Earnest Star Says A.I. Ahead of Its Time

Frances O'Connor | Record Execs' Truce  | Michele Lee  | Cannes Film Festival

Earnest Star Says AI Ahead of Its Time

Frances O'Connor, one of the stars of Oliver Parker's The Importance of Being Earnest, told me the other night that audiences simply weren't ready for Stanley Kubrick's last movie (directed by Steven Spielberg).

O'Connor, you may recall, played the mother in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. When her son falls into a coma, O'Connor and her husband adopt an android boy played by Haley Joel Osment. When the son recovers, O'Connor dumps her adopted son in the woods.

"So many people came up to me and said, 'How could you do that?'" O'Connor recalled. "I guess it struck a nerve. But also, they seemed to forget that he wasn't real. He was a robot!"

The actress — who also did a smashing job in Mansfield Park — agreed that A.I., like many Stanley Kubrick films, was ahead of its time.

"People forget that no one liked 2001 when it was first released," she said, "and now it's considered a great classic."

O'Connor recently finished a long run in London's West End playing Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opposite Brendan Fraser and Ned Beatty. Although she loves theater, she told me she turned down a chance to be directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse in London — now considered the hippest theater in town — because she has to get back to making movies. Next year she'll star in Timeline, the movie version of the Michael Crichton novel directed by Richard (Superman) Donner.

The Importance of Being Earnest opens today in a limited run, and then branches out to more theaters shortly. My advice: When you see those long lines for Attack of the Clones, give Earnest a chance. The costumes are just as good, and the dialogue is a whole lot better.

Record Execs Declare Day-Old Truce

Wednesday night at the W Hotel in Union Square: try to picture Clive Davis, L.A. Reid, and Lyor Cohen all in the same room.

It happened. I was there. I can prove it. The heads of J Records, Arista Records, and Island/Def Jam Records. It was like the meeting of the Five Families.

What were these three titans of the record business up to anyway? Raising money for the T.J. Martell Foundation, the only legitimate charity in the music industry. Esquire magazine underwrote the night, with proceeds going to Martell.

Reid, who is indeed the best-dressed man anywhere in his Brioni suit, was a little surprised when a photograph of himself and his recording star Pink went for $5,000 at the live auction.

"I can't believe it," he said, shaking his head. "Are people losing their minds?"

One of the serious underbidders was Robyn Crawford, formerly part of Whitney Houston's management team and now out on her own with new acts. Crawford didn't hesitate to bid up Reid's picture. "You've got to have fun in this life," she said.

The live auction of photos (including one of Davis with Busta Rhymes) was emceed by Cedric the Entertainer, who's just gotten his first TV series with Fox.

"It's a half-hour variety show recalling the days of Flip Wilson," he told me.

Cedric also has a couple of movies in the can, including Barbershop, which also features Ice Cube and Troy Garity.

The Martell Foundation has existed for 27 years, named for the son of Sony record executive Tony Martell, who died of leukemia at a young age. Their annual gala is scheduled for June 10 in New York honoring Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television.

Michele Lee's Dedicated to Firefighters

Thursday day night Elaine's famed eatery on the Upper East Side was so chock-a-block with the "in crowd" that waiters had trouble getting between the tables.

MTV's Duff — a.k.a. Karen Duffy — strolled in with Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell, while Law and Order emperor Dick Wolf was busy chatting up Broadway stars Alan King (Goldwyn) and Michele Lee (Tale of the Allergist's Wife) at an adjoining table.

That wouldn't have been so bad, but at the big table for eight just beyond the partition that leads to the kitchen, the famed photographer and raconteur Peter Beard was putting in a rare uptown appearance with writer A.E. Hotchner and publicist Bobby Zarem. Beard and Zarem reminisced about their days at Yale together. At the same time, mystery writer Carol Higgins Clark was holding court with local Channel 11 morning-show star Lynn White.

The magnificent Lee, by the way, is wrapping up her long Tony-nominated run in Allergist in about 10 days, and taking the show to Los Angeles with co-stars Tony Roberts and Valerie Harper. Before she reluctantly leaves New York, Michele will help dedicate a new park in the theater district in memory of the lost firefighters from Ladder Company 54, Battalion 9. This station is said to have lost more men — 15 — than any other in the city on September 11.

"They were beloved by everyone on Broadway," Michele told me, "and we have to honor them. It's so important."

A no doubt very poignant ceremony with bagpipers and a lunch to follow is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21 at 11:30 a.m. New York's First Lady, Libby Pataki, will join Michele, Valerie, and a number of Broadway stars. 

Off to the Cannes Film Festival

Starting Tuesday this column will report from the Cannes Film Festival. Between Roman Polanski (who's got a film called The Pianist) and Robert Evans (star of his own documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture), this year's theme should be Hollywood Hedonism Redux.

Sharon Stone, who's starred in an Evans movie (Sliver) and could have played Polanski's wife Sharon Tate in a movie, is on the festival jury. It's all going to be fascinating.

This reporter co-produced a documentary in the Directors' Fortnight called Only the Strong Survive, which was directed by the formidable team of Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (The War Room, Down From the Mountain).

The Directors' Fortnight is a little less stressful than the main festival since it does not involve competition; it's a showcase. That will make it easier for me to tell you about much-anticipated films such as Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (a 25-minute clip will be shown), and Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love with Adam Sandler.

Of course, the big event of the week, apart from the Festival, is the AmFAR dinner on Thursday night. That's when the big guns come out — Stone, Liz Taylor, the whole gang. If only Robert Altman could film it....

See you next week, live from the Croisette!

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