February 28, 2000 12:00 PM

Let’s Get Small

Big stars will take a backseat at this year’s Academy Awards

Focus

Sure, Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep made the Oscar-nomination cut this year. But where’s Tom Hanks? Julia Roberts? Bruce Willis? Or those other big stars who earn $20 million a picture? Among the horses in this year’s derby are a multitude of actors from films that earned less at the box office than Arnold Schwarzenegger makes in a Terminator sequel. “I think the Academy recognized performances over stars,” says Samantha Morton, voted a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Sweet and Low-down. Morton was “amazed” by her nomination: “I’m one of those people who has never won anything. I even failed my cycling test at school.” Another relative unknown, Janet McTeer (Best Actress nominee, Tumbleweeds), took the news in stride, nibbling on toast and cheese when she learned of her nomination. First-time nominee Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile) jumped for joy—literally—at the news.

Critic Andrew Sarris says there is a precedent for small films outdoing the blockbusters in awards. But he’s still surprised that an “anticommercial” film like The Straight Story could produce a Best Actor nomination for Richard Farnsworth (who, at 79, says he appreciates the honor because “it’s probably my last”) or that Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny could earn nominations for Boys Don’t Cry. Is this a changing of the guard? “I don’t even know who the guard is anymore,” Sarris says.

Richard Zanuck, who is co-producing the Oscar telecast on March 26, says this year’s lack of star power won’t affect ratings. “I think people are looking for fresh faces,” he says. “There will be suspense—and that makes for a more interesting show.”

Toss Me a Lifeline, Rosie

Among the advantages of using Rosie O’Donnell as a “lifeline” to help answer questions on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: You get it right, you win; you get it wrong, you still win. Or so Jerry Halpin discovered on Feb. 8 when, stumped by the $32,000 query “Because of her divorce from Prince Charles, what title was taken from Britain’s Diana?” he had the show phone O’Donnell at home. (Halpin, 39, an assistant principal from Cypress, Calif., got O’Donnell’s number from a friend of a friend of a friend.) Rosie suggested “Her Royal Highness” as the correct response, adding that she’d pay Halpin the money out of guilt if proved wrong. “It was one of those questions where I knew it, but I didn’t know how I knew it,” O’Donnell later told her own television audience. “It’s a lot of stress.”

Rosie was right, and Halpin got his $32,000. He also received a trip to London, courtesy of O’Donnell. “It’s been an amazing whirlwind for a regular guy like me,” he says. O’Donnell, citing stress, says she’s probably retiring from the lifeline game: “Imagine if I got it wrong—the humiliation I’d be suffering today.”

Pix with Theron Therein

Creativity, thy name is Hollywood. Check the plots of two upcoming films, Reindeer Games and The Yards. Both are excellent examples of the crooks-who-want-to-go-straight-and-smooch-Charlize-Theron-but-better-watch-out-for-pesky-relatives genre.

Reindeer Games

An ex-con wants a new life with his gal (Charlize Theron), but her brother stands between them and happiness.

Theron: Prisoner of love.

The Yards

An ex-con wants a new life with his gal (Charlize Theron), but his family stands between them and happiness.

Theron: Prisoner of love.

POP QUIZ

with Ryan O’Neal & Ali MacGraw

“We never repeat the line,” says Ryan O’Neal, almost 30 years after the film Love Story helped make the phrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” the “Is that your final answer?” of its day. “Never, even if somebody asks me,” says Ali MacGraw with a laugh. O’Neal, 58, and MacGraw, 60, met in Fort Lauderdale last week to help launch the cruise ship Ocean Princess and reminisce about the days when Oliver Barrett IV and Jenny Cavilleri were the screen’s most romantic couple. Scoop caught up with them on deck.

Is the plot—rich boy meets poor girl, loses her to cancer—still moving?

MacGraw: People all over the world come up to me and tell me what the movie meant to them. Some of them still cry. O’Neal: Some people have come up to me and told me they lost someone to cancer. I embrace them.

What was the reaction when the film opened in 1970?

MacGraw: People were sobbing; they were falling out of their seats.

What are your memories?

O’Neal: I remember Ali making snow angels.

MacGraw: Yes, it was in Central Park.

O’Neal: No, the football field in Harvard.

MacGraw: You’re absolutely right. What a memory you have.

See each other often?

O’Neal: Not much. She lives in New Mexico; I live in Malibu.

Have you watched the film since then?

MacGraw: No. I hate to watch myself.

O’Neal: Not in a long time. I can’t watch my films. I’ll punch a hole in the wall.

Where would Oliver Barrett IV be today?

O’Neal: He would never have gotten over [Jenny’s] death. Probably he’d be a big Republican fund-raiser.

Has the state of romance changed since Love Story?

MacGraw: It’s the same. You have two types of people: those who are disposed to being romantic, and those who aren’t. O’Neal: I’m not romantic. I like women, but I’m not a romantic.

Pols Balk at Björk Bid

Oh, bjoy. Last summer Icelandic singer Björk expressed interest in buying Ellidaey, a state-owned two-mile-wide island in the Breidafjördur Bay off her country’s west coast. Prime Minister David Oddson, in gratitude for her cultural contributions, decided to simply give her the use of it. Björk hoped to build a recording studio in the island’s lighthouse, and all was going beautifully—until last week, when leaders of the opposition Progressive Party apparently nixed the deal. The result? Björk may be feeling that she has been bjerked around—and the island is still for sale. Interested parties may call Iceland’s minister of finance.

ON THE BLOCK

DEAN’S LISTING

Though a bit pricey for a little old lady from Pasadena, Dean Torrence’s Hollywood Hills home, on sale for $1.1 million, should attract a buyer seeking showbiz glamor. Torrence, half of the ’60s surf-music duo Jan & Dean, says the property’s gardens, drawbridges and waterfalls once served as backdrops for a Fleetwood Mac photo shoot. And Humphrey Bogart lived here in the late ’30s.

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