Sweet Home Alabama Star Not So Sweet

Sweet Home Alabama  | Salma Hayek Paints  | Stella McCartney | All-Star Readers Celebrate

Sweet Home Alabama Star Not So Sweet

Reese Witherspoon didn't make herself any friends at the Monday night premiere of her new movie, Sweet Home Alabama.

She declined to take a picture with her co-stars, including Candice Bergen, Mary Kay Place, Patrick Dempsey and Josh Lucas. Cast photos are de rigeur at movie premieres, but apparently Witherspoon thought ... well, who knows what she was thinking?

Armed with two publicists (studio and personal) the petite 26-year-old star acted as if Sweet Home Alabama were something to be kept at arm's length. She came to the elegant post-premiere party, sponsored by Tiffany, with her coat, kept it on, and spent as little time as possible talking to anyone about anything.

When I tried to speak with her, I was cut off by aforesaid publicists, who were trampling over themselves to protect li'l Reese from who knows what.

The little chance I did have to speak with the star produced not much in the way of revealing anecdotes. When I mentioned that she was having hit after hit, she replied, "It doesn't mean anything. I don't measure success by that. I measure it by my family and my child."

Will she and husband Ryan Phillippe have another child, then?

"I'd like to," she said, and that was it.

It probably doesn't matter that Sweet Home Alabama is a glorified Lifetime movie of the week, with a hard shell and mushy center. Almost all of it is formulaic, with the exception of the extraordinary Bergen -- who plays the mayor of New York with a Murphy Brown verve -- and the always endearing Mary Kay Place as Reese's hillbilly mom.

Josh Lucas, who seemed like a friendly guy in person, plays Matthew McConaughey with a Peter Coyote voice. He's probably better than that in other movies (he was very good in A Beautiful Mind) and he will be again.

How did the idea for Sweet Home Alabama come about? I asked the writer, C. Jay Cox, if he was from the titled state, or a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, or what? The answer was none of the above.

"The original idea was set in the Pacific Northwest," Cox told me, "but one day we heard the song on the radio and realized we should move the location down there."

In fact, the film was shot in Georgia. Maybe they should have called it "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." Or "Georgia on My Mind." Or "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma."

According to those who attended a screening in Birmingham, the audience liked the movie but local critics thought it made everyone a stereotype. There's a character named Bobby Ray, for example. And the town Reese's character is from is called Pigeon Creek. And so on.

Of course -- and I suppose this is possible -- according to this film, there are no black people in Alabama, except for the nice man who runs the post office. Not even in the background. But I guess George Wallace's segregation policies forced them all out a long time ago.

Witherspoon -- who was either playing herself in Election or has come to be more like that character, Tracy Flick, over time -- next shoots the sequel to Legally Blonde and then goes into a remake of Vanity Fair, not the magazine but the Great Book by William Makepeace Thackeray. Hopefully, she will take her coat off for those roles.

Salma Hayek Paints the Town

Last night, Salma Hayek did the circuit. First she was the guest of honor at a party thrown for her excellent new movie, Frida, at the Museo del Barrio on upper Fifth Avenue. Later --and I do mean much, much later, like 1 a.m. -- she and boyfriend Ed Norton turned up further uptown at Jimmy's in Harlem for nostalgia act Prince.

Hayek is on a roll right now. She is a cinch for an Oscar nomination as artist Frida Kahlo in the movie directed by Julie Taymor. Her portrayal of Kahlo is so disarmingly real that she may actually wind up winning the Oscar and a bunch of other awards too.

Her co-star, Alfred Molina, who plays Kahlo's lifelong love, artist Diego Rivera, will also be nominated, but if it's in the Best Actor category he will lose to Daniel Day-Lewis, who's in Gangs of New York. Well, you can't have everything.

Looking happy and satisfied were Taymor, who's made a piece of art and a great movie, and her significant other, composer Elliot Goldenthal.

They fought with Miramax during the editing stage, but now everyone's happy with Frida so there was much wrapping around of arms with company execs and pleasantries exchanged. The creative process can be exhausting.

Frida doesn't open until October 25, but Miramax gave the early sneak for the Museo because they had Kahlo's paintings on exhibit. The show is now moving to Seattle, so if you're up there, go find it immediately. Rivera and Kahlo were simply remarkable, and you want to be ready for the movie when it gets to you.

Add Frida to an Oscar shortlist that could include 8 Mile, Road to Perdition, Chicago, Insomnia, Gangs of New York and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Stella McCartney Tender to Meat?

Stella McCartney is doing her best to make a career as a fashion designer, but her store opening in New York last week made for an inauspicious launch.

For one thing, McCartney's boutique is on West 14th St., right in the middle of the meat-packing district, a strange place for the daughter of two animal-rights activists and vegans to ply her trade. Carcasses hang not far from Stella's dresses. This is either a big mistake or the whole point.

McCartney features a high-heeled satin shoe called the Veggi on her Web site, by the way. All the better to walk quickly past spare ribs.

Meanwhile, as Gwyneth, Liv and Stella's other pals paraded into the small space, protesters outside complained that her clothes are made in sweatshop-like environments. The scene -- along with all the people who wanted to get in -- was none too pleasant, but store sources say that on Monday and Tuesday sales were brisk.

All-Star Readers Celebrate Colwin

Just a reminder that a bevy of stars and writers will read from Laurie Colwin's writing tonight as a 10th anniversary memorial to this wonderful writer.

Director Peter Bogdanovich, Tama Janowitz, Francine Prose, Karen Duffy ("Duff" from MTV and Revlon fame), Linda Yablonsky, novelists Scott Spencer (Endless Love and Waking the Dead) and Meg Wolitzer (This Is Your Life) will appear -- for free -- on Sept. 25 at the GQ Lounge at 110 University Place in New York City. The reading begins at 7 p.m.

Colwin, who was my great friend and beloved by many, died in October 1992, suddenly, at the age of 48. Her many fine books include Happy All the Time, Home Cooking, The Lone Pilgrim, and A Big Storm Knocked It Over.

She's still so popular that HarperPerennial has all her books in print to this day -- unusual even for living writers. So stop by and help celebrate a great artist's legacy.

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