From Cannes to the Hamptons, new films have everyone buzzing


June 10, 2008|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

HALF THE people in Hollywood are dying to be discovered and the other half are afraid they will be," said the actor Lionel Barrymore.

My favorite story of late is about a press agent. Not just any press agent, but the queen of them all these days - the party-giver, movie premiere maker, social fixer Peggy Siegal. There she was at Cannes for the Film Festival, well, not r-e-a-l-l-y for the festival itself, more for the atmosphere and contacts. There were only about six American films seen at Cannes during that period, and most of the foreign movies were pretty deadly.

Peggy went to a screening of Synecdoche, New York and afterward at a party, ran into a friend, actress Catherine Keener. They were just standing around when a guy came up to Peggy and said, "Hi, I'm Brad Pitt!"

Here's the Siegal response: "Helen Keller knows that you're Brad Pitt!" The actor laughed and they talked nonstop for a while. (Here, in Manhattan, we can't get Peggy to shut up either.)

Well, here's some hot skinny on those American movies and maybe one or two others. Come July 13 the hot ticket in the Hamptons will be an invite to the Long Island kick-off of the musical Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Christine Baranski.

This happens at the little Southampton Cinema. I am told it's not a fundraiser. Instead, it's called a "cultivation," raising awareness for Evelyn Lauder's Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Only big names are on the invite, and people will be clawing to get in and be the first to hear Meryl sing those ABBA songs. (BlackBerry Curve and Conde Nast Portfolio are sponsoring, just so VIPs can be invited for free.)

Allen loses appeal

There were tepid reports out of Cannes about the new Woody Allen film Vicky Christina Barcelona, yet it won a 10-minute standing ovation there, and some think Penelope Cruz will definitely get a best supporting actress nod for the way she plays the enraged ex-wife of the sexy, crazy Javier Bardem. (And if producer Harvey Weinstein has anything to say about it, she will, because Penelope is his latest professional passion.) This film offers a Sapphic kissing scene starring Scarlett Johansson, a three-way boudoir bit and stuff like that. It will premiere in Los Angeles this summer. Woody has already moved on; he'll spend his summer in L.A. directing the Puccini opera, Gianni Schicchi.

On everyone's lips

But what people are gassing about is a movie nobody has seen, still filming. This one comes from producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, who also have Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to their credit. Universal is making The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It stars Pitt in a tearjerker where he ages backward.

"It's so unusual; it's off the charts," says one pusher. So, there's already Oscar talk.

While we're on a movie industry roll here, might as well give you the last thing they're talking up. It's director Barry Levinson's satire on movie-making starring Robert De Niro, as a producer, and Sean Penn, as himself. Everybody in the film portrays a real-life person, I'm told. John Turturro, Stanley Tucci and Bruce Willis are also in this thing. People say De Niro has never been better and everybody loves him and Magnolia Pictures is just biding its time for next October when it all comes true.

Oh, yes, the title is What Just Happened?

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