place sans dinner at the ironically named Supper Club, Matt Damon worked the room without a publicist.
“Did you come alone?” I asked the always cheerful and still not corrupted star of "The Departed and "The Good Shepherd."
“Well, my wife was going to come but she wasn’t feeling well,” he replied.
I had meant, where is the publicist? But Damon persevered, and every actor should take a cue from him. He managed to have conversations with filmmakers and press people without any trouble. It was almost, uh, normal.
Does he think Jack Nicholson minded being snubbed by the SAG Awards this week, I asked him?
Damon started laughing heartily. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think he cares about this stuff at all, do you? He’s Jack.” Good point.
The real speech of the night, though, belonged to the talented and missed Jackie Earle Haley, who won Best Supporting Actor playing a pedophile “Little Children.”
This is the real Hollywood, you know, the one where someone is famous in youth ("Bad News Bears," "Breaking Away") and then can’t get work.
“I thought if I stayed in Hollywood I’d have to start all over again, so I left,” Haley said. He went to San Antonio, Texas, and started directing commercials. Altogether he was out of the business for 15 years. Now, with this film and “All the King’s Men,” he’s back.
“I even have a team,” he said, referring to his agents and lawyers.
If only the New York Giants did, but that’s another story.
Gone in the last few days, but certainly not to be forgotten: the character actor, Frank Campanella, 87, whose name you’ll see on dozens of movie credits. He helped Robert De Niro with his accent on “The Godfather II.” …
Vincent Sardi, 91, the owner of New York’s most famous theater restaurant, the one with all the great caricatures on the wall. …
And writer Tillie Olsen, 94, whose book “Tell Me a Riddle” was made into a gem of a film years ago by the great Lee Grant. ...