BRITS IN A SNIT
As Hollywood sends forth war stories of courage and valor, a nation asks, Where’s the English accent?
“A very small suburb of L.A. which has enormous global power has declared war on the United Kingdom.” Sound a bit overblown? Not to fed-up Englishman Andrew Roberts, a historian who is rankled by what he views as Hollywood’s historical revisionism. Especially at issue are films such as the Revolutionary War drama The Patriot, which pits Mel Gibson, as a righteous American colonist, against a particularly evil English colonel (Jason Isaacs). Americans “need to feel that they’re the good guys,” he says. “Somebody else has to be the bad guys, and it’s always the redcoats.”
Well, not always. But a recent streak of U.S. films has indeed cast our English allies as either evil or—perhaps even worse, say some—American. “Where things get a bit appalling for us Brits,” says John Teckman of the British Film Institute, “is where the Americans take historical events, wipe the Brits out and replace them with Americans.” Two recent World War II films have been accused of such Americanization: U-571 and Saving Private Ryan. The former concerned the capture of a German Enigma code machine, a feat that was carried out by the Royal Navy but was portrayed as an exclusively American act in the film; Ryan was accused of ignoring the role of British soldiers in the invasion of Normandy. An upcoming WWII movie, The Colditz Story, is a remake of a 1955 film based on the true stories of British POWs—only this time the prisoners will reportedly be Yanks. “Those people who believe the film to be rooted in truth,” says Ian Kemp of London’s Jane’s Defence Weekly magazine, “are going to be misled.”
But they should still enjoy The Patriot, says American film critic Leonard Maltin. “After all, these are the guys who made Godzilla. I don’t think we should expect a great deal of nuance in the storytelling.”
Sharon Gets a New Guy
First-time parents tend to be apprehensive about permitting other folks to hold their babies, as the Reverend Cecil Williams can attest. Williams recently attended a small gathering at the San Francisco home of actress Sharon Stone, 42, and her husband, San Francisco Examiner executive editor Phil Bronstein, 49. The get-together was a celebration of the couple’s new arrival: an adopted baby boy named Roan Joseph. “Phil and Sharon are already two of the proudest parents,” says Williams, who is a pastor at the church where the couple regularly attend services. “They won’t hardly let anyone hold the baby yet,” he told Scoop. “They’re just thrilled.”
Last year Stone told Allure magazine that she was hoping to get pregnant but would rather adopt than try to conceive with medical help, noting that “so many kids need parents.” One of those kids was born in Texas on May 22; a week later the Bronsteins took him to their California home, where he was circumcised at a bris. So, did Stone’s star status help speed up the private adoption process? A California attorney who specializes in adoption and has handled celebrity cases says no. “The same rules apply to everyone,” he insists.
As high-strung cuisine queen Monica on Friends, Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette is more likely to fry fish than patiently observe them. Offscreen, though, the actress has a fondness for aquariums, which she recently decided to share with patients and visitors at the UCLA Children’s Health Center in Los Angeles. Cox Arquette donated her 6-ft.-long saltwater tank to the center, where it will be filled with tropical fish and displayed in the lobby. “She likes kids a lot,” says hospital spokesman Alan Eyerly, “and she thought her fish tank would brighten up the space.”
From a Britney Hoax, Tragedy
Britney Spears mania took a terrible, tragic turn on June 13, when a radio station near Binghamton, N.Y., told listeners that the pop princess was making a surprise appearance. More than 100 fans turned out to see the singer outside the station’s building, and when a limo appeared, the crowd gave chase. Only problem: The limo, a hooded Britney impostor and three faux bodyguards were actually part of a hoax arranged by the station, without Spears’s knowledge. In the ensuing chaos, Susan Santodonato, a 37-year-old mother who was there with her daughter Andrea, 11, struck her head and fell to the ground. The next day she died of cardiac arrhythmia. Santodonato had gone “running around the corner because she was trying to take a picture for her daughter,” says Dr. James Terzian, the pathologist who performed the autopsy. Whether she was pushed or tripped is unclear, but law authorities are investigating the incident. The station, which did not return calls asking for comment, issued a statement of sympathy. Spears’s publicist told Binghamton’s Press & Sun-Bulletin that the star was saddened. And Al Tompkins, a media ethicist at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., says, “There is no justification for what happened.”
It wasn’t a stunt quite worthy of Indiana Jones, but Harrison Ford’s perilous airplane piloting on June 18 was not without drama. Guiding his six-passenger Beech Bonanza plane toward a landing at Lincoln Municipal Airport in Lincoln, Neb., Ford veered left and missed the runway, landing on nearby grass. “He told us that wind gusts caused him to lose control of the aircraft,” says Elizabeth Isham Cory of the Federal Aviation Administration, adding that “there was minor damage to both wingtips.” Ford was unhurt. It was his second recent air scare. On Oct. 23, 1999, he crashed his Bell 206 chopper near Lake Piru, Calif., while practicing emergency landings.
Toil and Trouble for Kelsey
Appearing at the June 4 Tony Awards to boost his upcoming Broadway run in Macbeth, Kelsey Grammer quipped that he was “the largest target to present myself on Broadway in a long time.” He was, alas, right. Reviews were blistering (“Blunt-witted,” sniped The New York Times), and nearly two weeks into a planned 7½-week run, producers decided to scuttle the show because, one insider says, of poor ticket sales. Playing Macbeth is “bloody hard to do,” notes New York Observer theater critic John Heilpern. That may come as little consolation to Grammer, a.k.a. TV’s Dr. Frasier Crane, who had pumped some of his own money into the $1.5 million production to keep it afloat. Still, Grammer insists he’s not sorry he took a stab at Shakespeare’s murderous Scot. “We just decided to fold her up,” he told the New York Daily News. “I’m not going to…moan about it.” Or, as Lady Macbeth says, “What’s done, is done.”
Jerry Sponsors Seinfeldian Scholars
Jerry Seinfeld’s sitcom alter ego wasn’t exactly a paragon of selfless giving—this was a character who, fans will remember, once mugged an elderly woman for a loaf of marble rye—but the real-life Seinfeld has proven to be far more charitable. The comedian, who participated in New York City’s Principal for a Day program by sitting in at Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts on April 13, has awarded college scholarships to 14 of the school’s seniors through his Seinfeld Family Foundation. “I guess he was really impressed with our school and the talent of our kids,” says LaGuardia High principal Dr. Paul Saronson. Tuition bills will cost Seinfeld about $160,000 annually. The payoff? “These kids are heading toward a bright future,” says Saronson. Even the sitcom Jerry couldn’t smirk at that.
ON THE BLOCK
Named Dogwood Farms and nestled on 180 acres in Ashland City, Term., Randy Travis’s 8,800-sq.-ft. log house features plenty of country fixin’s fit for a multimillionaire: wood floors and ceilings, a private pasture and covered bridge, a horse barn and a two-lane shooting gallery. Travis and his wife, Elizabeth, are asking $1.875 million for the 100-year-old residence, which also boasts a gym and a southwestern-style adobe fireplace. The surrounding bluffs and trickling creek “represent natural Tennessee at its best,” says real estate agent Patty Carter. So why leave? Culinary cravings, says Elizabeth: “We are relocating to New Mexico to be close to green chilies and sopaipillas” (a deep-fried southwestern bread).