Published November 18, 2008
Michael Jackson won’t come to London despite being sued by his former pal Prince Abdullah of Bahrain.
Yesterday we were the first to report, and exclusively, the details of Abdullah’s claim for return of the $7 million he advanced Jackson in exchange for two albums, a musical, and an autobiography.
The case proceeded yesterday at 2:30 p.m. in London’s High Court and continues today. The prince’s attorney will present evidence to the court, like the contract Jackson signed with him.
So far, Jackson is refusing to come to London to testify in the trial. His lawyer, Mr. Thanki, of the Fountain Court firm, is telling the court that Michael must provide his testimony by video link because he’s too ill to travel.
If this like his famous “spider bite” from his 2003 trial in Santa Maria for another breach of contract, Justice Sweeney of the Queens Bench should be suspicious. A very inside source insisted to this column years ago that the “spider bite” was caused by other activities and that no insects were involved. And of course, Michael famously tried to get out of his child molestation trial a couple of times by going to the hospital — once in his pajamas.
Of course, Justice Sweeney should be suspect if Jackson’s “doctor’s note” comes from one Dr. Tohme Tohme. That’s Michael’s publicist, not his physician.
And still: other news sources are still reporting that Jackson turned over the deed to his Neverland ranch, or sold it out right last week. This isn’t true. Jackson formed a partnership with the note holder on Neverland to protect it from a loss in the trial with the prince.
There may be repercussions from that move. I’m told that Prince Abdullah knows Thomas J. Barrack, Jr., the founder of Colony Capital LLC, pretty well, and won’t be happy if he’s sheltering Jackson’s only asset from him.
Prince Abdullah, friends say, is not being vindictive. But after hosting Jackson in Bahrain, subsidizing the singer when no one would speak to him after his 2005 child molestation trial acquittal, and then handing him millions in cash, he has ever reason to feel betrayed.
Testimony continues today in Room 73 at 10:30 a.m.
It looks like Ron Howard’s film adaptation of the hit play, “Frost/Nixon,” is headed to the Academy Awards in some form.
Last night’s big premiere at the Ziegfeld showed the Universal Pictures release to be a smash, with stars Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, respectively picking up their original roles as Richard Nixon and David Frost, simply wowing the crowd.
Among the fans: FOX News’s own Bill O’Reilly, who couldn’t say enough nice things about the towering performances. I must concur. In addition to the leads, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall, and Oliver Platt are all tremendous.
For Ron Howard, this marks his best film since “A Brilliant Mind.” He and playwright Peter Morgan have managed to open up “Frost/Nixon” from the stage and make it simply spellbinding.
And this was one premiere that brought out all the principals, to the screening and then to the famed Four Seasons restaurant for a smashing after party. Among the guests not in the movie: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Brett Ratner, Christine Baranski, Tovah Felshuh, James Toback, Gay Talese, Liz Smith and advertising genius Peter Rogers, Mort Zuckerman, Tom Freston, Bill McCuddy, lit agent Mary Evans, Time magazine’s John Huey and Richard Zoglin, and NBC’s Brian Williams and Jeff Zucker, reprising their roles from the “Billy Elliot” opening last week.
Speaking of “Billy Elliot,” the Broadway smash shares producers with “Frost/Nixon” in Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan. Fellner brought along beautiful “Billy” star Haydn Gwynne (Mrs. Wilkinson). Because of the show’s first week schedule, she’s had two days off in a row. “It’s my last night off,” she laughed. “Ever!”
The real David Frost had a great chance encounter in the Four Seasons men’s room with “60 Minutes” journalist Steve Kroft.
The latter was being congratulated by everyone for his Sunday night interview with the Barack and Michelle Obama. When he and Frost — interviewer of this other president –met, the compliments were mutual. Neat.
Not so much on “The View” yesterday when Barbara Walters snapped at Frost: “You paid Nixon $600,000 for an interview. He did it with me for free a couple of years later.” So there!
Frost says about 15% of the movie was invented for dramatic purposes, but by and large the Nixon stuff is all true. We shall see shortly: the Watergate interview Frost did with Nixon will be released in a couple of weeks on DVD by a company called Liberation.
There are a couple of little gossipy problems with “Frost/Nixon.” The two main actors give outstanding performances. The studio would like Sheen to go for the Oscar in the supporting category so he might win. Sheen, who’s on screen just as much as Langella, wants to go for lead even if he doesn’t win. He feels it establishes him as a lead actor.
If Sheen goes into Supporting, he’s in good company: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Bill Irwin (Rachel Getting Married), Javier Bardem (Vicki Cristina Barcelona), Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), and Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading) are already strong contenders, along with Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight.
The fact is, Langella, who won the Tony for playing Nixon, will probably win the Oscar. He is just sensational. It’s one of the few times that a theater performance has translated to screen like this. Langella is mesmerizing as Nixon, It’s a tour de force embodiment, not an impersonation.
Does he want the Oscar? “You bet I do!” he responded when the screening was done. Well, he should get it. And Sheen? His work just gets better and better. And he did confirm that he will star in a kind of sequel to “The Queen” as Tony Blair again, written also by Morgan. This time, the story will be about his friendship with Bill Clinton.
So Universal’s Ron Meyer and Brian Grazer toss their hats into the Oscar pool, joining “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Rachel Getting Married,” and “Doubt” so far as serious Best Picture contenders. Stay tuned for just a couple more titles to be added to this list.
P.S. Sheen, if you didn’t know, has a nearly ten year old daughter with ex girlfriend Kate Beckinsale. All of that happened a long time ago in England, a far off place.
And by the way, Langella is still on Broadway until December 14th in the Roundabout Theater’s “A Man for All Seasons.” He got raves for that, too!
Sequel News: Mamma Mia, Jane Austen, 'Fiction'
The word around Universal is that they want a sequel to “Mamma Mia” with more Abba songs. The dreadful film has made zillions around the world — almost $565 million. Good thing they left out “Fernando”. Yikes!...
…It’s not a sequel, but like the great Marc Forster movie “Stranger than Fiction,” “Last Chance Harvey” stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. This genial romantic comedy has a lot of good buzz, and some Oscar talk for Dustin. How did this reunion happen? At an all star lunch yesterday at Michael’s, Thompson told me when she saw the script she called Hoffman immediately. She was right — they have excellent chemistry. Also at yesterday’s lunch: Katie Couric, Harry Evans, Tina Brown, Phil Donahue, Marlo Thomas, and a variety of media types. Meanwhile, Brian Grazer ate with Steven Rubenstein a deux, while Ron Howard held court at another table with three pals. There is no recession at Michael’s from what I could tell…
…And Emma Thompson, who we think of as Britain’s Meryl Streep, told me a bunch of things: she started out in stand up comedy. She’s writing a sequel to “Nanny McPhee,” her hit movie. And no, there’s no chance of a sequel to her smash hit, “Sense and Sensibility.” Although it would be funny to see a parody with all the Jane Austen heroines and find out what happened to them…
…Last night was the 2nd annual fundraiser for the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, named for the late indie actress and director of “Waitress” who was tragically killed a couple of years ago. Among the guests were Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, Karen Black, and singer Dana Parish…
…And yes, that was indeed the magnificent Agnes Nixon making a guest appearance on her show, “All My Children” last week for the soap’s 10,000th episode. The vivacious almost 81 year old also created soaps “One Life to Live” and “Another World.” No one has ever done it better, although now they do it a lot, lot worse (See “Guiding Light”)…