Now we know what Harvey Weinstein's secret trip to Barcelona was all about last week.
Weinstein was securing the participation of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem to star in his mega-hit film version of the Broadway show "Nine." The movie musical will be directed by Rob Marshall, who brought Oscars and glory to Weinstein with "Chicago."
Cruz and Bardem are currently in Barcelona filming Woody Allen's new movie alongside another Weinstein favorite, Scarlett Johansson. When Harvey popped in to the dinner last week in New York for "The Nanny Diaries," in which Scarlett stars with Laura Linney, he said he had gone there just to check in with Scarlett and to see how Woody was coming along. Harvey, of course, is in the Scarlett-and-Woody business.
But Harvey is also now in the business of making some Oscar contenders for 2008-2009 — big time. He already has Nicole Kidman and Ralph Fiennes lined up for "The Readers." For "Nine," Marshall says he would like to also line up Sophia Loren and Marion Cotillard — a sure Oscar nominee this year for "La Vie En Rose." Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won an Oscar for "Chicago," is a natural for the film, too.
It's interesting, isn't it, that both Woody Allen and Rob Marshall have steered toward making American films with talent discovered by Pedro Almodovar. It would be funny if Marshall could give Pedro a cameo considering this irony.
The real trick now on "Nine" is to see how the script comes in. The beauty of "Chicago" was its strong construction, thanks to Oscar-winner Bill Condon. "Nine" is being written by Michael Tolkin, an unusual choice; he wrote Robert Altman's "The Player" from his own novel. But Altman told me on several occasions that he completely reworked Tolkin's script. This could have been Altman bravado, but still.
Look for Condon to come in as the cleanup man on "Nine." This movie isn't going to roll until it's completely ready. There's too much at stake, and Harvey — a perfectionist — knows it.
Another great performance out of left field: Woody Harrelson in Paul Schrader's "The Walker."
Schrader, celebrated for writing "American Gigolo" two decades ago, has found a natural sequel for that landmark film.
Harrelson plays Carter Page, a Southern gentleman from a fine family who makes a living "walking" wealthy society ladies — their dates, as it were — when their tycoon husbands are too busy for such low tasks.
Among the women in Carter's life are Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin and Kristin Scott Thomas. Each actress is wonderful, perfect in their characterizations. Bacall puts on her snooty airs and gets the best laughs of the film. She is a miracle.
Even though it turns into something of a murder mystery a la "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," "The Walker" is a lot of fun. For certain New Yorkers it should generate a lot of publicity, too.
The most well-known walker of the 1980s was the late Jerry Zipkin. But I don't think Schrader had him in mind, exactly. I believe I know who Carter Page is supposed to be, but I won't say right now. It's too cruel.
Woody Harrelson has had an odd career, but as Carter he is restrained and delightful. Marketed the right way, his performance might have a shot at some awards. And Schrader of course gives a nod to "Gigolo" when his camera lovingly caresses Carter's closet, which he and his very expensive clothes are still in.