Salman Rushdie Steals Film from Renée Zellweger… Almost

Salman Rushdie and Renée Zellweger | Hugh Grant | Mariah Carey and Sony | All About Eve — in Real Life!

Salman Rushdie Steals Film from Renée Zellweger… Almost

Well, the fatwa issued by the Iranians all those years ago — a death warrant on the head of writer Salman Rushdie — obviously doesn't include Hollywood. Rushdie makes not a small cameo in the film version of Bridget Jones's Diary, which premiered in New York last night to much applause and smiles.

Rushdie, let's say, holds his own with star Renée Zellweger in a couple of scenes that show off his comic abilities. Who knows? Maybe Rushdie is onto a new career.

Certainly star Zellweger cements her rapid rise to fame with her star turn as Bridget Jones. With an impeccable English accent, Renée — who's from Texas, born of a Norwegian mother and Swiss father — lights up the screen (as they used to say). Just as Melanie Griffith did in Working Girl, Renée is the centerpiece of almost every scene in the movie. She is more charming than ever, and I would wager, set for Oscar and Golden Globe nominations next fall.

At the premiere she worked like a dog, doing one-on-one interviews with press before getting anything to eat. "I haven't even talked to my mother," she said of the very elegant blond woman sitting with perfect posture on one of the uncomfortable looking couches. While Renée's mom waited patiently for her, her dad joined us.

"Can you believe I was sitting next to my dad through that whole movie?" she asked. "It's pretty racy!" Her dad didn't seem to mind the very tame sex scenes, but "all that cursing!" Renée said, "I was blushing!"

Next Zellweger will film White Oleander, the novel that soared to the top of the best seller lists when Oprah Winfrey picked it for her book club last year. "I just do two weeks' worth of work on it," she said, "then I pile into my truck and head east." East, as in New York? "No, east — to Texas! I'm going to see some friends there and hang out." If there's a strike in Hollywood come summer, Zellweger says, "I will support it any way I can."

Hugh Grant, for the Defense 

If Hugh Grant were a witness on the stand, a good lawyer would rip him to shreds. He bobs back and forth while he answers questions, and looks from side to side. I don't know what he's guilty of, but it's something.

Grant has previously played charming romantic leads in his films. In Bridget Jones, he's a cad, very unlikable, and a willing villain. When I asked him in person last night which character was more like the real Hugh, he said, "I wouldn't mind having a cocktail with either of them." His eyes then did this thing where they just rolled back and forth through his head like one of those car-window stuffed dogs. I'm told that his interview in the new Talk magazine, by Holly Millea, starts with the line "I'm too drunk to do this interview." Interesting, huh?

Grant is also sporting a new buzz haircut and a very drawn, lean look in his face. Elizabeth Hurley, come home!

Some other guests at the Bridget Jones premiere included Charlie's Angels actor Sam Rockwell; Erin Brockovich's Aaron Eckhart; Requiem for a Dream director Darren Aronofsky; twice-Oscar-nominated actress Sylvia Miles; and Saturday Night Live's great talent Ana Gasteyer (someone get this girl her own series, fast).

Bridget Jones's Diary also stars Colin Firth, who did not make the party because his wife is giving birth in Italy. But Firth holds up his third of this triangle and makes the film a total success as a chick flick, date movie, romantic comedy. Studios are always searching for the next While You Were Sleeping or Four Weddings and a Funeral. This is it.

Not uncoincidentally, Bridget is written by Richard Curtis, who also gave us Four Weddings and Notting Hill. Curtis has a formula, and I'll tell you what it is. He surrounds his main character with oddball friends who love and admire the person. It was Hugh Grant in Notting Hill and Four Weddings. It's Renée here. This Greek chorus shows the audience how to appreciate the hero or heroine, casting a warm glow over them.

The zany comedy is then disbursed to the chorus, and to other minor characters (like parents) while the hero(oine)'s foibles are only exaggerated so much. In the case of Bridget, Renée plays her like Georgie Girl, Rhoda, and Lucy Ricardo all rolled into one. Her zaniness is lovable, and — you have the feeling — correctable by her suitor at some point in the fictional future.

Bridget Jones will be a huge, huge hit precisely because Curtis has become a master of this formula. And rather than being predictable, his work is comforting, intelligent, and witty. How nice for all of us.

Mariah Carey Takes Her Act Away From Sony 

Yesterday, the New York Daily News's Mitchell Fink reported that Mariah Carey had finally left Columbia Records for greener pastures. She signed a very lucrative recording contract with Virgin Records, a division of EMI. Virgin is also home to Janet Jackson and The Rolling Stones.

For Mariah, this was presumably her escape to freedom from ex-husband Sony CEO Tommy Mottola. However, Carey had owed Sony one more album, which was almost recorded. It's the soundtrack to her fall movie, All that Glitters. The first single is due for release in June. Mottola apparently let Carey take the soundtrack with her to Virgin rather than release it himself.

One wonders though what Sony's owners in Japan must think. One of the biggest stars in the record business just waltzed away to a competitor, with an album that was theirs under her arm. Jennifer Lopez was being groomed as Carey's successor, but now that her J-LO album has been a financial disappointment, the company will have to start looking elsewhere.

And Carey, I predict, will have a hit with the movie and the soundtrack. Director Vondie Curtis-Hall tells me that Carey has acquitted herself well in the film. "She won't be embarrassed," he told me last week. So all the nay-sayers, myself usually among them, will have to carp about something else.

On the brighter side, Sony does have the group Train and their album Drops of Jupiter. It's probably too sophisticated for the average teen of 2001, but boy, it's good. Just like the old days, when bands were musically adept and had melodic rock songs. It made me want to get out my Poco and Spirit albums.

All About Eve — in Real Life! 

The local press and glitterati are atwitter: One of our own, a very wise older person with much respect and great celebrity standing, has been taken in by an evil career-climber with a hidden agenda.

So the word has been for the last several days. An internal matter for sure for this bellwether of star behavior, but fans and onlookers are shaking heads. A reliable second-in-command has been disloyally dumped and replaced with this newcomer — whose reputation for overzealous ambitiousness seems to be known to all except his or her new employer and fan.

The names? I won't say for now — but if this scenario plays out, we may be hearing more very soon. And who says there are no new stories left to tell?