Published March 08, 2007
What has more than 30 producers, several A-list stars and no chance of ever being released in theaters?
That would be "Romance and Cigarettes," a 2005 musical directed by John Turturro, one of our favorite actors. But Turturro's film has been trapped in a fight between its producers and the movie studio that didn't make it for the last two years.
The film stars "The Sopranos" leading man James Gandolfini; Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon; Oscar nominee Kate Winslet; plus the amazing Steve Buscemi and a raft of heavy hitters including Christopher Walken, Elaine Stritch, Mary-Louise Parker, Bobby Cannavale, David Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Eddie Izzard and Cady Huffman.
Ironically, "Romance and Cigarettes" has been screened a lot at film festivals, reviewed by the trades and even distributed on DVD in Britain. American film buffs have had to get themselves a universal DVD player if they wanted to see it.
But come May, that may change. The word is that Sony Home Video may finally release it.
And, yes, there are about 30 names listed as producers of one kind or another — executive, associate, or just, uh, producer — including writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen of "Fargo" fame.
It's a good thing this film won't be considered for an Academy Award. Can you imagine the fight over who would go on stage?
Yesterday, I found one of the 30 producers, Jana Edelbaum, who told me at least some of the story. She confirmed that "Romance and Cigarettes" got lost when Sony bought into MGM two years ago. Once that happened, Sony refused to release the movie even though, Edelbaum says, several executives supported it, including COO Michael Lynton.
"Everyone went to bat for this movie," she said, including the Coen brothers. "The studio didn't care that it was taking them on."
Edelbaum says the producers made numerous offers to buy the film back from Sony, only to be rebuffed.
"Every attempt was made," she said.
She wouldn't confirm the film's costs, only to say it was under $20 million and closer to $15 million. Nevertheless, Sony wouldn't budge.
"We played in 1,000-seat theaters all over Europe and in San Francisco to standing ovations. People love this movie. It's a crowd-pleaser," Edelbaum said.
Not all reviewers agreed. Some loved it but many others called it a mess. Edelbaum concurred.
"Some thought it was incandescent. Kate Winslet gives an Oscar-caliber performance. But a lot of reviewers wondered what the heck was going on."
Still, she said, "it's sexy and cutting edge."
"R&C" is a musical, which is always a hard sell, particularly when the actors aren't really singers and the songs weren't written for the movie.
In that regard, "R&C" has a smattering of songs performed by the stars, including hits by Tom Jones and Janis Joplin. Unfortunately, there will be no CD soundtrack, so fans will have to make their own from the film.
"This could have been the cult film of all time," Edelbaum told me.
It sounds like it will be anyway.
"Romance" isn't the only feature with big names considered not worthy of release. Mike Binder, who has got the much-buzzed-about "Reign Over Me" opening shortly, made an independent film last year with Ben Affleck called "Man About Town."
For a while there was a lot of talk about this one being Affleck's comeback project. But no distributor ever anted up, and about a month ago, "Man About Town" quietly sneaked out on DVD.
It's also available for downloading on Amazon's Unbox for $14.99. I bought it over the weekend, and it's pretty amusing. Worth a trip to the video store.
Think you had a good lunch yesterday? The folks at Madeo in West Hollywood have you beat eight ways to Sunday.
That's because Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger and producer Steve Bing dined together with two other male friends at one table, while at another stunning actress, Monica Bellucci, was accepting compliments.
Was Bing celebrating Elizabeth Hurley's Indian wedding? It's unclear. But Beatty and Jagger have at least one thing in common: They are always noted as the main candidates for the roué Carly Simon sings about in "You're So Vain."
Jagger even did backup vocals on what has come to be Simon's trademark hit. But their meeting was probably more about films and possibly Beatty's future projects.
Lately, Jagger has been getting more and more into production, thanks to Victoria Pearman, his partner for the movie "Enigma" and more recently TV's "Knights of Prosperity."
Their venture, Jagged Films, is putting together Diane English's remake of "The Women" with Meg Ryan, Candice Bergen, Sigourney Weaver and several names to be announced.
Is Mrs. Beatty, Annette Bening, to be one of them? She would be a perfect fit, certainly.
Jagger and Bing also have something in common: They're producing the Martin Scorsese documentary about the Rolling Stones, which was shot last year at the Beacon Theater in New York.
The so-far untitled concert film is unofficially called "Live at the Beacon," rather than sullying it with cutesy titles like "It's Only Rock and Roll" or "Time Is on Our Side."
You don't have to be a Scorsese fan to know this is going to be good, although — and this is hard to believe — sources say the finished product is better than "The Last Waltz," Scorsese's classic 1976 film about the Band.
So let's do the math from this equation: Bing has aspirations to direct (a bad idea) and already produces with Jagger. Beatty hasn't made a movie since the disastrous "Town and Country" in 2001.
Either Bing and Jagger want Beatty to be in a film or direct one for them, or Beatty is looking for money for a new project he hasn't announced. Either way, it's the sighting of the month. And with Bellucci there, Mama Mia!
I think it's official now: Kevin Kline has opened in James Lapine's well-staged interpretation of "King Lear" at the Public Theater in New York City. No, it's not about Norman Lear, kids.
Shakespeare's great tragedy is met by Kline — whose "Hamlet" at the Public years ago still reverberates with greatness — with dead-on precision.
At first you don't think he can do it. He's too young and does not have enough physical heft. But Kline is riveting, as are several members of the cast including Logan Marshall-Green as nefarious, plotting Edmund; Brian Avers as his naïve brother Edgar and the always-sterling Larry Bryggman as the boys' father, the Earl of Gloucester.
Timothy D. Stickney is also excellent as Oswald, servant of Lear's nasty eldest daughter, Goneril. Unfortunately, the actresses playing Lear's three daughters feel lightweight, and several of the miscellaneous knights, messengers, etc., are incredibly miscast.
But nothing can stop Kevin Kline, and anyone who is interested in great stage acting should see this production. It's completely sold out, of course, but last night, legend Marian Seldes was in the third row and completely enraptured.
I had to laugh when I saw the article in the U.K. press about Trudie Styler being mean to her staff in England. Apparently, a former chef is suing Styler and husband Sting, claiming they fired her because she is pregnant. The couple has four children, and Sting has two more of his own.
With an age range from 9 to 30, these kids are always with their parents. Sting and Trudie even included footage of one of the kids' births in a documentary called "Bring on the Night." Most of their staff has been with them, as they say, forever.
But I did like this line: "... the accomplished chef was rewarded with lavish birthday gifts of Tiffany jewelry, cashmere twin sets, pashminas and a ruby-and-sapphire necklace."
It's torture over there, I tell you. Sheer torture.