Jessica Simpson, Russia’s Sweetheart | Redford Happy About Ted Stevens | Bronfman’s Folly: Warner Music Slips to $3.28

Jessica Simpson, Russia’s Sweetheart

What ever happened to Jessica Simpson’s comedy, “Major Movie Star”?

The “Private Benjamin” – like film has never opened here in the United States. But on October 9th, “Major Movie Star” debuted to top box office in… Russia.

Next up for a movie described by one of its participants as “maybe one of the worsr films ever made”: a November premiere in Bulgaria.

So far there’s no U.S. release date set. Nor is there one for any other country in which English is the primary language.

No fewer than 15 producers are listed on the credits of “Major Movie Star” including Jessica’s enterprising dad, Joe. The director was Steve Miner, whose credits are mostly from television.

While Jessica’s singing career transition into country star has gone pretty well so far, her movie credits seem to be getting worse rather than better. She’d be substantially better off, frankly, having a sitcom in which she can play herself.

Redford Happy About Ted Stevens

Robert Redford, looking like the mega movie star he is, greeted donors to the Sundance Institute dinner last night with this upbeat headline: “The good news,” he told the crowd, “is that Senator Ted Stevens was convicted today.”

The annual Sundance dinner this year was held at the Roseland Ballroom, which had been expertly turned into a replica of Sundance, Utah with huge laser print wall hangings depicting snow capped mountains and horse ranches.

There to appreciate all this was a smattering of cognoscenti including Jane Fonda, Norman Lear (whose wife Lyn is now on the Sundance board), Alec Baldwin, Christine Lahti, Chevy Chase, Michael Imperioli, Mellody Hobson, Paley Center chief Pat Mitchell, “Max Payne” producer Karen Lauder, director Barbara Kopple, and Joey “Pants” Pantoliano, “Nanny Diaries” directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, as well as famed painter Stephen Hannock, “30 Rock” actor Judah Friedlander, Rosie Perez, 80s nightlife empress Carola (at different times she ran Elaine’s, Au Bar, and Tatou), and Craft restaurant chef Tom Colicchio, who designed the menu (which is why the food was so good for a change).

Needless to say, it was a crowd that appreciated Redford’s comments, including his admission that he’s been “sad” lately — a reference to the death of his pal, Paul Newman. But other wise Redford, an avowed environmentalist, said he saw hope in the future, and besides Stevens’s conviction. “It’s a good time for artists,” he concluded.

It’s also a good time for grandfathers. He just became one two months ago when daughter Amy gave birth to a baby girl. Next Friday she also delivers her first film as a director. “The Guitar” stars Saffron Burrows as a woman who turns to incredibly conspicuous consumption after hearing that she has a fatal disease.

“I hope it will strike a chord with people right now,” Amy said, considering what’s happened to the credit markets. The trenchant film opens first in New York at the Sunshine Theater, and then expands.

Meantime, Jane Fonda tells me she is off to Savannah and then Charlottesville where son, actor Troy Garity, is showing his film “Lake City” at film festivals. Christine Lahti told me she’s having a ball in the off Broadway play “Body of Water.” And where’s husband, Thomas Schlamme, the Emmy winning director of “The West Wing”?

“He’s home in Los Angeles watching the kids,” Lahti said with a big smile. But don’t worry. Her run ends on November 16th.

At that point, John Cameron Mitchell, who was deejaying the after party above us, shouted down on his mike, “Where is everybody? The party’s up here, in the mezzanine!”—causing a stampede up Roseland’s staircases.

Overheard: Berman and Pulcini, whose 2003 film “American Splendor” remains a high water mark, are about to announce a new project. The word is they’re just about to sign Kevin Kline and Paul Dano to star in their adaptation of Jonathan Ames’s hilarious 1999 novel, “The Extra Man.”

Bronfman’s Folly: Warner Music Slips to $3.28

Warner Music Group, which I called Warner M. Group because the M no longer stands for Music, slipped to $3.28 a share yesterday after hitting an all time low of $3.26.

Ironically, I received a press release yesterday announcing the celebration of WMG’s 50th anniversary. Of course, that includes the miserable last four years since Time Warner sold the company to Edgar Bronfman, Jr.

The long and the short of it is that on December 9th Warner Bros. Records is releasing a 240-page hard cover book accompanied by a USB flash drive containing 320 recordings “reflecting the company's stature one of the most consistently successful labels in history and home to some of the most influential and innovative artists in contemporary music.”

The press release goes on to say: “The accompanying USB memory key, shaped like the WB logo, is loaded with iconic music that is the equivalent of a 20 CD set.”

“Ranging from Jimi Hendrix to My Chemical Romance, the Grateful Dead to Madonna, Fleetwood Mac to Frank Sinatra, Tab Hunter to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the who's who of the label's roster reflects an unequalled cross section of cultural history and some of today's most important artists.”

Tab Hunter? In case you don’t know, he was the Zac Efron of his day. Or, stretching it, the Bobby Sherman.

But I digress. “Other notable artists associated with the company's rise and continuing industry leadership are Green Day, Van Halen, Michael Bublé, Regina Spektor, The White Stripes, Cher, Curtis Mayfield, Ramones, REM, Faith Hill, Alanis Morrisette, Randy Newman, Funkadelic, Seal, Big & Rich, Alanis Morrisette, Linkin Park, Josh Groban, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton and hundreds of others…”

Yes, yes, I will stop since none of these artists, not one, has been developed by the current WMG regime in place since February 2004. You may notice that Alanis Morrisette is mentioned twice – is this because WMG rejected the album she finally released this year after a big fight with the company? There’s no mention of Prince, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, The Grateful Dead, Doobie Brothers, Joni Mitchell, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Sex Pistols or Neil Young.

The package, which will also be available as 10 CD set, doesn’t include Atlantic Records’ famed catalog. You can already buy that from Rhino/Atlantic in a variety of formats.

Amanda Collins, corporate pr for WMG, in a separate email, takes this column to task. She says WMG is really successful and I should stop knocking them. She cites one hit wonder act James Blunt and such memorable stars as T.I., Day 26, and Danity Kane. She also responds to my questions about CEO Lyor Cohen’s August 11th stock sale at share price $8.45, totaling almost $7 million.

Collins writes: “As to your question about our Vice Chairman Lyor Cohen, as Mr. Cohen stated publicly in August, that “[stock] sale reflects nothing more than a normal need for liquid assets for personal expenses as well as my financial adviser's recommendation that I diversify my portfolio for tax and estate planning.”

This should come as some comfort and explanation to other WMG stockholders now that shares are down five dollars. They obviously had the wrong financial advisers.

Collins concludes: “Mr. Cohen also noted at that time that his “confidence in Warner Music Group’s future prospects remains as strong as ever” and that he continues “to have a significant number of shares and options of Warner Music so a significant portion of my compensation remains dependent on the performance of Warner Music Group stock."

Maybe the book, the USB, or 10 CD set will kick up the stock price again. If not, WMG is threatening a February 2009 release in which current Warner artists will cover songs long associated with the label. These could include “Go Your Own Way,” “What a Fool Believes,” and “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”