Nicole Kidman Absent From Launch of New 'Fur' Flick

Nicole Kidman | Madonna | Ryan-Reese Split; Clintons in Swankland

Nicole Kidman: Pro 'Fur,' but Absent

Nicole Kidman is going to miss all of the publicity for her new movie, “Fur.”

Kidman has opted out of the big New York premiere this coming Sunday, leaving the heavy lifting to costar Robert Downey Jr. and director Steve Shainberg.

She also opted out of the swell mini-screening at the Museum of Modern Art last night, followed by a dinner hosted by executive producer Ed Pressman that shut down Elaine’s.

If she’d been there, Nicole could have accepted kudos from Shainberg, Diane Arbus biographer Patty Bosworth, the Talking Heads’ David Byrne, director James Toback, Elaine Kaufman and loads of New York media types. Pressman and wife, Annie, even treated the wall-to-wall crowd to photographic portraits taken by Robin Holland.

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But Kidman is laying low, thanks to new husband Keith Urban’s stint in rehab. Rather than risk being slagged for partying while Urban does his 28 days, Kidman is stuck not getting to put in a word to help this unusual little film.

And that’s too bad, because “Fur” will need a boost against all the more conventional films headed into competition with it. An imagined tale about photographer Arbus and her world of freaks, “Fur” is one of those little gems that quickly divides the audience into pro-"Fur" or anti-"Fur" activists. We fall on the side of the former.

The “Fur” folks were able to share their frustrations last night with legendary director Robert Altman, who was already seated at Elaine’s with wife, Kathryn, when they arrived.

That’s because Altman and writer Garrison Keillor had just finished a Q&A down at the Museum of Television and Radio to launch the DVD of Altman’s own great little film, “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Apparently, Altman and Keillor have done a couple of these joint appearances before, but they are more Simon and Garfunkel than bread and butter, if you know what I mean.

The “Prairie” radio show is Keillor’s 30-year-old baby, but the “Prairie” movie is Altman’s achievement.

Watching these two guys was like sitting up close for a match between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. You could get hit with a ball if you didn’t duck!

But Altman is sanguine about it all. When Keillor gave him a chance, he did explain quite a few things about his moviemaking. For one thing, he does not let the actors ad lib, even though it seems as though they do.

“It’s all scripted,” he said. “I find when you let the actors go off the page they come running right back to it and do it verbatim.”

The only actor Altman may have let get away with any of that, he confessed to me later, was Lily Tomlin.

“She did some,” he conceded.

A clip of Tomlin doing what you might call “the orangutan” speech was played, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for it, there’s something wrong.

“Prairie” has already been nominated for an ensemble acting award by the Gotham Awards, and should be a shoo-in for the same at the SAG Awards. I hope Tomlin and Meryl Streep, who play singing sisters, are also cited for their work, as well as Altman for his direction.

But the great director doesn’t necessarily care: He’s already got a start date of Feb. 12 for his next one, “Hands on a Hard Body.” That’s nine days before his 82nd birthday. Streep, Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones are among the first to have signed on for the all-star ensemble.

Madonna Confuses Her Religion

And rabbis all over the world reach for their Alka-Seltzer: Madonna tells NBC's "Dateline" tonight that she’s raising newly acquired son David in Kabbalah.

But she’s a little confused about actual Kabbalah — which is a study of mysticism in advanced teachings of Judaism — and the Kabbalah Centre, which is a Hollywood-based business to which she donates millions.

Buyer beware: Proceeds from Madonna’s latest children’s book, like the five that preceded it, go to the Kabbalah Centre. She gets the tax deduction, by the way, not you. Maybe that’s why the new one is ranked at No. 816 on

Madonna tells "Dateline": “I believe in Jesus, and I study Kabbalah. So, I don't see why [David] can't too. The essence of the Kabbalah is the teachings of Jesus. You know, love your neighbor as yourself. If David decides he wants to be a Christian, then so be it. Studying Kabbalah doesn't mean you can't be a Christian or a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Jew or whatever."

Well, yes, Madonna, it does mean exactly that. Meantime, it’s pointed out that her adopted baby’s father told the Malawi court he was happy his child was going to a “nice Christian woman.” Ouch!

Ryan-Reese Split; Clintons' Swank Surroundings

The National Enquirer has come up with a scenario for the Reese Witherspoon-Ryan Phillippe breakup, but they have the timeline wrong.

As I wrote in this space yesterday, the couple’s big blowout fight occurred during the party for "Flags of Our Fathers," not after. If the supermarket tab is right, Reese supposedly discovered e-mails on Ryan’s BlackBerry from his girlfriend and went ballistic.

Sounds good, but they don’t have it in the right order, if they have it right at all. If only they’d been there …

I’m relieved to report that while Bill Clinton spent the weekend raising millions for poor people in Africa, he and his family had solid accommodations here in New York.

Bill, Hillary and Chelsea all stayed at the incredibly expensive, newly renovated Gramercy Park Hotel, where small rooms are $500 and suites run to $2,500 a night.

Zillionaire backers Ron Burkle and Steve Bing also stayed there, and other guests, according to hotel insiders, included REM’s Michael Stipe, his pal Courtney Love, actress Lucy Liu, Hollywood power-producer Bernie Brillstein, Paramount Pix chief Brad Grey, designer Betsey Johnson and hot-hot-hot actress Eva Mendes.

The hotel insists it did not “comp” any of the rooms. But the Gramercy is so exclusive that they have a bar you can’t get into without being on a list after 9 p.m.

But I’m sure all Malawians — whom Clinton is supporting by helping to fund Madonna’s Kabbalah charity there — are welcome at any hour …