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Woody Allen’s Next Star: Penelope Cruz

Woody Allen | Art Garfunkel

Woody Allen's Next Star: Penelope Cruz

We should have known it would happen. I think I can tell you exclusively that Penelope Cruz, the hottest star going right now, is set to headline Woody Allen’s next project.

The untitled comedy-drama will film all summer in Barcelona, where Allen will move his family and crew.

Woody told me only that much last night at the annual amfAR dinner to raise money for AIDS research, where he and wife Soon-Yi showed up so Woody could offer a testimonial to Dr. Mathilde Krim.

Woody and Dr. Krim go way back — her late husband, Arthur, was the head of Orion Pictures, the home of many classic Allen films like “Bananas,” “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan.”

The Spanish film — in which Penelope will speak both Spanish and English — is the latest in a line of dramas for Woody. He got incredible acclaim for “Match Point,” a couple of years ago. It was my pick for best film of 2005.

But before he begins production on the Cruz film, Woody still has to bring out “Cassandra’s Dream.” He told me that one is “heavy” and “serious” and “more like 'Match Point.' If you liked that one, you’re going to love this.”

Allen and producing partner Letty Aronson, his sister, will take “Cassandra’s Dream” to the Cannes Film Festival in May and look for a distributor. It’s unlikely to open the festival, Woody said, “because I don’t put my films in competition.”

“Cassandra” stars Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor and Tom Wilkinson. And for the record, Woody — who’s had his ins and outs with temperamental actors — says of Farrell: “He was a dream to work with.” Just in case you were wondering.

Meanwhile, Woody’s speech for Dr. Krim at Cipriani 42nd Street was the first of many warm and heartfelt talks given last night by the likes of Sharon Stone, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Gere, Natasha Richardson, Garry Shandling, Beyonce, Eve, designer Kenneth Cole, MAC Cosmetics’ John Demsey and MTV’s John Reidy.

Also spotted in the cavernous room (another former bank vault) were Sigourney Weaver, comedian David Brenner, Russell Simmons, Milla Jovovich, Kim Cattrall, Cary Lowell (Mrs. Gere to you), our old pal Vin Roberti of Palisades Pictures and the stunning Carol Alt.

Singer Tracy Chapman livened things up with a couple of songs including “Stand by Me.”

It was Woody’s speech, though, that everyone came to hear. Allen doesn’t make a lot of public appearances, so this was one was unique.

He did so well that afterwards he was inundated with well wishers including Playboy publisher Christie Hefner and Shandling, each of whom introduced themselves.

Shandling was set to later do similar honors for Stone. Is he working on anything new? “Just reading this,” he said, clutching a sheath of papers. “You know the expression one day a time? I believe in one minute at a time.”

Woody waxed eloquently about the Krims, recalling that when he first met them “I was a complete non-entity. I hadn’t done a movie. She was my boss’ wife.”

In time, though Allen spent many New Year's Eves with the Krims and listened to stories of their ranch in Texas. “What did they do there, I wondered? Herd cows?”

There were plenty more speeches, including a lovely one from Goldberg, who was honored — and rightly so — for her tireless charity work. “It’s only what my mother told me I should do in the world,” Whoopi said.

But you know, it was Stone — looking like a million bucks — who was the final speaker. She was, as always, a dynamic presence.

She repeated for the audience the anecdote of how she got involved with amfAR. It was after her acting teacher, the late Roy London, told her she had to do something. She answered a call for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and found a young girl dying of HIV. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sharon said the girl’s wish was to be taken to Paul Newman’s camp. Stone got a trailer and took her there with nurses. They went to the camp, and on the way home, the girl died.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. For the record, amfAR raised $3 million. Next stop: the annual fundraiser in May at the Cannes Film Festival.

Art Garfunkel; Sixties Redux; Hannibal Bites

About to hit stores: Art Garfunkel’s big comeback record on Rhino, produced by Richard Perry. Tracks to download immediately: “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Garfunkel and Perry worked together 31 years ago on “Breakaway,” the former’s best solo recording. Perry works magic again, and the new album, named for the first song I mentioned here, is lush, romantic and unforgettable. …

So Hannibal Lecter is back and scaring everyone within sight. The new movie “Hannibal Rising” is tied to the release of the hardcover book of the same by Thomas Harris.

Last night’s premiere brought star Gong Li to the Providence nightclub along with rapper Jay-Z, who may have been keeping himself busy and out of trouble while Beyonce was at amfAR. …

And downtown Lisa Perry, one of Hillary Clinton’s fervent supporters, launched her LP clothing line for a hot crowd in SoHo.

LP is very Judy Carne, circa 1966 "Laugh-In," and apparently selling like crazy at Jeffrey, the specialty store for the “Sex and the City” crowd on West 14th Street that sells the line exclusively.

If Sienna Miller isn’t wearing these clothes by next Tuesday, I’d be very surprised. …

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