October 02, 2000 12:00 PM

UNITED THEY STAND

When SAG’s strike lagged, Hanks, Ford and Gandolfini stepped up with kind words and cash

Focus

For almost five months, the actors’ strike against the makers of TV commercials amounted to little more than a stage whisper. Then, last week, they opened up with the big guns. Boom! Tom Hanks led a rally in L.A., and Harrison Ford and Kevin Spacey each donated $100,000 to the cause. Bang! Paul Newman warned actors to stick together, Kevin Bacon called the strike a matter of “survival,” and The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini complained about some employers’ “bald greed.” The results? Talks progressed to the point where, at press time, a settlement appeared promising.

So what took them so long? “The use of our celebrity power now is strictly a matter of strategy,” says Greg Krizman of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He denied talk that the big stars didn’t show until the little stars—135,000 rank-and-file union actors—asked for help fighting the ad industry’s proposal to replace the current pay-per-play residual system with a flat rate for a commercial’s unlimited use for 13 weeks.

The fact that the big names aren’t hurting for cash didn’t diminish their zeal. “Almost 80 percent of people in this union earn less than $5,000 a year,” says Newman. “Somebody didn’t make up the phrase ‘struggling actor’ because it sounded good. “Added Gandolfini, who just signed a $10 million Sopranos contract with HBO: “Imagine your boss says to you, ‘Hey, I’m making more money than I can count, but I think I’m going to cut your pay by 50 percent.’ ”

The talks are being closely watched as a harbinger for next year, when the guild contracts of screenwriters and actors expire. Meanwhile, actor Treat Williams offered his slogan for the ad strike: “Show the commercial, show me the money!”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Rumor Mill

Just after “Thank your agent” comes this immutable Hollywood rule of survival: Don’t get Jack Nicholson mad. An unwitting Bruce Willis came close to violating that maxim following a recent bash at L.A.’s Spago restaurant, where Willis and actress Lara Flynn Boyle were spotted together—in the midst of speculation that her relationship with Nicholson was on the brink—and the press took note. Was Willis The Other Man? “It was a total coincidence,” says a source close to Willis, who claims the two were only waiting for valet parking. “He was getting his limo. She was getting her limo.” And a Nicholson-Boyle split? Boyle’s rep was mum; ditto Jack’s flack.

POP QUIZ

with Cybill Shepherd

Given that Cybill Shepherd’s new talk show is titled Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Scoop wondered how she viewed gender differences. “We do need to communicate better,” says Shepherd, 50, who hopes to do just that when the show premieres Oct. 2 on NBC.

Dated any Martians?

I would definitely say I’ve dated Martians—and some men that seem more minutian.

Are you dating now?

Yes. I am single.

Anyone steady?

No.

Learned any lessons?

I understand more what I want. I think, after my past experiences, that it’s far more difficult for me to trust. I’m more reticent. I’m trying to listen to my inner wisdom about people as opposed to what I want to believe about who they are. And I’ve finally gotten to the point where, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to be alone.

Do men in general exhibit any predictable behavior?

It’s very hard for me to stereotype males in that way. Many times I see my [almost] 13-year-old daughter Ariel doing what would be considered the “male” response, which would be to keep a stiff upper lip and absolutely be strong and not cry. At the same time her twin brother, Zach, will be far more willing to talk about his emotions if he’s angry or his feelings are hurt.

Sounds like motherhood helped prepare you for TV.

When I nursed twins, learned lines, had my hair and makeup done, ate my breakfast and [acted on] Moonlighting, I developed a multitasking thing that is helping me a lot on this show, ’cause I’m required to listen, read, note the time and talk, all at the same time.

You have a reputation as being a tough boss on the set.

I think it’s because I stand up for myself.

You took heat for that at the end of your last show, Cybill.

I think there was a whole false cloud of blame. One of the most important things for me to keep my sanity through this 32-year career has been to always remember who I am and that I’m not that evil bitch they talk about.

A Sour Note for Springfield

A noisy quarrel led to the arrest of Rick Springfield on a spousal assault charge in Malibu, Calif., on Sept. 19, after his sister-in-law heard the singer arguing with his wife, Barbara, 37, and called 911. Springfield, 51, who hit the pop charts with “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981, was released after posting $50,000 bail. “Although they had argued, [Rick and Barbara] are happily married and will continue their relationship,” his spokesman said. The couple have two sons.

Healing Powers

And how, exactly, does Liam Neeson expect to get in shape to film Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York this January—considering he broke his pelvis, heel, pubic bone and a couple of toes when his motorcycle hit a deer in July? “Lots of swimming,” says the actor, who credits his surgeons and a certain extraterrestrial power for his recovery. “I could have been dead,” says Star Wars’ Qui-Gon Jinn, “…but the force is with me.”

The Beast Within

As celebs slithered into Hollywood’s Viper Lounge to celebrate the 20th anniversary of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Scoop posed the question: What real creatures lurk within these party animals? The answers weren’t all warm and cuddly. “A jellyfish,” says model Shalom Harlow, citing “the movement, the transparency, the way the tentacles dangle…it’s beautiful.” Alicia Silverstone refused to pick just one, saying, “I love all animals.” Pamela Anderson, Bill Maher and Toby Maguire? Consider them lounge lizards enjoying the scene, as animal activist Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders performed for 90 minutes at the Sept. 13 event.

ON THE BLOCK:

GARNER’S GETAWAY

In The Rockford Files James Garner lived in a trailer—a far cry from the 350-acre ranch in California’s Santa Ynez Valley he recently sold for almost $8.7 million. The property, which includes a 23-acre Chardonnay vineyard (producing Garner’s Château Jimbeaux wine), “has an African-village feel,” says Sotheby’s international Realty’s Lois Landau. There are also non-African elements: temperature-controlled floors, a wine cellar and a croquet court.

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