Benjamin Bratt was in town last night promoting his new film, Piñero. This is the one about poet Miguel Piñero, and Bratt is the object of much awards buzz.
But of course the first thing you want to ask him — come on, you have to ask him — is about Julia Roberts. All last winter when Julia was on her coronation tour of awards shows for Erin Brockovich — leading up to the Oscars — there was Benjamin, the perfect escort, always holding the door, making an entrance area, the impeccable Julia Roberts diplomat attaché.
And then, it was over. Julia took up with a cameraman, or so it's been bandied about, on the set of her new film Ocean's Eleven.
At last night's premiere of Piñero, Bratt solo proved every bit the diplomat. He shook hands with everyone and obligingly answered questions about everything — except Julia.
"I like to think about the future," he said politely. "I’m not getting into that."
Well, you know, it's our job to ask.
Bratt did say that he had no regrets about his time on TV's Law & Order or his appearance last year in Madonna's very awful movie The Next Best Thing.
"My goal when I came into this business was to keep working, and that's what I've done," he said.
You have to give him credit. The transition from television to movies is rare for actors, especially since the audience and film execs tend to typecast once they've seen an actor in a role.
"I think that is other people who make that happen, and not the actors," Bratt agreed. But with Piñero set only to enhance his career, he's on a role. He's got one other movie in the can, Abandon, directed by Traffic writer Stephen Gaghan.
"He's going to be an important director," Bratt volunteered. "Wait til you see how good he is."
He has no other job offers at the moment. But I guarantee you after Piñero starts its Oscar-qualifying run on Thursday, all that will change in a second.
After the stories I've been reporting the last few days about the highly suspect National Board of Review — the fee based membership group that gives out movie awards — I thought this new story was pretty amusing.
John Anderson, the respected film critic for Newsday, heads up the New York Film Critics group. This group comprises two dozen real movie critics, all respected journalists from local newspapers and magazines. They are the antithesis of the NBR.
For the last several years the Film Critics have had their annual dinner — at which they present their awards — at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center. Alas, Windows is now gone. Anderson, not without some sadness, began calling around to find another venue for the 350 person dinner.
"I thought of Tavern on the Green and called them," he told me. "I gave them our date, and the banquet manager said she'd get back to me. It seemed like it would work out."
A few days later, the banquet manager called back. "I had to tell you that I told the National Board of Review about your request. Their dinner is the next night here, and they said absolutely not. They think it would be a conflict."
Anderson was dumbfounded — first of all that the manager would involve another group, and second that they would be dictated to by that group. Of course he didn't know, as Fox411 readers do from yesterday's column, that NBR leader Robert Policastro is the former banquet manager at Tavern.
So what did Anderson do? He booked the Russian Tea Room. No problem, since the date he wanted — a Sunday — was open. "With all the hotels and restaurants needing business, I was shocked by what happened," he told me. But here's the punchline: The Tea Room, like Tavern, is owned by Jennifer LeRoy, daughter of the late Warner LeRoy.
"They didn't care what Tavern said," Anderson observed. "They were happy to have the business."
The Beatles' album called 1, which first came out last year, is back on the charts. Based on audience reaction to the tragic death of George Harrison, the album sold about 75,000 copies and is back in the Top 50.
But those sales charts are cruel. Mariah Carey's Greatest Hits barely cracked the top 50 in its first week out, with about 80,000 copies sold. This last ditch effort by Columbia Records to cash in on Mariah and screw up whatever new career she might have at Virgin Records has done the trick. Now she's got a lameduck album on the charts when while she was busy trying to revive Glitter.
The really bad news is over at the Warner Music Group, though. On Atlantic, new releases by Kid Rock and Jewel are stiffs, just incredible duds, and are mired in the 20s on the charts with almost no interest from any fans. Ouch! And on the Warner label, the soundtrack to Harry Potter is as cold as it could be. With Harry Potter mania raging everywhere, it's sort of unbelievable that Warner Records couldn't sell this ancillary product to the moviegoers. More downsizing and cost-cutting has to be around the corner now.