Joaquin: No Frogs in His Hair

Joaquin Phoenix | 50 Cent Flops | Dreamworks | Denise vs. Sharon

Joaquin: No Frogs in His Hair or Aches in His Head

Joaquin Phoenix is OK. I saw him last night at the premiere of “Walk the Line,” the excellent film in which he wows every audience playing legendary Johnny Cash.

There were crazy stories last week that he was having a nervous breakdown, and that he’d told reporters somewhere that there was a frog in his hair, or some such nonsense.

So I did expect to see a mental case at the post-screening party for “Walk the Line,” but alas, none was to be found.

If it’s an act, and Joaquin is crazy for others but sane when I’m in his presence, then he should get the Oscar.

The guy is normal, I’m afraid, just working hard doing press for “Walk the Line” and trying to keep a sense of humor.

“I had a fly in my hair. I was brushing it away. Someone asked me what was wrong and I said something like, 'I have a frog on my head,' joking,” he told me. “Then I read that I said I had a frog in my hair. What am I supposed to do?”

He brought his mom and sister to the premiere, as well as a pretty girl — whose name I didn’t get — who might be a new girlfriend. Next week he’s off to Europe to promote “Walk the Line,” and then he returns home for a couple of months.

Phoenix is in such good shape that he’ll start a new movie later next winter.

By the way, he’s a huge old-school hip-hop fan. “1993 was the best year,” he told me as he accepted a mix CD from hot DJ Sky Nellor. “Old Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, they’re the best.”

The next time we see Joaquin will probably be at the Golden Globes as he sets sail on a winter of awards shows and nominations for “Walk the Line.”

Same for James Mangold, the director, and maybe even actress Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash. This is just a great movie, one of my favorites of the last couple of years.

Now, the premiere was at the Beacon Theater in New York City, which is not a moviehouse but a small concert hall. Why there? No one seems to know. I was told the projectionist had trouble keeping the print on the screen and that the heads looked cut off sometimes.

Enjoying the show, in spite of the technical issues, were a passel of country stars in town for the CMAs this week, including Glen Campbell, Lee Ann Womack, Gretchen Wilson and a lot of other big names.

None of those people trekked the 40 blocks south though to the no-press party at the Gotham Hall on 36th and Broadway, nor did Little Steven van Zandt, Larry King or his wife Shawn.

This was a strange-ish event that included a velvet rope designed to keep some people away from others. It was unclear who was supposed to be on which side, so Joaquin and his gang stayed on one side, and Reese and her people were on the other, with no rhyme or reason to any of it.

But I did like seeing Jim Mangold, his wife/producer Cathy Conrad, his dad, the famous artist Robert Mangold plus 20th Century Fox’s dynamic chief Jim Gianopolous and his wife Ann, as well as talent agent Patrick Whitesell, Roy Orbison’s widow, Barbara, Memphis Film Commissioner Lynn Sitler and Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and actor John Slattery (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ellis Henican) with Talia Balsam.

Where was everyone else? As one country music expert observed, “If you didn’t have tequila ready when the movie was over, those folks were going to move on fast.” And so they did.

50 Cent Deep Discounted: Film Flops

Here’s an update to a story I posted on Saturday afternoon. In the end, it seems that rapper 50 Cent’s movie, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” is a bust. It took five days for the super-violent movie, directed by the otherwise lovable Jim Sheridan, to make $18 million. Even that number is still an estimate, and it may turn out to be less.

Over the weekend I caught an interview that Sway (yes, that’s his name), a very smart interviewer from MTV, did with 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson.

The rapper came off as petty, jealous, arrogant and full of just enough hubris to be a human piñata in the making. Nothing about 50 Cent seems intelligent, sympathetic or winning. I guess movie audiences agree.

As I wrote on Saturday, the movie has done nothing to generate interest in 50 Cent’s music. Suddenly, after being all over the charts for months, he’s nowhere. His album, “The Massacre,” is off the mainstream charts completely. It’s lodged at No. 30 on the rap charts, which means it’s non-existent.

Now the problem for Paramount is what to do with this turkey. They say the movie cost $40 million. Add on another $15-20 mil for promotion and marketing, not to mention babysitting 50 Cent and his entourage. Even on the low side, $55 million is still a big nut to crack, and we’re far from that number.

Dreamworks: The Nightmare Continues

You’ll be happy to know that someone at Dreamworks Animation has finally made some money. It wasn’t the little stockholders who post all day long on the Yahoo! message board. No, they’re pretty much cooked at this point.

On Oct. 28, the big winner was Carl Rosendahl, a well-known digital filmmaker who’s been in business with Dreamworks for the last several years. He sold 24,000 shares and picked up $610,000. Sounds good to me!

But Oct. 28 was two weeks ago. Last Thursday, surprise, DWA announced during their quarterly conference call that they were deep in a hole with no light at the end of it.

"Wallace & Gromit" has taken in only $50 million domestically, leaving DWA in dire straits. The company announced on Thursday that the film had “underperformed,” forcing DWA to take a $4 million write-down.

Ironically, Rosendahl must have panicked, because on the day he sold the stock, its price was quite low — $24.98 — after a steady slide. From the next day through last Wednesday, there was a slight rise to $26.53. But once the call was over on Thursday, the bottom dropped out again. DWA finished the week at $24.80.

That doesn’t mean that some weird stuff wasn’t going on last week. For example, on Thursday, while the bad news was being delivered, there were two huge transactions for 100,000 shares apiece. Thursday and Friday were the highest volume days for DWA since Oct. 6. What’s going on? Beats me. But someone knows something or thinks they do.

Hopefully, the DVD release of "Madagascar" tomorrow will help the company. But there’s no doubt that DWA is struggling at this point. Jeffrey Katzenberg is now counting on the May 2006 release of “Over the Edge” to make a big impact. “The film is coming together quite nicely,” he said on the call. No reference was made to the unfortunately titled “Flushed Away,” which is supposed to be the other release in 2006.

All this bad news about DWA and its private sister company Dreamworks SKG is hardly welcome. When Dreamworks was started in 1994, the whole idea was for a new kind of studio that would make quality movies. The private company has two Best Picture Oscars in "Gladiator" and "American Beauty," and several succes d’estimes with the first "Shrek," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Almost Famous."

The entire Dreamworks saga remains a cautionary tale for anyone thinking about starting up a new movie studio.

Denise vs. Sharon; Plus, Soap Bubble Burst?

Tonight’s Angel Ball is Denise Rich’s crème de la crème bi-annual event. Stevie Wonder is supposed to be playing, and you know Patti LaBelle and Natalie Cole are coming to the Marriott Marquis as well.

But all eyes will be peeled to see if Sharon Stone shows up. Remember how Denise and Sharon were recording a charity single they’d co-written for the Katrina survivors? Well, I’m told there’s been a rift, and the pal-ship is off. We’ll have to see if it’s permanent or one of those Lucy/Ethel things…

ABC Daytime continues to astound. They think by getting rid of veteran actors, or paying them little, ratings will go up. I don’t know where they got this idea. Now two admired award winners are being toyed with by management — Julia Barr on “All My Children” and Hilary Bailey Smith on “One Life to Live.” Each is worth her weight in the kewpie dolls that would replace them. Fork over the bucks, ABC…