STARS SHINE ON ALTMAN

Robert (“The Player”) Altman’s latest movie, “Cookie’s Fortune,” premiered in New York Wednesday night and proved to be an audience favorite — in a celebrity-studded audience, reports PEOPLE’s Elisabeth Morse. Jonathan Demme, John Leguizamo and Al Franken (licking his wounds after NBC canceled his “Lateline”) were among the crowd, as were “Cookie’s” stars Patricia Neal and Charles S. Dutton. The Kentucky-born Neal, 73, who won a 1963 Best Actress Oscar for “Hud,” called the movie’s Southern location “like going home for a bit.” Dutton, who plays a black man accused of killing a white woman in the film, said the story and his character are not about race issues. “(The movie)’s about family secrets and … small-town madness.” Had it been about race, the actor said, “the police would have shot him 41 times.”

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