A Hit in Any Language?
America gets a new foreign film champ—but that’s no guarantee they’ll like it elsewhere
The kung-fu romance Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, with U.S. box office receipts of more than $53 million, is set this month to become the highest-grossing foreign language film ever, surpassing Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful ($58 million). UCLA film professor Howard Suber believes he knows one reason for its success: “In Star Wars and in Crouching Tiger, the ones who win are the pure of heart.”
But if that’s a theme that should have universal appeal, why has Tiger tanked in some parts of Asia, according to Daily Variety, bringing in a measly $1.8 and $1.9 million in Japan and Hong Kong respectively? And by contrast, why did the domestic bomb Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey, become Japan’s No. 1 movie last week?
Same story with the Brendan Fraser-Elizabeth Hurley comedy Bedazzled, which fizzled here and sizzled in Belgium and Turkey—leading New York University film chair David Irving to ask, “Who the hell knows what they like in Turkey?” Irving does acknowledge that certain actors transcend borders, which is why two recent American hits, What Women Want and Cast Away, have done well globally. “Mel Gibson is loved in so many cultures, and so is Tom Hanks,” Irving says. Beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. “Taste in movies is like taste in food,” says UCLA’s Suber. “The Japanese don’t understand cheese and butter, and we don’t understand seaweed.”
Divvying Up Penny Lane
The closest Michael Jackson came to singing with the Beatles was two duets—”The Girl is Mine” (1982) and “Say Say Say” (1983)—with Paul McCartney. But that hasn’t kept the reclusive Jackson from scarfing up an estimated 17 cents per CD sold, plus additional royalties for radio and television play, from the Beatles’ smash mega-compilation 1. How does the Gloved One claim his piece of the album, which topped American charts for eight weeks and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide? In 1985 he bought the rights to most of the Beatles’ songs in a $47.5 million deal. “A bargain for Jackson,” says record company executive Jeff Brabec. It’s true that McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon’s heirs share the performers’ slice of approximately $3 per CD from 1. Still, has Jackson already earned $3.4 million from the disc—since its release Nov. 14—just because of a smart business move? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
He’s Got to Crowe
Lyricist Russell Crowe appears to offer a few insights into the personal strife of lothario Russell Crowe in Bastard Life or Clarity, the new CD by his Australian rock band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. (Crowe sings and plays guitar, too.) The Gladiator star isn’t saying, but tell us these lines don’t have a familiar ring: In “Wendy,” Crowe sings of a woman who has “a little boy” (Meg Ryan’s 8-year-old son Jack?) and “no husband who cares” (ouch, Dennis Quaid?). In “Things Have Got to Change,” Crowe croons, “I know I’ve got to get out/Gotta run away.” Why? “High stress situations,” he intones. Such as being chased by the paparazzi?
007: BOND MEMORIES, LICENSED TO SELL
Want your sweetie’s emotions shaken, not stirred, on Valentine’s Day? Lose the flowers and set your sights on London, where Christie’s puts 291 pieces of James Bond memorabilia up for bid at a Feb. 14 auction—everything from gadgetry designed by Q (including a hypermagnetic Rolex that 007 once used to unzip a companion’s dress) to Roger Moore’s dinner jacket from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. The auction’s top-shelf item might be the silver 1965 Aston Martin (valued at $220,000) from 1995’s Goldeneye, but the true star attractions are two small scraps of ivory-colored cloth that once clung, dripping, to Ursula Andress, who played premier Bond girl Honey Ryder in 1962’s Dr. No. “This bikini,” says Andress, now 64,”made me a success.” Notes Lois Maxwell, now 73, who played the spy’s beloved secretary Miss Moneypenny: “I don’t think anybody has ever worn a bikini the way Ursula did—so sexy and sinister.” So who’ll buy it? Easy, says Maxwell: “Some beautiful young woman with a gorgeous body whose father is an oil magnate, of course.”
Late Night Reading
When Sallie Rice set out to raise a minimum of $200,000 for the Norfolk, Neb., library—she’s a board member—the brother of an old high school classmate came to mind. Perhaps, thought Rice, Johnny Carson might donate. So she dashed off a note. Carson’s reply—a $500,000 check—stunned her. “I wasn’t even a close friend,” Rice says. “I was better friends with his sister!” Carson, 75, only asked if they had any new humor or magic books. Why the largesse? The former Tonight Show host tells PEOPLE, “I went there when I was a kid; I just wanted to help.”
ON THE BLOCK: IVANA’S CABANA
Maybe a recession really is on the way—even Ivana Trump appears to be downsizing. Solo Mio, one of the home-shopping queen’s two Palm Beach, Fla., manors, is on the market for $3.2 million. The 4,700-sq.-ft., three-bedroom house features private beach access and a Trumpian 45-by-20-ft. heated pool. Ivana also owns homes in London and New York City and a 105-ft. yacht, so if the recession is coming, she won’t feel it for a while.