Good Lord!

Oscar’s flick picks? Serious stuff—and a ringing endorsement of a filmed fantasy

It was a brooding, stormy year at the movies—as evidenced by the 2002 Academy Award nominations announced on Feb. 12. The Best Picture hopefuls are thickly laced with murder (Gosford Park), heartbreak (Moulin Rouge), madness (A Beautiful Mind) and revenge (In the Bedroom). Even Tolkien’s fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which outstrips the pack with 13 Oscar nods, features its own journey into the heart of darkness. But Rings’ Ian McKellen, 62, who was tapped for Best Supporting Actor, insists things are looking “quite bright.” In fact, “the Queen just passed me in her car, going up to Buckingham Palace,” he told Scoop via cell phone shortly after the announcement. “She waved. She obviously knows about the nomination.”

Also parting the clouds a bit are the nominations of Denzel Washington (Training Day), Will Smith (Ali) and Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), which mark the first time in 30 years that three African-American actors have been up for top honors. (In 1972 Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson, in Sounder, and Diana Ross, in Lady Sings the Blues, received nods.) “The work is undeniable, and I’m really honored and excited to be a part of this point in history,” Smith told CNN. Ball executive producer Michael Paseornek says simply, “It’s about time.”

And in the End…Controversy

When George Harrison passed away at 58 last Nov. 29, the death certificate said the former Beatle had died at 1971 Coldwater Canyon Road in Beverly Hills. The only problem: There is no 1971 Coldwater Canyon Road there. Now, after an investigation, the L.A. District Attorney’s office has determined that the death actually occurred at 9536 Heather Road, a Los Angeles house once rented by Harrison’s ex-bandmate Paul McCartney. (The certificate has since been amended.) Gavin de Becker, whose firm provided the erroneous address, calls the probe “a big waste of money and time.” Civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who filed the complaint that spurred the investigation, disagrees: “No one has the right to falsify public records. There is no celebrity exception in the law.”

Mondo Brando

It was an offer no struggling actor could refuse: a month-long series of free drama workshops taught by the great Marlon Brando. But as the 30 participants in the program, held last November in Los Angeles, soon learned, Acting 101 with Prof. Brando is a weird science. Some candidates for the course auditioned by singing “a song that Marlon wrote,” says director Tony Kaye (American History X), who co-organized the course. “It was called ‘I Want to Eat My Car.’ That was it. Just ‘I Want to Eat My Car’ over and over.” Class—despite an all-star teacher’s assistant team of Sean Penn, Leonardo Di Caprio, Nick Nolte and Jon Voight—was hardly an improvement. At the second session Brando, 77, arrived in character, dressed as an old British matron. “He wore a wig and makeup,” recalls actor Tony B. Ward, 38. “Marlon was into it. He had his hair in a wrap, and he was applying lipstick. He was like an old lady talking to her servants. It was surreal.” By the third meeting, though, Ward, Kaye and several other exasperated students walked out of the class. Says Ward: “I learned nothing.”

Better luck next time? Brando is planning another program, possibly at pal Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

  • Friends Not in Need
  • Make mine a grande: For $1 million apiece per episode, the Central Perk Six have signed on for a ninth and final season of Friends. All together, stars Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc will make $24 million each. Despite the mind-boggling price tag, NBC honcho Jeff Zucker—whose network benefits from the show’s still-high ratings—calls the business deal “the easiest we ever made.” Although some of the stars have talked in the past about leaving, this time “there were no battles, no demands,” says the group’s contract negotiator, Sandy Wernick. “Everybody was in a positive mood. The guys said this is a great job and it’s going well. They really did this because of the outpouring of affection they feel from viewers.” (And, okay, maybe that outpouring of raw cash helped a little too.)

First Lady & the Vamp

The sharpshooters perched on the roof, bomb-sniffing dogs and security-guard pat-downs of audience members prompted one visitor to the Feb. 11 taping of The Tonight Show to marvel, “Wow, all this for Britney?” Not quite. Although the 20-year-old pop star did arrive with her own quartet of hulking bodyguards, the ramped-up precautions were for Jay Leno’s other guest, First Lady Laura Bush, 55. And despite the obvious disparity in their security details, neither guest requested special food, drink, makeup or wardrobe services. For once, Spears played the admiring fan, even snapping a photo with Bush in her dressing room. “She was very nice,” the singer later gushed to Leno. “She had a southern accent!”

Weber Grilled: Ready for Broadway?

After 11 rollicking months as The Producers’ scheming Leo Bloom, Matthew Broderick will cede the plum role to Steven Weber on March 17. (British actor Henry Goodman replaces costar Nathan Lane.) Best-known as wise-cracking pilot Brian Hackett on TV’s Wings, Weber says he has the pipes for Broadway. “I’m not going to put out a disc of my favorite Christmas songs,” says Weber, 40. “But I can carry a tune.” And with his wife, television producer Juliette Hohnen, 36, already giving advice, he has no worries about filling Broderick’s shoes. Says Weber: “His shoes are big, but only lengthwise. They’re not big widthwise.”

In Bosnia, It’s Arnie’s Army

Arnold Schwarzenegger got an action hero’s welcome, complete with a brass band, when he touched down Feb. 9 at the U.S. Army-led Eagle Base near Sarajevo, home to approximately 5,000 troops. Schwarzenegger, who was part of a USO tour, took the opportunity to ride in a Blackhawk chopper (“He was blown away by the night vision equipment,” says Specialist E4 Damian Smith, 25); pump iron with the soldiers (“He’s an incredible specimen,” says Lt. T.J. Sullins, 34); and blast away with an M240B machine gun. (“About 90 percent hit the target, so it was pretty good,” says Specialist Michael Peters, 22.) In other words, for Schwarzenegger, just another day at the office.

The actor also discussed his highly anticipated next project. “He talked about Terminator 3 and there being a female terminator made of all artificial parts,” says Maj. Steve Fritz, 39, an aviation officer. “He said that Cher was going to play the part. That went down excellent!”


with Sarah Jessica Parker

Scandal thickened the air Feb. 7 as Sarah Jessica Parker, 36, accepted the 52nd annual woman of the year award from the Hasty Pudding Theatricals club at Harvard University. On Feb. 5 two students were charged with embezzling nearly $100,000 from the club. (Both pleaded not guilty.) And gossips wondered if Parker’s failure to mention husband Matthew Broderick during her Golden Globe acceptance speech meant they were having a spat. She dismissed the scuttlebutt (“Every time I make a speech, I get in trouble”) and ignored the embezzlement, preferring to keep it light. Scoop joined her press conference.

You never attended college. Now you’re at Harvard.

The architecture is magnificent. And I was given a nice history lesson this morning. But the odds are I would never have gotten here any other way. [The award] is like a diploma for me.

Feel intimidated?

I don’t test well and I’ve never auditioned well. But I haven’t felt put upon in any way today. I’m a fairly average person. My performance here [the club asked Parker to re-create her role in Broadway’s Annie, scrubbing floors to the tune of “It’s a Hard Knock Life”] kind of mimicked my high school career.

Now for a serious question: How do you manage to keep your abdomen so flat?

It’s not as flat as you might think. Mostly, I just walk. I live in New York and you do a lot of walking there. Also, I laugh a lot. Laughing is good for the stomach muscles. Today I got a real workout for those muscles.

What about the clothes you are wearing today?

The pants are Yves Saint Laurent. Someone gave them to me. I got the blouse at a flea market in Paris. And the shoes are Marc Jacobs shoes that I got on sale.

Hasty Pudding’s men often dress in drag. Any advice?

They don’t need my fashion advice. They all look beautiful.



Lovebirds Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, set to marry soon, are moving from their separate San Fernando Valley coops to a new L.A. love nest. Prinze, 25, put his Spanish-style hacienda (left) on the market for $3.3 million. The one-acre property in Toluca Lake, once owned by entertainer John Davidson, features a gated 5,000-sq.-ft. main residence, guest house, tennis court and pool. Gellar, 24, is selling her 4,000-sq.-ft. traditional Cape Cod-style house in Sherman Oaks for $2.2 million. Next up for the couple: Scooby Doo, due in June.

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