Russell Crowe thought he was going to win the Academy Award for best actor in A Beautiful Mind. Indeed, according to sources, he was busy working on his acceptance speech on Saturday afternoon.
Crowe, who lost to Denzel Washington and is currently experiencing Zelig-like backlash in the press for inappropriate behavior, had really thought about what he would say if he picked up his second Oscar in two years.
"The last part of the speech was about how he almost was bitten by a poisonous snake at his ranch in Australia," says my spy. "He made the point that because he wasn't bitten, it was good karma and meant that he would live to win the Oscar."
Well, Crowe lived, but got no prize this year. He didn't even bother with post-Oscar parties, but is said to have returned to the mega-posh Hotel Bel-Air where he was supposed to keep a low profile away from the press.
I'm sure it didn't help that two of his assistants were overheard working on the speech in the Business Center at the Bel-Air and then indiscreetly reading their work aloud for others to hear. Whoops!
In fact, everything about Crowe's stay in Los Angeles during Oscar weekend was designed to keep him away from prying eyes. The two Universal Pictures parties — one on Saturday night, the other post-Oscar — were completely off limits to the press.
This didn't do much to endear Universal or its party partners DreamWorks and USA Films to the entertainment press, which was called on all year for favors. One European colleague of mine has since sworn vengeance on all three studios. "Just wait til they come asking for Oscar items next fall," he said.
Banning the press from all Russell Crowe areas was a good idea, but it didn't stop the actor from getting into trouble. At a big talent agency party on Friday night hosted by Ed Limato of ICM, Crowe evidently had a scuffle with a photographer. Sources say Crowe was asked to leave at that point, but reports of the altercation have traveled all over town since Friday.
Good news for the Backstreet Boys: They've settled on a new management company. The Boys have picked two famed rock reps to help them in their future endeavors: Irving Azoff and Howard Kaufman.
Azoff was once described as "the poison dwarf" in the book Hit Men. He's guided the careers of the Eagles, Steely Dan, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, among others. Azoff is the sharpest knife in the drawer and takes no prisoners, which may be just what the Boys need right now.
Kaufman, of course, is currently representing Michael Jackson, which is a job no one wants but someone has to have.
The Backstreet Boys are in a tough position. They were once managed by the same people as 'N Sync and Britney Spears — first Lou Pearlman, who put them together, and then Johnny Wright.
But when Wright moved 'N Sync onto Jive, the same label as the Boys, the Boys freaked. They switched management to The Firm, another aggressive outfit. But their most recent album, Black and Blue, was a disappointment, and it was followed by a premature greatest hits package.
Backstreet has also suffered from some publicity problems, most notably drug rehab for member A.J. McLean. A group with a teen following hardly needs that kind of attention.
Still, the Boys are not giving up and they shouldn't. I ran into Brian Littrell with his wife Leighanne at the InStyle/Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party. They were waiting on line patiently along with everyone else including actors (Rosanna Arquette) and regular folk. The Littrells are a cute young couple, and Brian can sing — witness "I Want It That Way." He could probably have a solo popstar career, but chooses to stick with the group.
My guess is that the group will drop "the boys" part of their name and re-emerge simply as Backstreet with an edgier sound and a more planned future. Good luck to them. Hopefully their legions of fans will follow them into the next chapter of their career.
Once again, Miramax held the latest party, a small gathering that commenced around 1 a.m. No one's supposed to reveal the location of this event; when I did last year, I never heard the end of it. So let's just say, it was in a nice suite of rooms.
Even though the studio had 15 Oscar nominations and yielded just one award — for Jim Broadbent in Iris — late night revelers stopped by for French toast, bacon, eggs benedict, and Krispy Kreme donuts until 3 a.m. or so. Among the guests: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, Sir Ian McKellen (who slow danced with his boyfriend and furrowed a lot of brows in the process), In the Bedroom director Todd Field, Sissy Spacek with husband Jack Fisk and daughter, actress Schuyler Fisk, Bedroom killer William Mapother, Broadbent and his wife, Monster's Ball director Marc Forster, actor/director Vondie Curtiss-Hall with his wife, actress/director Kasi Lemmons, plus Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
Sting and his wife Trudie Styler — whom I will tell you more about tomorrow — stuck it out with Elton John and then headed home. Would they stop in at the Miramax event?
"We're having our own after-hours party," Trudie told me with a wink. "It's going to be very small, if you know what I mean."
As George Costanza might say, post-Oscar sex is the best kind.