Steven Tyler Gets 'Cool'

Steven Tyler | Rod Stewart | Queen Latifah | Nicole Kidman | Illiterate Pop Stars

Steven Tyler Gets 'Cool'

It's not like Aerosmith's Steven Tyler isn't already cool, but now he's adding to his cred by doing a movie.

Tyler — let me tell you here, first, before others snatch it away — is going to play himself in the sequel to "Get Shorty." "Be Cool," directed by F. Gary Gray, stars a bunch of cool cats including Harvey Keitel, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Danny DeVito, The Rock, Vince Vaughn, James Gandolfini, Cedric the Entertainer and Christina Milian. Also in the film is Outkast's Andre 3000.

"Be Cool" is written by Elmore Leonard and set in the record industry. You may recall "Get Shorty" was a spoof of the film business. Tyler and Andre will likely be joined by a few other real rock stars in cameos.

But most importantly, "Be Cool" is hoped to be Travolta's comeback to some decent material. He's had a run of lousy pictures like "Swordfish" and "Domestic Disturbance," not to mention the unwatchable "Battleship Earth," his L. Ron Hubbard disaster of a sci-fi film.

Travolta, I'm told, got some of his usual perks cut from the "Be Cool" contract. But his notorious 30-page perk package, which calls for a private chef, a weekly gift and daily workouts with Richard Simmons (just kidding!) are all intact.

By the way, Tyler has a daughter in the business. Her name is Liv and she was recently in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. I do believe she also appears this month on the cover of InStyle. I'll bet she's glad her dad is getting work!

Rod Stewart Plans Ballad Set Part 3

You used to hear a rasp in Rod Stewart's voice. But now the sound is ka-ching, ka-ching. Stewart, I've learned, is busily prepping the third volume in his "Great American Songbook" series for a fall release on J Records.

Of course, the Songbook albums have revived Stewart's career beyond anyone's imagination. Each of the first two volumes is still selling well, and each was a chart hit when it was released. According to Nielsen/SoundScan, Volume 1 sold 2.3 million copies and Volume 2 sold 1.7 and is still going strong.

I'm told the third volume — produced again by Richard Perry and Phil Ramone — will branch out a little from the standards Stewart's done so far, maybe taking on more contemporary writers like Stephen Sondheim, Carole King, etc. The latter isn't a bad idea since Stewart had a hit years ago with King's "So Far Away."

(Ironically, even though King and partner Gerry Goffin received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on Sunday, and were present, the show's producers didn't ask anyone to perform one of their innumerable famous hits. Go figure.)

But basically the formula that's worked won't be toyed with too much, I'm told. The release pattern will be exactly as it was last year, making "Great American Songbook, Volume 3" a Christmas gift. If this one sells well, I imagine we'll be awash in these Stewart CDs for many holiday seasons to come.

The funny thing is I do remember Perry playing four or five tracks for me from a demo he'd done with Stewart. This was back in the summer of 2000 in the Hamptons, and the project was just an idea the two had cooked up and hadn't even offered to anyone yet. Now many recording artists — from Cyndi Lauper to Queen Latifah — are following their plan.

By the way: This story, like all other music stories here, are exclusive to this column. I was not amused yesterday to see lifting our item about Justin Timberlake's first movie role. Shoddy stuff, kids.

Queen Latifah Snares Legendary Producer

Queen Latifah is in the studio, too, making what should be a big album for Vector Records, a division of Sony Music. Legendary producer Arif Mardin is in charge, and that's good news for Latifah since Mardin is also the man behind Norah Jones's huge success. You might like to know that Mardin's wife is actually named Latifah (Queen's real name is Dana) and that should be a good omen too.

Mardin has also worked with countless great female vocalists over the years — including Patti LaBelle, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli — so he knows a good voice when he hears one. He says Queen Latifah's performance of "Lush Life" on the soundtrack for "Living Out Loud" was what convinced him to take on the project. Her Oscar nomination for "Chicago" didn't hurt, I'm sure, but the CD was already in the planning stages by then.

Nicole — No Kidding — She's Fine

In the last week I've received several phone calls regarding Nicole Kidman's health and well-being. I guess because Kidman wasn't around much on Golden Globe night I didn't write too much about her, either. So here are some thoughts, take them for what you will.

First of all, Kidman is fine and does not have cancer. She had a medical examination the week before the Golden Globes and everything, I am told, is great. I have to laugh when I hear the general populace discussing these things. Let's be so attentive to our own families and friends.

I ran into Nicole with her parents on the red carpet at the Golden Globes. We even walked part of the way together as she did interviews, and she stopped off to see Fox's own Bill McCuddy for a chat, too. Up close, her dress was a knockout: very sexy and ethereal, and the gold coins that adorned it really looked sensational. Good for her for not wearing boring black.

The Golden Globes could not have been easy for Kidman. First of all, she's not stupid, she knows Charlize Theron has the performance of the year. She also, I think, had the sense that her nomination was a little "old news" this year. After all, she's won two years in a row with three nominations ("The Hours," "The Others," "Moulin Rouge"). She told me she loved "Monster."

Then there's the whole Oscar issue. She wasn't nominated for "Cold Mountain." Maybe the surprise nominee was 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes from "Whale Rider." Let me tell you, I received the "Whale Rider" DVD very early on, weeks before I saw "Cold Mountain." All of the press and the academy did, too. "Cold Mountain" was late to the table, and Kidman — who works non-stop — was wiped out from doing publicity.

Kidman will be back to the Oscars soon enough as a nominee. But a year off isn't such a bad idea, either. Her career is the real thing, very much in the tradition of Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda. She's got her statue, she's in the club, and she will be a perennial contender. Not that she cares, because I'm sure she doesn't. But her work in the last three years has been extraordinary and consistent. You can't ask for anything more than that.

Last, just an observation that Kidman — unlike a lot of less successful actors — makes herself extremely accessible to fans and press at most events. I was a little surprised that one reporter at the Globes asked her about possibly presenting the Best Actor award to Tom Cruise that night — first, because Cruise couldn't win, and second because it was designed to make Kidman feel uncomfortable in what's supposed to be a relaxed event. Cut this woman some slack, folks. It's not like she's running for political office!

Illiterate Pop Stars, Etc.

This is a sign that I'm getting old, but it was nearly impossible to avoid all the grammatical mistakes and usage foibles I heard over Grammy weekend from the current crop of stars.

In one case, Mary J. Blige would do well to read either William Safire or any other reference book before she makes another speech. She very enthusiastically asked one group to "stand down" and accept their award on Sunday night. I think she meant "stand up," which is what they had to physically. "Stand down" is used in the military for surrendering.

Mixed metaphors were also prevalent. In various speeches I sat through, a lot of things — hearts, minds, etc. — were either soaring or flying. Almost no one could remember the difference between "are" and "is" or "were" and "was." Isn't it bad enough that the music stinks? Can't we at least talk about it properly?