Ellen Gets Vote of Confidence From CBS Chief

Ellen DeGeneres | Bill Murray | Gene Hackman | Luke Wilson | John Lennon

Ellen Gets Vote of Confidence From CBS Chief

So the Emmy Awards never happened. Host Ellen DeGeneres was said to be devastated over the show's yanking given that she's tried twice to prepare for it and has had a bad outcome.

(The joke around town will be: Is it better to be caught bombing on the show or have the show cancelled because of bombing?)

But here's some good news for Ellen. According to my sources, CBS Entertainment Chief Les Moonves is going to stick with her new sitcom for a while and see what happens.

The initial ratings for Ellen have been so-so, but Moonves has told friends that he likes the show, likes DeGeneres, and wants to see it work.

The actual Ellen made enemies at her old show, and made headlines with Anne Heche. But she's a tough cookie. She learned a lot of lessons from the ABC experience, and also has a lot of friends and people in the industry rooting for her. I think with time Ellen will be a solid hit in CBS line-up. After all, if Becker can make it, any decent show has a shot.

Bill Murray Gives Advice to SNL

Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the New York Film Festival premiere of Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. It was a star studded night, with Anderson hosting actors Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, brothers Luke and Owen Wilson and many family members for the big night.

Bill Murray, who won acclaim in Anderson's Rushmore was also on hand, ready with quips and observations. Murray told me that his idea for the Saturday Night Live premiere was quite different from what was executed on stage. "I would have had the whole audience stand up and say, 'Live from New York, it's Saturday night.' I would have had people in the street do it too. But that's not the way it went."

Murray says he hopes to host the show in November, depending on schedules. He's forging ahead with his movie career, meanwhile, after re-cementing a tortured arrangement with Creative Artists Agency (everyone's best of friends again). He and partner Howard Franklin have a couple of screenplays on the table including one about a viewer who figures out how a real life game show in the '80s is played.

The show was called Press Your Luck — as is the screenplay — and it really happened. Michael Larsen, an unemployed Ohio ice cream truck operator, figured the game out from his Barcalounger and went on to win $25,000 in 1984. The shows he was on were so controversial that they've never been rerun and were eliminated from the syndication package when the show was sold to USA Cable.

Gene Hackman Steals the Show and Misses It

The first thing to say from The Royal Tenenbaums' screening and premiere is that Gene Hackman is certain to get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the family's dad, Royal.

You may recall that exactly one year ago — on October 16, 2000 — I told you that director Anderson was trying to get Hackman for this role. Hackman was leaning toward saying no at the time. The money was not his usual fat paycheck and he was going from David Mamet's Heist to shooting Behind Enemy Lines in London. Maybe our little story helped, so we'll take 1/1000 of the credit for letting the two-time Oscar winner know he was really, really wanted.

Whatever the story, Hackman made the right decision. While Royal Tenenbaums (which opens December 21) swings wildly from genius to derivative, Hackman's character is a pure invention, completely realized from beginning to end. Royal Tenenbaum is a charming con man, a weasel, the sort of person who makes compulsive, pathological lying an art. And still no one can get enough of him. Who hasn't known someone like this? (I can think of two men, of Hackman's approximate age who fit this bill. I almost thought Anderson had known them too while I watched the movie!)

Ironically, Hackman was the only one of the Tenenbaums who did not attend the premiere. The press-shy actor's actor was said to be taking a break.

So in a year that could bring us nominations and awards for work by Will Smith (Ali), Kevin Spacey (The Shipping News), Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) and Guy Pearce (Memento), add Gene Hackman's name to the list. This should be interesting.

Gwyneth's Guy Peddles Screenplay

The other big news to come out of the Royal premiere is that Luke Wilson — currently Gwyneth Paltrow's boyfriend — is close to making a deal for a screenplay that will feature him and his brothers.

Owen Wilson co-wrote Tenenbaums and worked with Anderson on his other movies. He also co-starred in them. Luke and Owen have each become sought after character actors in the last couple of years. Luke's appeared in Blue Streak with Martin Lawrence, as well as Charlie's Angels and My Dog Skip. Owen has had his turn in such movies as Meet the Parents, The Haunting and Shanghai Noon. He's currently in Zoolander.

Now Owen and Luke's brother, Andrew, is going to direct all three of them in a script written by Luke. The studio most likely to grab this project seems to be New Line Cinema, where Toby Emmerich is said to love the low-key comedy.

The Wilsons are an interesting and lively family. I met all three brothers and their parents at the Royal premiere, where they mingled with Paltrow's parents, Bruce and Blythe Danner, and her 26-year-old TV director brother Jake. The two families get along nicely, which could be — nah, forget that, Gwyneth isn't getting married. Not now at least.

Imagine All the John Lennon Gossip

After that hideous Yoko Ono tribute to herself on TNT last week, New Yorkers will get to hear another side of John Lennon's life. May Pang, his girlfriend from 1973-74, will speak tomorrow night at the Learning Annex in New York. Tomorrow would have been John's 61st birthday. Don't expect Ono to attend. Despite Pang getting the girlfriend gig from Yoko, the two have not spoken in many years.