Published June 15, 2008
It looks like "The Incredible Hulk" has exceeded everyone's expectations. When the numbers come in this afternoon, look for the Edward Norton-Liv Tyler Marvel comic spectacle to have reeled in around $60 million this weekend.
That means Marvel comics' Stan Lee, using first Paramount with "Iron Man" and now Universal with "Hulk," has had the biggest hits of the spring back to back. In a smart move, Lee made sure to include "Iron Man" star Robert Downey Jr. in the "Hulk" promotion and even in a "surprise" scene at the end of the film.
Will the sequels to these movies include cross-overs? No one's saying anything yet. But on Friday I came upon Paramount chief Brad Grey and Universal head honcho Ron Meyer lunching together in a booth at the Grill on the Alley in Beverly Hills. Odds are the topic came up.
To think that yours truly was reading these comics in the late 60s when the magazines themselves cost — yes— 12 cents. A million years later, the Marvel superstars are bigger than ever. Next up: Captain America. And then, can a 4th Spider Man film be far behind? Tobey Maguire had better be at the gym. PS—he's Ron Meyer's son in law. Small super hero world!
Edward Norton skipped doing "live" interviews for his movie "The Incredible Hulk" on shows like Letterman, Leno and "Today." But in what everyone involved is hoping will turn into a YouTube smash, Norton delivered a video Thursday night on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" sending up the movie and everything that's happened with it.
Just as "Hulk" stands to be a monster hit this weekend, Norton filmed a segment in which Kimmel character Guillermo, who's four feet, four inches, turns into his big-screen alter ego — a mini Hulk. Norton lampoons his own character, and concludes by saying "this is not what I signed up for."
The idea, it's hoped, it to make this video as big as the ones the Kimmel show did with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck earlier this year. Those videos, which were hysterically funny, became cult hits.
For the "Hulk" movie, the Norton video is a great idea. Norton was put in the position of not wanting to have to answer all kinds of questions about who wrote the movie's screenplay, or any disagreements he might have had with the film's direction and editing.
To avoid all that, he limited his appearances to the movie's red carpet premiere, where he spoke to the "controlled" press, and to the MTV Movie Awards and just a few other outlets. The Kimmel video, if it takes off, could be a new way to market big stars who don't want to deal with tricky questions. It's also very funny.
Norton, who's a serious guy, should take a page from Robert Downey Jr.'s book of superheroes. Downey (see below) is taking full advantage of his "Iron Man" success and enjoying it. Maybe after Norton's box office numbers come in Friday night, he'll do the same.
It was the most star-studded Hollywood lovefest in some time Thursday night as the American Film Institute honored Warren Beatty with a lifetime achievement award at the Kodak Theater.
The guest list combined Beatty's interest in movies and liberal politics, starting with the continual playing of the Communist Party anthem, "The International," which was featured in Beatty's Oscar-winning movie "Reds."
With that theme used as a processional, Beatty took the podium at the Kodak in front of 600 people including Bill Clinton, retired Sens. George McGovern and Gary Hart, Warren Christopher and former California Gov. Jerry Brown representing Beatty's lifelong political circles.
From the movie community came the heavy-hitters: Jane Fonda, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Diane Keaton, Steven Spielberg, Robert Evans, James Caan, Halle Berry, Keith Carradine, Quentin Tarantino, Brett Ratner and Hugh Hefner, as well as Art Garfunkel at the top of the list.
On the dais with Beatty sat his wife, Annette Bening, sister Shirley MacLaine and Hollywood power players Barry Diller, David Geffen, Creative Artists Agency's Richard Lovett and lawyer Bert Fields (the recent Anthony Pellicano scandal subject) with his art-dealer wife, Barbara Guggenheim.
Late to the four-hour dinner because of the Lakers-Celtics game were Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon, but they made it with enough time to deliver toasts.
Plenty of studio execs showed up, too, such as Ron Meyer, Tom Rothman, Jeff Zucker, Jim Gianopulos and Alan Horn. Sony's Sir Howard Stringer, who sat with Fonda, opened the evening.
Most of the reminiscing was about the movies, but eventually things turned political and left. Said McGovern in a moving toast: "Richard Nixon would have been much better off if we'd been elected" in 1972.
McGovern got a big laugh, but in all seriousness, the 86-year-old former presidential candidate had an important point to make: back in 1972, Beatty invented the celebrity political fundraiser when he staged a superstar concert at Madison Square Garden for him. He brought together Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, who’d parted ways two years earlier at their height, and he also reunited the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. All of these people at that moment could not have been bigger.
McGovern was not alone among politicians who gave thanks to Beatty. On a serious note, Gary Hart saluted him and thanked the film star, enigmatically, for “an act of personal generosity to me.” He added, on a lighter note, that “people always thought Warren wanted to be me. But in fact, I always wanted to be Warren Beatty.”
As many people noted Beatty’s long history of romantic conquests before meeting and marrying the love of his life, Bening, in 1991, Hart’s words may have been all too true considering what happened to him.
And it wasn’t just liberals — although at one point, the evening really took on the look of a Hollywood backyard Democratic fundraiser.
Among the many video tributes that were interspersed (rather skillfully, I might add) with the live speeches was one from Sen. John McCain. He and Beatty are actually quite good friends as it turns out, even though their politics — as each has pointed out — are very different.
I think the audience was a little taken aback when they saw McCain’s face pop up among those of Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Arthur Penn, Streisand, Paul Sorvino, Charles Grodin, Estelle Parsons, Robert Towne and Pacino (who later surprised the room by also coming to give Beatty the AFI honor). Here’s a case where politicians shouldn’t make jokes. McCain’s was something to the effect that he, the Senator, had been bombed — as in literally — in Vietnam, but Warren had once “bombed” with Miss Vietnam. Ouch!
But, as Beatty himself said when he took the stage, the AFI event was “like psychoanalysis.” Indeed, I cannot recall a tribute like this when so many famous people showed up and spoke, without Teleprompters or notes, from the heart.
All of the speeches were superb, and some were sublime. Faye Dunaway nearly stole the evening by recalling “Bonnie and Clyde” in rhyme a la her Bonnie Parker character from that landmark movie. Hoffman, whom everyone would like to speak at their lifetime achievement ceremonies, came with a sheaf of papers and held the room in thrall as he touted Beatty and tweaked Nicholson for choosing the losing Lakers over his best friend until the very end of the night.
And then there were the women. A stunning looking Fonda — noting that she and Beatty had done their first screen test together — told the audience what she’d told this column a few months ago. When they met, she thought he was gay. “He was so good-looking and all his male friends were gay. What were the odds he wasn’t?”
Perhaps the biggest serious jolt of the night came from Diane Keaton, who never speaks about her personal life. Dramatically taking the stage at the end of the night, after Clinton, Dustin, et al she presented right before her two former lovers, Pacino and Beatty himself, and just after Nicholson.
Keaton also spoke without notes. She kind of joked that she didn’t remember much about her outstanding film career except that “'The Godfather' was important, 'Sleeper' was very funny and 'The Little Drummer Girl was a bomb.'"
However: in recalling the landmark film she made with Beatty, “Reds,” for which she received an Oscar nomination, Keaton talked about the famous reunion-at-the-train-station scene near the film’s end.
“It’s my favorite few minutes of anything I’ve done on film,” Keaton said, which is saying a lot. She said of Beatty, who directed her, “I didn’t make it easy for him.” She said that she wore a Walkman (you remember — the tape kind) “blasting Bob Dylan to block out all your direction. It was take after take till I finally got it.”
Keaton continued: “It’s the memory of the kind of love I never imagined possible in the movies.” On that train station in Spain, where the scene was filmed, Keaton said, “it was the sweet anguish of love when I saw your face.”
Keaton’s moment should be quite memorable when the AFI tribute is edited for broadcast on USA Network on June 25 (it's not to be missed).
Robert Downey Jr. and Elaine May were also in the category of sublime performances. May’s was, well, a kind of pure ditzy comedy as she explained how Beatty pitched “Heaven’s Gate” to her originally as a project for Muhammad Ali, and then explained “Reds.”
And Downey: how to describe the star of “Iron Man” totally rehabilitated from Hollywood’s very bad boy to gigantic star of the moment? Downey was such a drug addict that he was found sleeping in strangers’ beds and went to jail.
He is now hailed as a conquering hero. He is also brilliantly gifted with verbiage, and so his fictional monologue about being a 9-year-old producer advising Beatty and late director Hal Ashby about the movie “Shampoo” will wind up being one of those viral videos on YouTube. It’s a classic.
Now that the AFI has honored Warren Beatty, I am told that there's a move afoot for next year to get Woody Allen. It's a great idea. Woody's "Vicky Christina Barcelona" will be a big hit for the Weinstein Company this fall, with many Oscar nominations likely. And imagine the cast of that tribute — Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Dianne Wiest, Louise Lasser, Tony Roberts, Mira Sorvino, Michael Caine and so on.
"VCB" is just one of four big expected Oscar pictures touted hits this fall for the Weinstein Company, now in its second full year of operation. Look for "The Road" and "The Reader" as well as "Shanghai" to lead the unsinkable Harvey Weinstein back to the Kodak Theater stage. His investors should be smiling.
Meantime, Weinstein has a lot to look forward to on Sunday night at the Tony Awards with all his nominations. The play he backed, "August: Osage County," is set to win Best Play. ...
Also Thursday night, from the AFI tribute: how about Quentin Tarantino chewing the ear off of Shirley MacLaine? He couldn't get enough of her! Tarantino was sitting at a hot table hosted by producer Steve Bing, who also brought James Caan, Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch and R&B legend Solomon Burke .
My own table hosts were the fantastic Larry and Michelle Herbert. Larry has been on the AFI board for over 20 years. He invented the famous Pantone numbered color system used in every art store in the world, and by corporations who need punch for their logos (you can buy his fascinating memoir on amazon.com). Michelle Herbert looked like such a movie star Thursday night on the red carpet that the paparazzi and the fans at the Kodak kept stopping her to take her picture. Bravo!